As we are closing in on the end of the school year (we still have another week, thanks to several snow days) parents are thinking about how to keep their kids busy during the summer. With all the different kinds of summer camps out there — day, overnight, sports, art or religious — how do you choose? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you look for ways to keep your kids occupied and your summer enjoyable.
What activities does your child like? Are there things that they have wanted to try (like archery, theater or farm life), but aren’t able to do during the school year? Is there something they want to get better at by learning new skills (like baseball or computers)? Summer is a great time to introduce children to a new activity if they are open to it. Since camps are several hours long for days in a row, kids can really explore a new activity. Children can also use a camp as a way to expand on skills or sports they are already learning. Camps can offer time with experts that wouldn’t normally be available during the school year. Jack typically does sports camps in the summer, like soccer and golf. I have looked into other ones, but haven’t been able to make them work into our schedule.
Are half day camps good for your child or are they ready for a full day experience? This depends on the child’s age, maturity level and also the type of camp. Most school-age kids are used to being busy and engaged for 6-8 hours a day, so they might be able to handle a full day of camp activities. However, for very physical sports-related camps it might be better to wait for children to be a bit older when they can handle several days of running all day in a row. Camps that are less physical like academic, art or theater camps or ones that provide a variety of activities will feel more like a typical school day for the child and they may be able to keep up with a day’s worth of activities at a younger age. Jack still does half day camps, because most of his are sports-related, but next summer I may consider an all-day one.
Do you prefer your child be outside during the summer or inside? Depending on your climate the answer may be different. In very warm climates outside summer activities may not be the best idea. On the flip side up here in the Pacific Northwest parents may prefer to have their children outside during our short stretch of good weather. I like to have my kids outside as much as possible, since we spend so much of the rest of the year dodging raindrops.
What about overnight camps? Is your child interested and mature enough to handle an overnight camp? This is very personal and individual to each child. Some children may be ready at about 7 or 8; while others may be teenagers before they are comfortable. If you are thinking about an overnight camp for your child for the first time you may want to consider a camp close to home and one that has familiar leaders or chaperones for your child.
Other things to consider. Some more things to think about are cost, location (close to home or your work), and size of camp. I know there are camps I would like to send Jack to, but the cost is too high for me to justify. For a shy child an extremely large camp may not be the best idea, while other kids may thrive in an environment that they get to meet a lot of new children.
Make sure the camps you choose are legitimate businesses and your child will be safe. This may seem obvious but we can never be too careful given the world we live in. How long has the camp been in business? Are there big companies associated with it? Have any of your child’s friends, classmates or other people you know been to the camp?
To get an idea of what others are doing for summer camps I polled my network and the following infographic shows the results.
Are there any other elements that you consider when you are looking at summer camps?