Yes, summer has not arrived yet, but if you are planning to enroll your child in summer camp, you will need to get a jump-start on your research, because these programs fill up fast.
Whether you are a working parent who needs all-day care for your child, or a stay-at-home parent who wants your child to get involved in a fun activity (while giving you a much-needed break), there are plenty of summer camps to choose from.
Follow my 10 tips to help ensure that your child is enrolled in a safe, age-appropriate and stimulating summer camp.
1. First, decide if you’d like your child to attend an all-day summer camp, an overnight camp or a camp that is only a couple hours once a week. Summer camps can range from a one-time, two-hour class, to all-day (7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) Monday-Friday camps, or even overnight camps!
2. Then, think about whether you want your child to go to a general-interest camp or a specialty summer camp. Specialty camps can range from archery camps, lifeguard training camps to sewing camps. General-interest camps usually have different themes daily, varying from taking the kids swimming for the day, participating in arts and crafts, a beach day or sports day. If you put time into your research, you will find a match for every personality.
3. Decide, along with your child, what types of camps (age-appropriate) he or she is most interested in. If you allow your child to be involved in the whole process, it will lessen his or her chance of experiencing anxiety while at camp.
4. Make sure all camp counselors and employees have been subject to background checks. Ask questions regarding the adult-to-child ratio and discipline policies, and if your child will be around water, make sure to inquire about lifeguard certifications, CPR and life-saving skills.
5. Enroll your child in a summer camp with his or her best friend. My kids are much more willing to partake in extra-curricular activities if they have a familiar friend with them. This can also help ease anxiety for children who don’t adjust easily to new situations.
6. If your child will eat snacks or meals at the summer camp, find out what type of food will be served, or will you pack your own? Obviously, if a camp allows soda, candy and other junk-foods, you may want to re-think your selection of that particular day camp.
7. Another aspect to consider when picking summer camp is the family budget. Sure, there are awesome camps out there that I would like my kids to go to, but it’s just not realistically in our budget. Some of these extravagant camps seem like mini-vacations that I would like to go to! The bottom line is, select a camp that won’t break your bank but is still safe, educational and fun.
8. Make sure you and your child are completely comfortable with the camp you’ve selected together. If your child comes home upset and is not happy with the choice of summer camp, don’t just write it off. Really listen to your child, speak to the summer camp director and try to figure out how to get your child’s needs met in a positive and constructive manner.
9. Check with your child’s school, friends and family for camp recommendations. Sometimes the best camps are ones you can find out about through word-of-mouth.
10. Finally, when you and your child have agreed upon a camp, contact the Better Business Bureau and inquire about previous complaints.
Here’s a list of a few programs to get you started on your quest for the ideal summer camp for your child.
(offers various programs)
Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation (offers various programs)