As summer approaches, my kids count down to their favorite moment of the year: the first day of summer camp!
Both of them have attended the same day camp since they turned old enough to walk (or so it seems)! As the years have gone by, they’ve made really strong friendships with their camp-mates and counselors.
Choosing a summer camp is more involved than just looking online at pictures of smiling faces and beautiful facilities. The first summer that I sent my daughter to day camp, I took one day to drive from one camp to the other to meet with the directors, take a tour of the camp grounds, and get a feel for the atmosphere of the camp. I ended up choosing a camp that was near the house and that offered the right amount of activities and structure for my daughter. Luckily, my son’s personality and needs are similar to hers, and when he was old enough to attend, her camp was the perfect camp for him as well.
Here are some tips for choosing the right day camp for your kids:
Be honest with yourself. What do your kids like to do? Are they go-go-go, high energy, athletic and competitive? Are they the artsy, crafty, day-dreaming type? Do they like a lot of structure, or do they prefer to have free time and the option to choose how they want to spend their time? Are they campy and spirited – or do they cringe when they hear the summer camp cheer? There’s a camp for every personality type out there. You’ll want to find a camp that makes your kids happy. Beware of choosing a camp that appeals to you for the wrong reasons! Camp should be the place your kids love, not the place you think they should love.
Convenience is key. Choosing a camp that’s a bit far away might work if you have a perfect carpooling situation, or if it’s on your way for one reason or another. But you don’t want to spend a long while in the car twice a day. Camp should be fun for your kids – and easy for you!
Friendships matter! Choose a camp where your children will fit in. Either they know someone there, or you know families that attend. Being the odd one out isn’t fun for anyone! You’ll want to make sure that you’re involved with the other mothers so that your kids and their kids can socialize outside of camp. A big red flag is if a majority of the kids attend the same school, or live in the same area during the year, and you don’t. Your kids might feel out of touch with the rest of the kids, and you’re not doing them a favor by putting them in a situation where they start out at a disadvantage that won’t go away as the years go on.
Safety is paramount. One of the camps I looked at for my daughter all these years ago struck me as “loosey goosey” – and not in a good, relaxed kind of way. It looked as though a child might escape or go missing unnoticed! Of course, that is not the camp I ended up choosing for my children. You want to make sure the camp is well organized and that children are accounted for at all times!