How to Choose the Perfect Summer Camp for Your Kids

Photo via Kings Bay Y.

Smart parents know the perfect time to plan your child’s summer fun is right now – and yes, we’re well aware it’s freezing outside. But many camps will open registration soon (if they haven’t already), so get researching to find the camp that is sure to make this your child’s best summer ever.
There are so many types of summer camps that the choices may seem endless. But which one is the perfect match for your child?

Step 1: Consider your child’s interests and aspirations
Think about what programs a camp offers and if that matches your child’s interests and personality. Sure, it might be easier to get to that computer camp down the block from your house, but if your child is into sports, it’s worth the extra five-minute drive. Regardless of the type of camp, make sure the program offers campers a good balance of outdoor play time and an educational experience they can mature from. The point of sending your children to camp is to help them grow, explore their interests and develop social skills.

Step 2: Decide on day or overnight
Not every child is ready to spend nights away from mom and dad – and that’s OK. The American Camp Association recommends waiting until your child is at least 8 years old for overnight camps unless the child has had plenty of positive experiences being away from home. But for kids who aren’t comfortable with an overnight camp, day camp is perfectly fine. It will help them get used to the idea of an overnight camp for the following summer.

Photo via Trail Blazers.

Step 3: Attend an open house or a camp fair
Before committing to a camp that seems like a good fit for your family, visit and talk to the staff. Most summer camps offer open houses for parents and kids in the spring, so start planning your visit now. Come with a checklist of questions.

– What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?
– What is the camp’s philosophy?
– What is the camp director’s background?
– How are behavioral problems handled?
– What training do counselors receive?
– How will the camp meet my child’s special dietary or physical needs?

The American Camp Association has an excellent set of questions you should ask when considering a day camp or a sleep-away camp that include the ones we mentioned above and then some.

BKLYNER will be holding a Camp Fair on Saturday, March 24, 12-3pm at P.S. 130 (The Parkside School, Upper School – 713 Caton Avenue).  The Fair is free and open to the public. Meet camp representatives from across Brooklyn. Register HERE and you will also be entered to win a BKLYNER T or Tote Bag.

Step 4: Register, pack – and get excited!
Once you’ve selected your child’s camp, take time to help your child get ready for the summer experience.
If your child is going to an overnight camp, start preparing several weeks before the first day. Ask the camp for an activity calendar, so you will know what kind of clothes or accessories to pack.
Make a checklist (your camp may even have one) and keep checking that you have everything. Don’t forget to involve your camper by packing together or writing a list of questions for the camp counselors. Making them part of the process will help your child stay excited about going to camp.

Don’t Forget Local Non-Profits and Community Colleges

If your child is interested in day camps, sticking to programs in your community is a good bet. Check with local universities, community colleges, and non-profits that may operate fine arts centers, concert halls, or museums in your community. Many have their own summer learning programs for kids of all ages, and they may be much more affordable than a traditional for-profit summer camp.

Photo via Brooklyn Youth Music Project by Harvey Wang

Plus, many of those programs can offer kids something special that they won’t get elsewhere. Your local orchestra may have a camp where kids learn from professional musicians, for example, or your local museum may give kids the opportunity to go behind the scenes at their favorite exhibits. Plus, many of those camp fees may come with a membership to that non-profit organization (or the camp may be cheaper if you are a member, which makes signing up worthwhile) that you and the family can enjoy year-round.

Happy camping!

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