As summer rapidly approaches, it’s time to consider activities to keep the kids busy and entertained while school is out. While they’ve certainly earned some time to rest and relax over the summer, it’s important that they stay active and avoid spending too much time vegging in front of the TV or computer. At some point, I realized that I needed to look outside the home for ways to keep them occupied. The obvious solution is summer camps. They’re practically a rite of passage. But how to choose which one is right for your child? There are so many different programs to choose from, but not every one is right for every child. Here are a couple of questions to consider:
- Day camp or sleep away camp? The first step in narrowing down the search for the right summer program for your child is to decide whether you want to use a day camp, where the child attends only during specific hours of the day, or a sleep away camp, where the child will stay and sleep at the camp for a number of days or weeks. They each have their advantages: Day camps are generally more affordable and may be a better fit for a younger child or one who simply isn’t ready to be away from home for more than a day or two, whereas sleep away camps may provide a more intensive experience and allow campers to build stronger friendship bonds.
- What do you – and your child – hope to get out of the camp experience? Is your child an avid athlete? There are camps that are devoted to helping kids improve their abilities in a specific team or individual sport, like baseball or gymnastics. If your child is more the creative type, there are drama, art, and music camps available. Looking for a new and exciting experience? Consider camps that feature activities like waterskiing or hiking. Academically minded youngsters might enjoy a camp that offers science or foreign language programs. There is something out there to fit nearly every possible interest.
- Safety. Any time your kids are away from home, it’s important for you to know they will be safe and cared for. Once you’ve determined which type of camp you’re looking for, it’s time to research individual programs. Consider the location of the camp, the camper to staff ratio, the qualifications of staff members, the facilities available at the camp as well as nearby and the camp’s policies and procedures for handling emergencies or any particular special needs your child might have. You might also ask for references from families whose children have previously attended the camp that you’re interested in.
Remember, summer is a vacation for your child, so it’s important to let her have input into how she spends that time. The most important thing is to choose a camp program that she’ll find engaging and rewarding, as well as a camp that makes you feel comfortable that she’ll be well cared for.