Summer camps have long provided children with the opportunity to take part in new activities and learn important life skills such as independence, teamwork, self-confidence, and leadership. However, with so many options these days, it can be hard to decide which camp is the best fit for your child. To help you start the search process, here are three important distinctions to consider when choosing a camp:
Will It Be Day Camp Or Overnight Camp?
There is no golden rule as to when your child should be going to one or the other, though children under the age of seven may have trouble adjusting to being away from home. If this is the case, a day camp could prove to be a great first experience that will prepare them for sleepaway camp in future years.
If your child usually does well at sleepovers and isn’t afraid to be independent or try new things, they may be a good candidate for overnight camp, but day camp is still a great way to keep kids active and social all summer long while staying local, and it can also be a good choice if the cost of camp is an issue.
How About Near Or Far?
Where do you want your child to go to camp? Locally or far away? This too may depend on how old your child is and how independent she is, as each camp typically offers a very different experience.
Benefits of a Nearby Camp
- Easier to evaluate and visit
- Friends and family likely to be familiar with camp
- Minimal travel costs
- Likely contact with classmates or children from same region
Benefits of a Camp Further Away
- More choices
- Different experiences, different geography, even different languages
- Promotes independence, particularly for early and late adolescent campers
- Diversity of campers
What About A Camp’s Focus?
The broad range of camps and programs available means that there really is something to suit every interest, strength, and need.
Traditional camps: “Traditional” camps offer a little bit of everything and give campers the opportunity to try a wide range of new activities.
Specialty camps: Alternatively, specialty camps focus on one or two specialized activities and usually appeal to children interested in deepening their knowledge in a particular interest or ability. Examples include sports camps, arts camps, and adventure camps, and there are even circus camps where campers learn to jump, balance, swing, and juggle just like at the Big Top!
Academic camps: Studies have shown that, when not challenged mentally, students can lose up to three months of learning over the summer (a phenomenon known as “summer slide”), but with academic camps, children can extend learning long into the summer with camps that focus on science, math, robotics, and more. They can also be a great way to boost your child’s chances of getting into their dream college.
Religious camps: Faith-based camps offer campers from various religious backgrounds the chance to enjoy all the activities found at traditional camps, while also spending time incorporating their faith. And religiously affiliated camps now represent over one-fifth of all ACA-accredited camps.
Special needs camps: These camps can range from helping kids living with an illness or a physical disability to helping those with learning differences or ESL students, with specific activities geared towards campers’ abilities and knowledgable staff with the expertise to understand campers’ challenges.
Once you find a couple of camps that you like, you can then start reaching out to camp directors to ask them about their camps’ philosophies and programming emphases. You should have some questions prepared about counselor training, safety, and accreditation, and you should request references from the camp so that you can ask other parents about the experiences of their children (and whether they are going back next summer).