How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for your Child

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Kids eagerly await the end of school, but as soon as the final class ends, the insanity begins, as they cry for play-dates, pool parties and trips to Target, and then insist making chocolate chip cookies for breakfast is a good idea. How are you going to survive the next three months of chaos? The solution? Summer camp!

Not only do summer camps offer you some much-needed peace and quiet, but they provide your children with experiences that challenge them mentally and physically. These programs often introduce them to new activities, new ways of thinking and new friends. But how do you differentiate a babysitting service from a science camp that will enhance your son’s chances of a job with NASA in 2040? We’ve come up with a list of questions to help you select a summer camp and to ask before signing your kids up for every activity that promises peaceful mornings and quiet afternoons at home.

What are your child’s expectations?
The first step in selecting a summer camp is to discuss this opportunity with your child. Do they have a love for sports? Or would they rather learn how to cook? Where are their friends going to camp and are they more comfortable going somewhere with other kids they know? Find a balance between your child’s requests and what you think is best for them.

What is the camp’s focus?
If your child wants to build certain skills and meet like-minded friends, consider a specialty camp. Just beware that too much of anything is never good and you’ll want to avoid curbing your child’s interest if that’s all they’re doing for 4 hours a day, 7 days a week. Consider enrolling them in a specialty camp for a couple of days, along with a general camp that lasts a week or two.

What’s the plan?
A reputable camp will have a calendar of activities along with protocol for when a child becomes sick or injured. Find out if the activities are all scheduled ahead of time or if the children will have independent play as well.

What is the staff-to-child ratio?
The campers-to-staff ratio should be about 10 kids to 1 adult (for those 8-14 years old). The camp provider will likely require a background check, references and a criminal-records search from each staff member as well.

When the first day of camp arrives, it’s quite normal for your child to experience some anxiety. Here are some tips for easing your child (and yourself!) into summer camp mode:

– If you know another child who’s attending, try to get them into the same group or session. Try to help your child find their friend on that first day.
– Make sure to include them in the decision-making process. They’ll come to anticipate and appreciate the experience, feeling ownership over it.
– Have empathy and acknowledge their concerns.
– Instead of asking “are you nervous about swimming?” say “how are you feeling about swimming?”
– Keep goodbyes brief. Lingering too long can make the experience harder.
– Avoid giving your child an easy out. It’s tempting to tell your child you will come pick them up, but camp counselors know how to handle these moments and will contact you if it’s truly necessary.

Summer camps are a great way for your children to explore new activities, meet new friends and step outside of their comfort zones. Whether it’s a single day of soccer camp or a week of sleeping in tents and eating s’mores under the stars, your children will return not only with handfuls of craft projects of glue and sticks, but with memories that will last a lifetime.

 

By Megan Meisner

Megan Meisner Fitness emphasizes activity, nutrition and restoration. The emphasis is on progression, not perfection. I am an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer and have over 10 years of experience. My emphasis is on fitness for moms and youth.

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