If you’re considering sending your child to summer camp, you’ll find that there is no shortage of camps to choose from. A lack of options is rarely an issue for parents. But choosing a camp that’s right for your child isn’t always easy.
There are lots of things to think about when deciding on a summer camp for your son or daughter. You want to find a place where they will have fun, learn new things and develop social skills. You want them to be safe and in the care of qualified counselors. Budget may also be a concern. Here are some things to think about when looking at your summer camp options.
Traditional or Specialized?
When most of us think of summer camp, we think of programs that offer a variety of activities, many of which take place outdoors. These traditional camps are readily available, but there are also other types of camps to choose from. There are sports camps that can help athletic types improve their game. Academic camps can help keep gifted children’s minds active during the summer or help those who are lagging behind in school catch up. There are also camps that focus on other interests such as drama or horseback riding, as well as camps designed for children with special needs.
Specialized camps are great if they address specific goals you have for your child or cater to their needs. But if you want to expose him or her to a variety of new experiences, a more general summer camp might be a better option. Traditional camps also tend to bring together a more diverse group of campers, allowing for more opportunities to learn from one another and develop social skills.
Does the Camp Have a Good Reputation?
Summer camps are not regulated by the government, so choosing a reputable camp requires some research. Camps accredited by the American Camp Association must meet a long list of stringent requirements regarding health, safety, facilities, staffing and more, so finding an accredited camp is a good starting point. But lack of accreditation isn’t necessarily a red flag, particularly for newer or smaller camps that may not yet have the resources to meet the requirements.
Whether or not a camp is accredited, it’s a good idea to seek out the opinions of those who have experience with the program. This includes parents, campers, counselors and staff. If you don’t know anyone who has first-hand experience with the camp, try asking the staff for references or checking online. And it’s always a good idea to visit the camp in person before making your final decision. There’s just no substitute for meeting with counselors and seeing the facilities and programs for yourself.
Day or Overnight Camp?
Daytime only programs are an increasingly popular summer camp option. They are usually less expensive than overnight camps, and parents don’t have to worry about getting a call to come pick up their homesick child in the middle of the night. But overnight camps still offer certain advantages, such as fostering independence and allowing campers to develop stronger bonds with counselors and fellow campers.
The most important factors in deciding between day or overnight camp are what you and your child are most comfortable with. Generally speaking, younger children tend to do better at day camps. Teens and tweens are often eager to go to overnight camps, and in most cases they do well there.
What Does Your Child Want?
When considering summer camps, it’s important not to forget to ask your child what he or she wants. Many a miserable camp experience could have been avoided by following this simple rule! While your opinions and requirements as a parent are important, it’s also important to make sure your child is ready and willing to participate in the program.
For instance, some parents send their children to sports camps in hopes that they will develop an interest in a particular sport. But if your child doesn’t already have some level of interest, it could backfire. Working out some sort of compromise will make for a much better summer camp experience for everyone involved.
To Camp or not to Camp?
In your quest to find the best summer camp for your child, you may find that none of the options are quite right. Maybe the camps within your budget aren’t a good fit for your child, or perhaps he’s just not ready for camp yet. In cases like these, it may be better to wait until next year than to take a chance on sending him off to the wrong camp.
Summer camp can be one of the most positive and memorable experiences in a young person’s life. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to choose the right camp for your child.