Selecting a summer camp in the middle of winter always seems a bit surreal. But camps are popular; they fill up fast - often by early spring. Having a few months to pore over camp materials, contact camp directors or even arrange a tour makes the whole process more planful and less stressful.
With so many different kinds of camps out there, the biggest challenge is finding the right one for your child. Ann Sheets, president of the American Camping Association, urges parents and children to make decisions about summer camp together.
"There are lots of important questions to ask, and both parent and child need to be very comfortable with the decision that's made," she says. "If children have a part in it, they're certainly going to have a better experience."
With that in mind, here's a guide to the available camp programs, and the questions to ask when trying to choose one for your child.
Types of Camps
Think about your child's particular needs and ask what he or she wants from a camp experience. Determine whether your child is ready for a sleep-away program or better suited for day camp (some residential camps accept children as young as 7). Talk about the following camp options together:
Visit Camps, Talk with Other Families
Once you have a good idea of what you and your child want from a summer camp, research what's out there. Most camps have an active parents' group, but friends and neighbors are also valuable resources. Send for camp literature, attend open houses, arrange to speak with the director and take a tour of the camp.
The ACA recommends that both parent and child visit a camp when it's in session, even though that may require planning a year ahead of time. You'll get a good look at how the camp operates, and the interaction between the staff and kids. If you're unable to visit, talking to families whose children have attended the camp in the past is a good idea. Some camps may even give you the names of parents to contact.
Ask the Right Questions
These questions will help you learn more about the camp staff, facilities and programs:
Picking a Day Camp
Picking an Overnight Camp
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