It’s only February. You may see several more snowstorms in your area this year. Still, it’s not too early to choose the right summer camp for your child. Why?
The best camps fill up well before school ends. If you’re decades removed from childhood like me, you’ll be amazed at how much the summer camp landscape has changed.
When I was a kid, we had two options: the church camp or the YMCA camp. Both had beat-up cabins and had few recreational options. Now, many youth camps are flashier and offer a dizzying array of activities. No longer are campers limited to horseback riding, archery and canoeing.
Today’s camps offer activities that include skateboarding, mountain biking, water skiing, rope-climbing and gymnastics – not to mention photography, art and drama. Whew!
A parent faces as many decisions in choosing a summer camp as he or she does in choosing a private school. See why it’s important to start researching camps early?
Summer camp can be one of a child’s most memorable experiences. You want to provide your son or daughter with the best camp memories possible.
Here are six factors to consider when choosing the right summer camp for your kid.
Few camps are cheap anymore. Expect to pay $500 to $2,000 a week, according to the National Camp Association. Most summer camps last from two to eight weeks. Besides the enrollment fee, parents should send their kids with enough money for camp shirts, souvenirs and day trips.
Your budget will determine where you can send your child. Most states have plenty of suitable summer camps if you want one close to home. If money is less of a concern, look at camps in other states – even across the country. Some parents like to visit their child at camp. If you intend to, factor in your transportation cost to get there.
Camps vary in size from fewer than 100 campers to more than 400, according to the National Camp Association. “Smaller camps foster a very special environment where campers and staff really get to know each other, and where individual needs can be quickly met,” it says. Larger camps, meanwhile, may offer more activities.
Here’s an area parents should study closely. Do you want your child to be able to choose from dozens of camp activities or only a handful? Some of the broad categories include team sports (such as softball and soccer), individual sports (horseback riding, archery), water sports (canoeing, scuba diving), extreme sports (rock climbing, ropes courses) and the arts (painting, dancing).
In addition, parents can choose specialty camps. These include camps that focus on team sports, such as tennis, or outdoor adventures, such as backpacking.
As a parent, you should feel comfortable with the qualifications of the staff. Ask plenty of questions. Does the camp conduct criminal background checks on its counselors? Are the counselors trained in first aid? Does the camp have a licensed doctor or nurse on staff? Can personnel properly dispense prescription medications to children? What disciplinary measures does the staff use? What is the ratio of campers to staff? The American Camp Association recommends a ratio of 1:6 for ages 7-8, 1:8 for ages 9-14, and 1:10 for ages 15-18.
What values does the camp try to impart to campers? For instance, does it emphasize competition or teamwork? Does it challenge campers or want them simply to have a good time? Is the camp associated with an organization, such as a church or non-profit agency? If so, are you comfortable with the organization’s beliefs?
The American Camp Association is the largest accrediting organization. Others that offer operating standards include the Association of Christian Camps and Conferences, the Association for Experimental Education, and the International Camping Fellowship.
Don’t wait until the last minute to select a summer camp. If you do, your options may be limited. Start your research now. You want to pick a camp that your child will enjoy and that you can afford.