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2020 Mar

Choosing the Right Camp

Here’s what you need to know to choose the right camp for your child.

Whether you’re looking for enrichment for your child, a way to keep your kids occupied and supervised while you work, or need a short reprieve from parenting, there’s sure to be a summer camp that’s the right fit for your child and family.

Summer Camp Offers Many Benefits

Plus It Reduces Summer Learning Loss

Summer camp offers children plenty of benefits, and many kids are thrilled to go to summer camp. Still, for some children, particularly those who are shy, introverted, or homebodies, the thought of going to a new location and meeting new people can cause considerable anxiety. When kids are adamantly opposed, forcing summer camp on them may not be in their best interest.

But for kids who are eager—or at least willing to give it a shot without much fuss—summer camp offers opportunities kids may not have elsewhere. Summer camp provides kids the following benefits: fosters independence; a place to make new and lasting friendships; development of new skills; discovery of new interests and hobbies; an opportunity for creative expression; a break from being plugged-in; daily exercise; improves their self-esteem; teaches kids to work with others; makes them feel part of a community; prevents or reduces summer learning loss.

Questions To Ask Before Choosing A Camp

Consider ACA-Accredited Camps

Before you begin looking into summer camps, create a list of the criteria you’re looking for. Here are some questions you’ll want to consider.

  • What is your budget for summer camp?
  • What is the purpose of sending your child to summer camp?
  • Do you want a resident (overnight) or a day camp?
  • Are you looking for a short-term (week or two) or summer-long program?
  • Do you want a camp that’s very structured or one that provides your child with lots of freedom and choices?
  • What are your child’s passions, such as a particular sport, hobby, or other interest?

Once you’ve narrowed down some of the criteria, you can begin your search. An excellent place to start is in Tidewater Family. You’ll find a resource guide noting a wide variety of available camps.

The American Camp Association (ACA) accredits summer camps, so you might also check their website. The ACA educates camp owners and directors in health and safety for both staff and campers as well as program quality. It then accredits camps that meet the ACA’s standards.

Inquire About Staff Selection

Don’t Forget To Ask About Safety Protocol

Once you’ve selected a few summer camps that meet your primary criteria and that fit your child’s interests, share the choices with your child to see what excites him or her. Be sure to let your child know upfront that you still need to thoroughly investigate the camp(s) before making a final decision. But do keep your child’s choices in mind to ensure he or she will get the most out of summer camp.

Once you and your child have narrowed the list down to a manageable selection, you’ll want to investigate the camps further. Consider these.

What are the staff’s qualifications?

Many summer camps use teens to staff the camps. Teens make excellent mentors and can bring liveliness to summer camp programs. However, the programs themselves should be developed by professionals and have professional oversight to ensure kids are getting the most from their camp experience.

How does the camp ensure your child’s safety?

Find out what kind of safety training the camp provides its staffers. Also, is there staff on hand at all times that knows CPR? What are the camp’s procedures in the event your child becomes ill, has an accident, or an emergency?

What is the daily schedule for campers?

Ask for a daily itinerary, so you know your child will be getting everything you and your child anticipate from the program.

What are the rules?

Each camp has its own set of rules. Find out whether your child is allowed to call you. If it’s a summer-long residential camp, can parents come and visit? Can kids bring along a cell phone or electronics? Also, how much money can they bring, and how is it managed?

Keep in mind, although there are many great camps, no camp is likely to offer everything precisely as you like it. Just choose the one that best fits your child and satisfies your most important criteria. Remember, your child will have many summers to come and plenty more opportunities to experience other exciting camp programs.

Kimberly Blaker is a freelance parenting writer. She’s also founder and director of KB Creative Digital Services at kbcreativedigital.com.

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