request info email to friend
Sizing Up Summer Camp
Summer camp is a time-honored experience for children – and parents. Sleep-away camps provide a way for working parents to offer their children a safe environment where they can grow and experience new things during their summer break from school. And kids can make lifelong friends, and store up all kinds of memories, at summer camp.
The difference between a happy and meaningful summer and a summer filled with homesickness and unhappiness often is choosing the right camp. Remember that the camp that was right for you may not be right for your child. And the camp that was great a couple years ago may not be right this summer.
Consider such issues as:
Co-ed or single-sex? Think about how socially confident your child is. Some kids who are very comfortable in a co-ed environment when they are younger do better in a same-sex camp as they get older. And of course, the opposite also can be true.
How much can you afford to pay? In general, camps run by non-profit organizations, such as the Boy Scouts or the Y, are less expensive than privately run camps. When you are looking at your camp budget, compare the cost of the camp with what you would pay for child care, entertainment, food, etc., if your child stayed home for the summer.
How far away? Some children – and parents – are less comfortable with camps that are a long way from home. Understand that you might have to go to the camp -- if your child gets sick, for example. Also, if the camp lasts for several weeks, there might be a family visit weekend that you probably will want to attend.
How big should the camp be? Camps range from fewer than 100 campers to 400-500 campers. Smaller camps might be more expensive, but they also might offer a more personalized experience. On the other hand, larger camps often break campers down into groups, so the experience might be almost as personalized at a larger camp.
What does your child want to do at camp? Gone are the days when camps were all about a general outdoor experience. Now kids can go to camp to make a movie, work on their backhand, learn a foreign language, or just about anything they want. Including, of course, have a general outdoor experience.
Are you -- or your child – looking for anything special? For example, there are weight-loss camps, camps for kids with ADD, camps for special needs children. If your child follows a special diet – whether it is vegetarian or peanut-free – make sure the camp can accommodate that without making the child feel singled out.
Once you have narrowed down your choices to a few camps, look a little deeper. Is the camp accredited by a recognized organization, such as the American Camp Association? Determine the philosophy of the camp director. Ask about the experience of the counselors. See if you can talk to someone whose child attended the camp in previous years. Don’t forget to ask about things like payment terms and insurance coverage.
Then pick out a sleeping bag, load up on the sunscreen and the insect repellent, and prepare your child for a summer of fun.