School is just weeks away from ending, so it’s time to start looking at what your child will be doing this summer.I f your child is old enough it may just be time for them to go off to camp. Nearly every successful summer-camp experience requires lots and lots of sunblock, a flashlight, and a bathing suit. But long before you cross things off your child’s packing list, self-evaluation of your goals will go a long way to ensuring that you pick the right summer camp for your child. There are over 8,000 residential summer camps in the United States and Canada. Picking the best summer camp from so many may seem like a huge task.
1. Review the Camp’s Philosophy- Camps can be for learning a sport or to de-emphasize competition, for fun or for school credit, for furthering a camper’s religious education or for interacting with children of many faiths. Ask camps for their mission statement and then look at their literature and camp video to see how the mission of the camp is woven into the overall camp philosophy.
2. Choose the Right Summer Camp Program- What sort of experience are you looking for? There are high adventure camps, traditional camps with a range of activities, skateboarding camps, football camps, computer camps, and the list goes on. The length of the camp session can make a big difference in the effectiveness of a camp program. In general, longer sessions mean more skill development. After you have thought about philosophy and program, you are ready to start making your “long list” of camps.
3. Consider the Cost of Different Summer Camps- Many wonderful camps pay their staff well, use the best program equipment, have a great camper-to-staff ratio, and constantly work on improving their facility. Those camps will also, by necessity, charge a higher tuition than camps that pay low salaries and have aging program equipment. Some low-cost camps are still great camps because they are supported by an organization that supplements camper fees or because of the nature of their program offerings. Some camps offer discounts for financially strapped families. Grandparents often send their grandchildren to an outstanding camp that would normally be beyond the means of their family.
Many camps will schedule visits to the geographic areas they serve. A phone call to the camp may be the only practical way to speak to someone in the camp administration. Regardless of whether it is in person or over the phone, ask a camp representative what she feels are the special qualities of her camp. Don’t just go through a list of questions- talk about your child and engage the camp representative in conversation about the meaning of a camp experience.