It may be too late to sign your little one up for the overnight summer camps, but there are still lots of day camps you can check out.
According to the American Camp Association, there are more than 12,000 day and resident camps in the U.S. About 7,000 of them are overnight camps and 5,000 are day camps.
Camp isn’t what it used to be when I was growing up! Today, there is tremendous variation in the types of activities offered as well as costs.
You can find specialty camps offering science, art, music, sports, technology, space, ballet and the list doesn’t stop there. If you can think of it, there’s a camp that will provide that experience. The possibilities are endless.
Costs can range from $100 to $1500, depending on the activity and length of the program.
Choosing the right camp for your child is a big decision. When it comes to choosing a day camp, where your children's friends attend is often the key deciding factor, says Laurel Barrie, co-owner of Camp Connection, a consultancy agency that helps parents pick a camp for their child. (The service is free to parents, with chosen camps paying a set fee to the company.) "Most people feel that their child will be happy as long as he or she is with school friends," she explains. "Others prioritize price or hours of operation."
Some parents consider day camp a prelude to kindergarten or first grade. It’s a way to meet new kids and learn how to act in a more coordinated environment without the stress of grades, homework and structured learning.
Picking the right camp has as much to do with your own schedule and needs as it does with your child's personality, says Marla Coleman, a past president of the American Camp Association (ACA) and a founding director of Coleman Country Day Camp in Merrick, N.Y. "If you plan on traveling, you might prefer a camp that lets your child attend for 4 or 6 weeks, as opposed to the whole summer," she says. "Working parents may need a camp that buses children, or provides after-camp care."
When possible, experts suggest you visit different camps and talk with the managers to get a feel for if it is a good match for your child.
Sometimes you can mix and match camps. One day camp that offers sports related activities and one that leans more towards the arts or sciences. You know your child’s interest better than anyone else, so search for a camp you think will meet his or her individual personality.
Many camps offer a half-day and a full day. Getting some input from other parents and camp managers may help you decide whether your child is old enough to spend a full day away from home or if a half-day is plenty
The ACA website provides a list of camps that are accredited as well as options for the type of camp, cost factor and locations.
The YMCA also provides traditional day camps in the summer that offer field trips, and a variety of daytime activities along with lunch and a couple of snack breaks.
Many churches provide day camps with religious instruction as well as playtime activities.
Before choosing a camp, talk with your child about what they would like to do during the summer, who they might like to have as a partner (if possible), and what expectations they have. It’s also a good time to address any fears they may have about being away from home or in a different environment.
Before signing your child up for camp make a list of questions you want answered first, such as:
• How is staff hired, screened and trained?
• What is the camper to counselor ratio?
• What is your return rate?
• How old are the counselors?
• How do you handle conflicts between campers, or discipline?
• What type of child best succeeds at this camp?
• What is a sample daily schedule?
• What happens if my child takes medication?
• How do you handle separation anxiety?
• What are your safety and medical procedures?
• What precautions do you take to make sure the right person is picking up my child from camp?
Day camp can be a great way for kids to exercise a little independence, meet new friends and learn new skills.
This school year is rapidly coming to a close and once the novelty of being away from classes wears off, boredom often sets in. Right now may be a good time to consider a day camp for your child. But don’t wait too long though- these camps fill up fast!