Choosing a Summer Camps for Your Kids
By Sari Holtz
Summer is rapidly approaching, which is great for kids, but often terrifying for parents especially working parents who must find suitable camps for their children. Among the things that parents usually consider before choosing a camp are price, range of activities offered, proximity to home, the child’s friends who will be attending the camp and the number of hours per day that the camp runs. To complicate matters, today’s challenging economy has forced many parents to feel torn between overnight camps and local day camps, or between day camps run by established institutions and backyard camps which tend to offer limited activities at a fraction of the price. Below are some ways to choose a summer camp that both you and your child can feel comfortable with.
Speak to Your Child
While it makes sense that certain options will appeal more to you (and your spouse) than others, it may not be realistic for you to register your child for the camp that you prefer without asking for her opinion. After all, you’ll want to spend your money on a camp that your child will enjoy and will be excited to attend, rather than one that she’ll dread. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, open a conversation about the options you’re considering. Explain the advantages of each camp, and get a sense for which she prefers. If you have one preference over another, you can certainly try to slant the conversation in your favor (your right as a parent!), but allowing your child to be part of the decision making process will allow her to feel content with the final decision.
Think Outside the Box
If you’re torn between sending your child(ren) to the best camp and to the least expensive camp, you’re not alone. Many camp directors are sympathetic to those in tight financial situations, and are willing to be flexible on the price if the parent applies properly for a tuition reduction. You can also consider other options such as sending your child to the camp of her choice for less than a full summer, and encouraging her to work as a mother’s helper for the rest of the time (age permitting), joining a local swim team or sports group, or volunteering.
Don’t Overlook the Social Aspects
Anyone who has ever been to camp can confirm that one of the most important aspects of a summer camp experience is the social aspect. Children who attend summer camp tend to make friends (or, at the very least, connections), that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Both overnight camps and day camps provide opportunities for children to branch out from the social circles that they have all year, and to develop their ability to make new friends and to interact with others outside their comfort zone. When considering any type of summer camp, don’t disregard the other campers, and whether they’ll be a positive influence or a negative one. Consider also that even if your children don’t stay in touch with their camp friends in the immediate future, they will likely cross paths with those same peers in the future.
Make Peace with Your Decision
Whether you wind up enrolling your child in your first choice or your last, once you’ve made a decision, make sure to emphasize the positive aspects of the camp and to encourage your child to feel excited about the upcoming experience. Any camp can be a fantastic experience if approached with a positive outlook (and, if necessary, supplemented with ample after-camp activities).