Guest post by Frank Lawson
Tips for Choosing the Best Summer Camp for Your Child
For parents, choosing the right summer camp for your child is just as important as picking the right daycare center, school, or club. It’s a decision that deserves some research, thought, and planning. Though there are hundreds of summer camps across the U.S., there may only be a handful of camps in your vicinity that are right for your child. Here are some tips to make sure you choose the right summer camp.
Involve your child in the process
Ultimately you have the final say on where your child goes for summer camp, but there’s a greater chance that they’ll have a fun, productive time if they play some role in the decision-making process.
The three major choices you have when picking a summer camp are sleepaway vs. day camp, long distance or close to home, and specialty or general interest. Ask your child if they feel ready to attend a camp that’s 24/7 or one’s that’s further away from home. Don’t push it, but encourage your child to step outside their comfort zone. If your child is super into a certain sport, activity, or field of study, you may want to consider a specialty camp. If not, a general interest camp might make them feel more comfortable.
“Be certain to include your child in the decision-making process. Together with your child, explore the camp options and examine the materials the camps provide … As children become better acquainted with the camp experience and more involved in the decision-making process, they will have less anxiety about going away to camp,” suggests the American Camp Association.
How to spot good and bad camps
What are the attributes of a good summer camp? First and foremost, the camp will have a focused curriculum. You’re not paying a camp to just send your kids out to wander aimlessly in the woods. You want them to learn and to experience interesting things. A good camp will have low staff turnover and will have some sort of positive presence - whether that be online or via the recommendations of friends and neighbors.
Bad camps, on the other hand, may lack accreditation or even the proper permits of operation. Bad camps will have closed-door policies, in which parents cannot just stop by and check the place out whenever they want. Bad camps will not be able to keep staff very long, which is a sign of a poor facility. Bad camps won’t be able to tell you exactly what your child will be doing at any given hour of the day.
Do enough research and check out enough camps that you’ll be able to easily distinguish between the good ones and the bad ones.
Take a thorough tour
Would you send your kid to college without first taking a tour? Would you join a gym without taking a tour? Would you send your kid to a daycare without first checking the place out? No, you wouldn’t. Why should summer camp be any different?
Schedule a tour of the grounds before you decide on a summer camp. Be sure to bring your child along. You can tell a lot about how they’re going to respond to the camp experience by their initial reactions. This also gives you a great opportunity to scope out the staff.
“Meeting camp staff ahead of time is a great way to gauge their attitude and warmth towards children. If they provide you with unmatched customer service at your visit, chances are they will treat your child the same way during his or her time at camp and if they don’t, well, case and point,” says the UrbanSitter blog.
As long as you involve your child in the choosing process, do enough research to be able to tell good camps from bad camps, and get a feel for the facilities and the staff ahead of time, there’s a good chance that you can make sure your child’s summer camp experience is fun, safe, and productive.
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