How to choose the right summer camp: 12 tips for every parent

Points to consider when choosing a summer camp for your child:

1. Consider whether your child would enjoy a specialty camp.

“It's important to know a child's personality and identify what camp programs will benefit him or her most,” said the American Camp Association website.

2. Select a camp based on your child’s interests.

Dr. Heather Domjan, interim executive director of the University of Houston STEM Center, said summer camps can help both academically and with socialization.

“It’s important for students’ interests to be matched in order for them to excel,” she said. “But it’s a chance for them to try something out on a short-term basis.”

3. Find out if your child would prefer a structured or unstructured camp.

Some children, especially when away from home, can benefit from a more structured program with a set schedule.

“Consistent routines and rules help create order,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guide, “Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers”. “Things go more smoothly when you and your child know what to expect.”

4. Factor in how how comfortable your child is in social situations.

“It’s more the social learning aspect. Play is a fundamental portion of development,” said Dr. Nedra Washington, program coordinator for the University of North Texas at Dallas Child Development and Family Studies program. “Children are able to learn rules, learn how to communicate, choose new friends and learn different cultures.”

5. All camps are not created equal: What kind of certifications or training do staff members receive?

Domjan said parents should look for transparency from camps.

“How is the staff hired or screened? With students who may need (medication), how is that handled? What is that daily schedule? Are the administrators upfront?”

6. Take advice from schools and teachers on what camps in the area are recommended.

7. Ask camp alumni and their parents if they enjoyed the camp.

8. Consider the cost and your budget.

“Do not be afraid to ask for a discount and ask for scholarships,” Domjan said. “There are many camps out there who are wanting to have all students participate and not shut anyone out.”

9. Consider if the camp offers healthy meals and snacks.

10. Consider how the camp schedule fits into your summer schedule.

11. Find out the ratio of staff members to campers.

It is important for parents to know how many staff members per child the camp makes available, according to Domjan.

12. Remember: It’s about fun—let your child grow in a new interest.

“Just make sure that you have to have it to be fun,” Domjan said.


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