How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for Your Child


How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

July 23, 2013

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When the days get longer and the mercury starts climbing, the thoughts of kids and parents alike starts turning to summer vacation. While some kids will spend the dog days listlessly flipping through television stations or playing video games through the small hours, others will attend summer camp to learn new skills, make new friends and give their harried parents a taste of freedom. Before you make your final decision about your child’s summer camp, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that both of you enjoy a fun-filled, stress-free summer vacation.


What is Your Child Interested In?

For most parents, summer camp evokes mental images of campfires and canoeing, sleeping in cabins and games of Capture the Flag. While there are still plenty of summer camps that provide this very traditional and time-honored environment for their young guests, there are also a large number of specialty camps out there designed to speak specifically to your child’s individual interests. Budding thespians might be happier at a theater camp than one with a more athletic focus, while a little scientist will have a blast at space camp. Make sure that you’re looking for a camp that will cater to the interests your child holds, as it will make the experience more enjoyable for both of you.

What Do You and Your Child Want Out of the Summer Camp Experience?

It’s important to know what both you and your child are looking for in his summer camp experience. If you want him to receive intensive coaching in a particular sport, you’ll be happier if you locate one with a strong emphasis in that area. Spiritual families may be more pleased with the decision to send their brood to a religiously-themed summer camp. No one knows what you and your child want to walk away from a summer at camp with better than the two of you, so make sure that you have clear expectations from the outset.

Co-Ed or Gender Exclusive?

There are all-boy camps, all-girl camps, coed camps, brother/sister summer camps and everything in between. It’s important to know what you want from a summer camp in terms of gender exclusivity or a lack thereof, and what your child would be most comfortable with. Pre-adolescent children of either gender may be more at ease when they attend gender exclusive camps, while those that don’t fit comfortably into traditional gender roles may find the whole practice tedious and restrictive. This is one area in which you’ll need to work closely with your child to determine what’s best for everyone involved.

The Financial Implications

Summer camps sponsored by community outreach programs like the YMCA may be less expensive than private camps, which could be a deciding factor for parents on a fixed budget. Six to eight weeks at a private summer camp can easily cost thousands of dollars, a figure that can be staggering for parents that have never before researched summer camps. Before you research a camp too thoroughly and both you and your child have your hearts set on it, make sure that the tuition is within your budget. It’s also important to keep in mind that there are more expenses than meet the eye when it comes to summer camps. In addition to tuition itself, you’ll probably also have to spring for supplies that can be relatively pricey. Know your budget and what falls within its limits before discussing a specific camp with your child.

Keep Special Needs in Mind

Some camps have facilities that will cater to a child with special needs, but aren’t quite built to facilitate them to the highest possible degree. In such situations, kids with special needs can feel as if they’re being singled out and set apart from the crowd to a painful degree, so you may want to consider summer camps that are designed with their very special campers in mind.

Don’t Procrastinate the Search

The scope of your search can be so daunting in the beginning that many parents put off the process of narrowing the field for months, only to find that enrollment is closed for the season by the time they make their decision. Even if you’d rather put the sometimes cumbersome search for the perfect summer camp off for a rainy day, you’re more likely to encounter stumbling blocks along the way if you procrastinate. Start looking for the perfect summer camp early, as many fill up months in advance.

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