Susan Pecker, Summer Program Advisor, The Camp Connection/The Teen Connection, a FREE ADVISORY SERVICE
So you’re thinking about sending your child to summer camp. I know that it’s a milestone in your child’s development and an incredibly important family decision. There are so many options from which you can choose and the process can be overwhelming. As a camp advisor working with thousands of parents, I’ve created a list of the Top Ten Tips that will help make the search easier!
1) A camp for every child. Your friends and relatives may be suggesting camps based on their own experience or those of their children. An internet search may deliver camp websites with photos of happy children. These sources are great but you need to make a decision based on your child’s personality, interests and needs. And, you need consider your objective for your child. Do you want your child to enhance or learn a new skill? Would you like your child to gain more independence and problem solve without your assistance? Would you like your child to unplug for some time? Do you want your child to have a summer home that is their own with new summer friends?
A friend’s child’s camp may not be the best match for your child. This is highly personal decision.
2) Consider the camp’s philosophy. Learn the camp’s philosophy about key issues such as communication, discipline, bullying, problem solving and more. You need to understand and agree with how the camp handles key issues. A conversation with the camp director can provide you with this information.
3) Your child’s interests. Think carefully about how you want your child to spend his/her day. Are they so passionate about a specific activity that it might be best to send them to a specialty camp or would a traditional camp with well rounded scheduling be fitting enough? It’s important to consider that specialty camps involve many hours in a specific activity.
4) Involve your child. This is a decision that should be made together. This will be your child’s experience and it’s critical to get his/her feedback on what they’re looking for. But as a parent, balance that with what you value most.
5) Many, many choices. Camps have different formats. Co Ed, single sex. Small, large. Rustic, more comfort. Closer, farther. Short stay, full summer. These are very personal decisions that can impact your child’s experience. There are pros and cons to each choice.
6) Consider the cost. Summer camp tuition can range. It is important to realize that you’re paying for 24/7 supervision, an action packed day, room (bunks), food and more. There is a camp to meet every budget.
7) Camp settings. Some parents think that camp takes place on a campus in one setting. But there are camps that take campers traveling (campsites, rafting, hiking etc), camps on college campuses (even for Middle schoolers), camps on boats and camps abroad.
8) Touring. Some families book camp “tours” or visits one year prior to sending their child. This can be beneficial in getting a frame of reference of what the camp is like in real time, to be able to meet the director, to see the type of campers who attend and more. But also know that THE CAMP CONNECTION goes on the road every summer every year. If you can’t visit because you don’t think it’s necessary or have time constraints, we can describe all of the above!
9) Alternatives. There are many, many options in camps. Day camps, Sleep away camps (starting at age 7+), Short term (one week) to full summer (71/2 weeks), Specialty camps (sport, STEM, cooking, animals, farming, art, theatre, weight loss and more).
10) Readiness. You and your child! Is your child asking to experience a sleep away camp? Do you feel it would be extremely beneficial for your child to have some time away? If your child has not had a sleepover yet, try starting with a “late over” or a night at grandmas. If you’re hesitant, remember that camp promotes a child’s development. The camp experience is designed for pure fun with many teachable moments.
Susan Pecker is a summer program advisor with The Camp Connection/The Teen Connection which has been helping parents find the right camp/program for their child for over 30 years. The Camp Connection represents over 600 programs. Throughout the year and every summer, she meets and/or goes on the road to visit camps. Her job is to speak to each parent, create a profile and deliver a personalized list of camp recommendations. She guides parents through the process by answering questions and making distinctions between camps. She’s available as long and as often as a parents needs!
Her services are FREE and NO OBLIGATION. firstname.lastname@example.org. 914-273-8010