I love camp! I think summer camp is an amazing opportunity for kids to get outside, explore new activities and make new friends. When I was a kid I was lucky and was able to spend most of my summers at a variety of different types of summer camp.
My parents sent me to arts camp, sports camp and general day camp where I had the opportunity to swim every day, explore nature and meet new friends.
As I grew up I went to sleep away camp for a number of years and then became a camp counselor, swimming instructor/lifeguard and unit head (at a day camp) looking after over 100 kids and 30 counselors as a part of my unit.
E and I started off by sending R to camp for one month last summer (when he was 4). He had so much fun, met new friends and learned new skills. This summer he’ll be going to day camp for the entire summer.
Camp has so many benefits but it is difficult to choose summer camp for your child. Do you want to send your child to a camp that is small or large? Urban or rural? General or specialized?
How to Choose a Summer Camp for your Child
There are many factors to consider and hopefully this post will help you choose the perfect summer camp for your family.
When checking out a new camp one of the first things I would do is see if the camp is accredited. For example, in Ontario the Ontario Camps Association reviews camps and determines whether or not the specific camp meets the OCA’s specific standards.
While nothing is foolproof, having an accreditation can provide some comfort knowing that the camp in question meets a certain set of criteria.
Where is the camp located? Depending on the experience you’re hoping your child will get you’ll need to consider the camp’s surroundings. In Toronto we have camps that are set in urban spaces or an oasis in the city. The further out of the city you go the more of a farm like experience you’ll get.
Is the camp close enough to your home or work to drop off your child? If it’s not close enough, does the camp offer transportation?
If the camp you’re looking at has bus transportation, you’ll need to consider if there’s an additional cost. In Toronto many of the bigger camps include transportation in the cost, but sometimes it is only to a depot rather than a home drop off and pick up.
Bus depots are often less expensive but can be a bit of a hassle since there will likely be many campers and their families waiting at each stop. Also, if the bus is late you’re stuck waiting at the bus depot for it.
Home pick up and drop off is likely a bit more expensive or an extra cost but it is super convenient. One thing to consider though is how long the bus ride will be for your child each day. This will depend on how big the bus is and how far away you live from the camp.
Age of your child
Some camps are known to be perfect for smaller kids. These camps might have facilities specifically designed for smaller children such as little kid sized sports equipment or a swimming pool with a large shallow end. While other camps might specialize in certain activities that are appealing to older kids.
Before deciding on where to send your child check the demographics of the campers. How old are most of the kids who attend? How many cabins or groups of kids will there be around your child’s age?
To find out this info you can take a look at the camp website and call/email to ask.
If your child is young, find out how many kids are in each group and how many counselors there are. The ratio of counselors to children is super important to make sure the kids are properly cared for.
I would also look into the age and experience of the counselors who will be taking care of your child. Are they 14 year old junior high students who will be on their iPhones all day or is there a mix of more experienced camp counselors along with younger ones.
General or specialized
Most programs for smaller kids are general in nature exposing children to lots of different activities, sports and arts/crafts. As kids get older many programs can get more specialized focusing on specific sports, dance, theater or science.
Since R is still little he’ll be going to a general camp for most of the summer where he’ll swim, play different sports, learn about nature and do arts and crafts.
Personally, I think a general camp experience is great for most kids. During the school year so many children are over scheduled with extra curricular activities that it’s nice to give them a chance to explore different things. You might find that your child develops a new found passion for making bead bracelets or Popsicle stick houses 🙂
If your child is older, he/she will likely have an opinion on the type of camp he/she goes to but I think it’s great to mix it up and still provide some of that general free form camp experience.
Camp can be super expensive or very reasonably priced depending on the camp. Private camps are often more expensive while camps run by your city or community organizations are likely less costly.
When cost is an issue I’ve found that the month of August is often less expensive than July since families tend to go on vacation in August. Therefore one option might be to send your child to a less expensive camp in July and a more specialized camp in August.
In addition, you can also see if any subsidies are available. Many camps offer them to make sure everyone can get a chance to attend. Also if you send more than one kid to the same camp they often give significant family discounts.
Word of mouth
Word of mouth is the best way to find out the real deal about a specific camp. Ask your friends, family and your child’s teachers if anyone can suggest a camp or knows about the specific camp you’re considering.
While making all of these inquiries you might find out about another camp of interest or decide to send your child to the same camp as his/her friends. When putting cabin groups together, camp administrators will often ask if your child has any friends or family attending as well. If they do, the camp will most often put the kids who know each other together in a group. This is very helpful if your child is shy or not that comfortable in new situations.
Choosing the right summer camp for your child is a big task. There are so many things to consider when making this decision. I hope this post has helped you in figuring out how to choose the perfect summer camp for your child.
Did you go to summer camp when you were young? Are you sending your kids this summer?
If you find this post helpful, check out these parenting posts:
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- Secrets to Travelling with Kids
- Surviving Hockey Season
- Tips for a Successful Parent Teacher Conference