Selecting a summer camp can be overwhelming for parents and children alike. Summer camp options are as plentiful and unique as your child’s interests. So, how is a parent to decide?
Here are a few questions to consider as you hunt for the perfect camp for your child:
· Would my child be more comfortable attending day camp or sleep-away camp? Day camps last for as little as one day or as long as several weeks, and overnight camps generally last at least a week. You know your child better than anyone so you can probably gauge how your son or daughter will react to certain situations. Has your child ever spent a few nights away from home? If not, how do you think your son or daughter will handle that first night without Mom or Dad present?
· Does my child want to pursue a specific interest? Are there prerequisites that need to be met? Does your child love to sing and dance? Create beautiful works of art? Aspire to write the next, great American novel? Your child may enjoy a camp centered around his/her focused interests. But, remember, your child may have to audition or have a specific background. Math, science and technology camps, in particular, often have prerequisites (specific classes in school or a solid understanding of computer languages) while specialty camps in areas like music, dance and horsemanship often require a certain level of expertise in order to be accepted to the camp.
· What is the camp’s philosophy? Is it one you're comfortable with as a parent? Is it a good match for your child's temperament? Is competition or cooperation emphasized? If you're looking at a sports camp that touts an affiliation with a celebrity athlete, how much time - if any-will the sports star actually spend there?
· What is the counselor-to-camper ratio? The leader-to-child ratio varies, depending on the type of camp and the age of the children. The American Camp Association (ACA) guidelines for overnight camps call for a 1:6 ratio for ages 7 and 8, 1:8 for ages 9-14; and 1:10 for ages 15-18. Day camp guidelines call for 1:8 for children ages 6-8; 1:10 for children ages 9-14; and 1:12 for ages 15-18. If your child has a special need, you may want more one-on-one attention and increased staff to child ratio.
· What are the qualifications of the staff? Do the counselors have a background in the camp’s area of focus? Do the staff members hold educational degrees and/or work in that field? Have they taught children previously? For example, are the counselors at a cooking camp chefs? Do they have real-life experience or just graduated from culinary school?
· Are there accommodations for children with special needs? If your child has special needs due to an allergy or other medical condition, be sure to ask if the camp is equipped to handle these special requirements for your child. There are plenty of camps with programs and facilities designed specifically for campers with a wide range of special needs, both physical and behavioral.
The right camp can help a child become more socially adept, improve self-esteem, become less gadget-absorbed, and often interested in new activities. So, selecting a camp for your child is important. Include your child in the process! Ask what camp activities are important to him/her and invite your child to attend camp visits with you. This way, your child can ask camp personnel questions, meet the staff before the first day of camp and have the opportunity to meet other new campers during Open Houses.
Happy summer camp hunting!To learn how Fitness for Health’s summer camps help children of all ages increase their social skills while having fun, call 301-231-7138 or visit www.FitnessForHealth.org.