Creator of teacherspark.org
The parents of the 14 million kids who attend summer camp every year understand all that goes into picking the right camp. Where will your child feel comfortable while still pushing their boundaries? What’s far enough to foster independence but close enough to reach in an emergency? What can we afford in a summer camp? These are just a fraction of the questions that go into a decision that can lead to a formative experience for kids. If you’re facing this decision for your camper, here are some core considerations to mull over:
Day or Sleepaway?
The first choice you have to make is day camp or sleepaway camp. Day camps are a better choice for young children who have never attended camp before, and they let children grow accustomed to time away from home. Day camps are almost always cheaper than sleepaway camps, but since you’ll have to provide transportation you’re limited to your immediate area. If you live in a sizable town or city this may not be a problem, but families in less populous regions may find their options limited.
Sleepaway camps are a wonderful way for children and teens to develop independence and a sense of identity. It provides a safe, nurturing environment where youth can explore their interests, develop self-reliance, and interact with positive role models outside the domain of parents and teachers. Plus, it forces kids to disconnect from time-sucking TVs, video games, and computers and develop face-to-face social skills — an increasingly important benefit in the high-tech age.
Fun or Educational?
Once you’ve decided whether you’ll enroll in a day camp or sleepaway camp, it’s time to consider the focus of the camp you choose. There are countless opportunities out there, from academic options like entrepreneurship and robotics camps to sports, adventure, and arts camps. The right choice will depend on your child’s interests as well as your priorities: Do you want your child to discover something new, develop existing interests, or just have time to relax and be a kid? No matter what you decide, make sure you don’t treat summer camp as an extension of school. The ideal camp experience is one that exposes your child to experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Another important consideration for many parents is college readiness. As your kids get into the middle school and high school years, you’ll want to consider what camps will look good on college applications while still providing a fun summer outlet. College admissions offices like to see well-rounded applicants who show dedication to their interests, especially if they’re related to a field of study. And even if your child is too young to be thinking about college, it’s never too early for to explore interests and hone in on what they’re passionate about.
Do Your Homework
No matter what sort of summer camp you choose, it’s important to do some research before writing a check. Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association? ACA accreditation assures you that the camp complies with specific health, safety, and programming standards. You should also find out the camper-to-counselor ratio, whether staff undergo background checks and are certified in First Aid and CPR, and how emergencies are handled.
If your child has special needs, you’ll want to do some additional digging to find out if the camp is able to accommodate your child in all activities. The last thing you want is your kid to feel left out during what’s meant to be a positive experience.
With so many options out there, choosing the right camp can seem like an overwhelming feat. But when you establish your goals and priorities for the summer camp experience, you can quickly narrow down the choices to a select few. The best camps let your child develop talents and interests while still having ample opportunity to kick back, make friends, and have fun. Ultimately, the right summer camp will depend on your child’s preferences, needs, and goals, and the camper should be an active participant in the selection process.
About Joyce Wilson
Joyce taught for decades. Now happily retired, she spends her days sharing her teaching knowledge with today’s teachers and hanging out with her grandchildren. She and a fellow retired teacher created TeacherSpark.org to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.