How to pick exactly the right camp for your kid
No matter your kid’s personality or individual needs, chances are there’s a camp that’s just for you.
But that doesn’t necessarily make the choices any easier. Sports camps, arts camps, sleepaway camps, special needs camps, religious camps — the options available to occupy today's kids are downright dizzying.
Camp is a good thing. In fact, the American Camp Association says, "the organized camp experience is a vital component in the development and education of the whole child."
Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself to help determine what kind of camp is right for you and your family.
What is appropriate for my child's age?
Your kid's age will determine whether they are ready to even consider a sleepaway camp. Experts say kids under 7 years old are probably too young to go away from home. But beyond the "sleepaway camp or not" debate, your child's age will also determine the types of activities they are allowed to participate in. Thoughtfully consider where your child is developmentally and look for a camp with age-appropriate friends and programs.
What can I afford?
Camp can get expensive — as much as college in some cases. So before you fall in love with that three-week surf camp in Malibu, make a budget you can live with and stick with it.
How much time do I want my child to spend at camp?
The amount of time you want your child to spend at camp will make a big difference in both the price of camp and the types of programs you want to consider. Many specialty camps, like arts camps or even sports camps, run on a weekly basis. If you need something more full time consider a more traditional day camp that offers more of a variety of activities.
What kinds of activities does my child like doing?
If your kid is a musical prodigy or baseball superstar, look for camps that help them explore their talents. There are camps for theater, science and karate and camps to suit just about any activity or kids' personality. Also consider your kids' special needs. Do they have a medical condition that needs to be monitored? Food allergies? A disability? Seek out camps that meet their needs and let them participate fully to help ensure a positive experience.
Are there any activities you wish your kid would try?
Camp can also be a great time to get your kid out of their comfort zone. Maybe you wish your kid would get a little more fresh air and outside activity, or you want to encourage them to make some new friends. Away from their daily routine, camp can be a perfect time for kids to reinvent themselves with a new experience.
How are your kid's academics?
If your child is struggling in school, there are camps focused on academics that can give them a leg up when they're back in school. Summer camps focused on academics can be a fun way for kids to look at learning in new way in a new environment. By the same token, gifted kids who might be bored in the classroom can benefit from challenging specialty camps in STEM, reading, writing and math.
What are the other kids doing?
Other parents are usually the most reliable resource when finding the right camp for your kids. Ask around at school pickup or post in Facebook and other chat groups any questions you have about options in your area. You might just find out about the groovy new gymnastics camp at the local college you never knew about or find out that pricey sports camp isn't worth the money. Your kids' teachers and coaches can also be a great source of information about camps that are out there.
Would you like your child to get religious training at camp?
Kids have been attending religious camps for generations. If you're looking for an opportunity to give your child a bit more religious exposure and education, check with your local house of worship for camp options for kids of all ages.