As a child I loved summer camp. I went away every year for two weeks and some years longer. But when my own kids were old enough to go, I hesitated. I worried they’d be homesick, bored, or hurt while away. As a mom it’s hard to let them go. But I had to admit, camp was the opportunity of a lifetime, it started the process towards my own independence, and I made memories I still cherish. So, I relented and the boys went to several camps – Boy Scouts and even a ski camp in Canada (you can read about it here and here), and they both grew and became better people because of it. I’m glad I got over my fears, remembered my own joy, and let them go.
Now I didn’t let them go without knowing as much as possible about where they were off to, what they’d be doing, how their safety would be assured, etc. If you’re considering summer camp this year start now. You need to give yourself plenty of time to do research and to take advantage of discounts for early enrollment. Start your research with friends and relatives whose children have gone to summer camp for their suggestions. You can also research online at websites such as kidscamp.com, ccca.org, and acacamps.org for listings of summer camps.
If you or your child is not ready for resident camp (generally for children ages 7+ who stay in cabins or tents and from 3- 30 days), consider Day Camp. Day camps are often provided by City Parks & Rec departments, churches, etc., and are generally for 4 to 7 who aren’t ready. Day camp is run much like a stay-away camp with special activities and themes but it’s generally more affordable since the hours are limited. Excursions are usually limited to those within a 30-60 minute distance.
Things to consider when searching for a summer camp:
- Cost – Stayaway camps can be very expensive. Some offer scholarships for hardship cases and others offer fund-raising opportunities to assist with the cost (scouts, church-related, etc). Day camps are about the same cost as daycare, however, the activities may be themed or include outings. Hours may be limited.
- Location – Local camps may be the best choice if your child has never been away from home. They are often less expensive, too. Our scout camp was 3-miles from our home but the boys loved it.
- Staff – Is the camp director trained? How many staff members are there to campers? How do they hire counselors and what type of training are they required to take? Are background checks done on all employees? How do the camp counselors interact with the campers? Ask questions and be sure you’re comfortable with the answers.
- Activities – If the camp is themed, be sure your child is interested in being immersed in the activity. Sending a couch-potato child to soccer camp may not be a good fit. Let your child help select the camp.
- Facility –Visit the camp before you make your decision to check out the facilities. Are they well maintained? How many children will be in each dormitory or cabin? If you can’t visit because of distance, ask for a virtual tour via video or photos. Ask that the be current and not photos/video from when the camp opened. Ask for referrals from other parents whose children have attended or search for reviews of the camp online.
Choosing the right camp with help alleviate a lot of your anxiety and will make it a better experience for both you and your camper!