Summer is just around the corner. Whether you're looking for a viable childcare option while school's not in session or you're seeking a full-on camp experience, the summer camp options can be overwhelming. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when choosing a camp for your child.
- Consider the age of your child. Children between the ages of 8 to 10 are good candidates for overnight camps, while younger kids can benefit from a variety of day camps or local activities (at the library, through the YMCA, or ones you and other parents set up in your own neighborhood) and teenagers can look into becoming a junior counselor or acquiring new skills via certification programs.
- Consider your finances. Day camps range in price from a few to several hundred dollars a week; overnight camps can be in the thousands. Many offer sibilng discounts, but consider how much you're willing to pay (what the activities at the camp are worth to your child). It can add up to a serious investment. How much does an average camp cost? Summercamp.org has crunched some of the numbers.
- Consider your child's interests and needs. Does your child love arts and crafts? A more traditional day or overnight camp may be a good fit. Are you looking to specialize? There are plenty of options, from camps that focus on horseback riding or sports to ones for kids who want to hone a particular skill or trade. Does your child have special needs? Make sure the camp is equipped to provide the services he or she requires.
- Co-ed, or single sex? Does your daughter want to go to an all-girls camp? Does your son want to rough it with the guys? Would your tween prefer to be in a place that's co-ed? There are pros and cons to each choice, and it all depends on what works best for your child.
- Find out what's out there. The American Camp Association has more than 2,400 accredited camps in their database. The National Camps Association offers CampQuest for compiling information. Another popular website is mysummercamps.com, which lists more than 17,000 camps, including ones in Canada, and the YMCA often has good and affordable summer camp options, and be sure to check out the offerings at your area museums.
- Talk to other parents. Word of mouth is still the number one referral source for choosing an overnight camp, Peg Smith, chief executive officer of the American Camp Association, tells The Boston Globe. Get as many details as you can, not just opinions, so you can decide for yourself whether a camp could be the right fit.
- What do you and your child hope to get out of the experience? Are you looking for childcare during the summer months, or are you hoping to help your child gain a new skill? Does your child want to hang out with friends or learn a new skill? Are you and your child on the same page when it comes to what camp should to be like?
- What's the best fit? Does your child need a very structured schedule, or does she function better with a lot of flexibility? Do you want him to gain leadership skills or learn how to be a better team player? Does your child need to learn how to manage responsibilities or is she learning to be more independent?
- What are the counselors like? Are they adults or older kids? Licensed or learning on the job? Do they come back to camp year after year, or is the turnover rate high? Talk to the staff (PBSKids.org has a great list of questions parents should ask.)