Do you feel it? The warmer temperatures, the brighter sunshine.. the pollen in the air! Spring has definitely sprung, and we are quickly approaching the summer camp season where many children will make their way towards summer camp. Some of my best childhood memories involve summers spent at day camp (Tamarak) and overnight camp (Ojibwa) where I enjoyed time spent outside playing with friends.
In order to help ensure the most positive summer camp experience for your child, here are some suggestions when it comes to selecting a program:
- Sit down with your child – Conduct an assessment of your child’s needs and interests. Are they comfortable going to a camp where they may not know the other children? Are they comfortable going to an overnight camp or do they want to stay closer to home?
Today there are more specialty camps than ever before including: sports camps, religious camps, music camps, theater camps, weight loss camps, art camps, education camps, travel camps and hunting camps… just to name a few. Explore your options!
- Set a budget – Summer camps have become a big business! At the beginning of the selection process, decide on a budget you are comfortable with. While a Park District camp may run several hundred dollars, other specialty camp (particularly those featuring instruction from professional athletes) may be tens of thousands of dollars for the summer. Similarly, learn what is and is not included in the camp tuition, as some camps have significant extra expenses.
- Investigate your summer camp options – Talk with friends and families and begin putting together a preliminary list of camps. Is the consensus generally positive or are there some negative expressions. Look to the Internet for similar reviews of the camp from parents and campers.
- Visit the with the camp director and staff – The most telling part of the camp selection process can be a meeting with the director and camp staff. Does the director seem genuinely excited about the camp and activities? Has the camp been around for a while? If not, why did they want to start the camp?
- Visit the facility – While a lot can be said for vintage charm, make sure that the facilities are well maintained and clean. Even if camp is not in session, the facilities should be in working order and free from obvious problems.
Don’t be shy about looking at all facilities including: cafeteria, swimming pool, bathroom, playing field and gymnasiums.
If possible, visit camp while it is in session. A well run camp should blend structure with fun. Are the campers and staff happy and busy or do they look like they are sitting around?
- Other considerations:
- Is the camp capable of accommodating your child’s special needs?
- Is there a doctor or nurse present?
- What is the cancellation policy?
- Is the camp accredited?
The most memorable summer camp experience for your child
Some preliminary leg-work can help assure your child has the most memorable summer camp experience. Today there are so many different day camp options available, that finding a camp that meshes well with your child’s personality is certainly feasible.