What to Ask a Camp Before You Enroll Your Kid
By Kimberly Blaker
Whether you’re looking for enrichment for your child, a way to keep your kids occupied and supervised while you work, or you 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 Benefits Many kids thrill at the idea of going away to summer camp. Still, for some kids, particularly those who are shy, introverted, or homebodies, the thought of going away for a night, let alone a week or more, can cause considerable anxiety. When kids are adamantly opposed to camp, forcing it 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 fosters:
• development of new and lasting friendships
• development of new skills
• discovery of new interests and hobbies
• opportunities for creative expression
• breaks from being plugged-in
• daily exercise
• learning retention
Start the Search Before you begin looking into summer camps, create a list of the criteria you’re looking for. Here are some things 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 children with lots of freedom and choices?
• What are your children’s passions, such as a particular sport, hobby, or other interest?
Once you’ve narrowed down some criteria, you can begin your search. An excellent place to start is Sonoma Family Life’s Camp Fair, which will be held on April 14, 3–7 p.m., at Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa. You can also do an online search at Sonoma Family Life’s virtual camp fair at sonomafamilylife.com or visit summercamps.com, where you can search by zip code or category. The American Camp Association (ACA), which accredits summer camps, is also an excellent resource: acacamps.org.
Next Steps Once you’ve selected a few summer camps that meet your primary criteria and fit your children’s interests, share the choices with your children to see what excites them. Be sure to let your children know upfront that you still need to thoroughly investigate the camp(s) before making a final decision. But keep your children’s choices in mind to ensure they get the most out of camp.
Once you and your children have narrowed the list to a manageable selection, you’ll want to investigate the camps further. There are several things you’ll want to consider:
What are the staff’s qualifications? Teens often staff camps; they make excellent mentors and lively program guides. 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 children’s safety? Find out what kind of safety training the camp provides its staffers. Also is there always someone on hand who knows CPR? What are the camp’s procedures in the event your children become ill or have an accident or emergency?
What is the schedule? Ask for a day-to-day itinerary, so you and your children know what to anticipate.
What are the rules? Are your children 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?
Don’t sweat it. Keep in mind, although there are many great camps, no camp is likely to offer everything precisely the way you want it. Choose the one that best fits your children and satisfies your most important criteria. Remember, your children still have many more summers ahead of them—and plenty of opportunities for exciting camp experiences.
Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer. She also owns an online bookshop, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed, and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at sagerarebooks.com.