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How to Choose Your Summer Camp (page 2)

How to Choose Your Summer Camp

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Updated on Mar 8, 2011

Specialized Camps

As children get older, they develop special talents, skills, goals, and interests. That’s where specialized camps can make a huge positive impact. Band camp, drama camp, math camp, soccer camp and the like are all great ways for children to meet others with similar skills and interests, while developing their own. Andrew Mishkin runs summer camp programs at the Riverview Foundation that specialize in martial arts. He says that specialized camps aren’t necessarily for the most talented or goal-oriented kids. “Specialized camp programs are also good for kids who don't have a clear talent, because it's a chance for them to discover one," he says. "It can be hard for children who don't yet know what direction they should take. A camp is a great place to concentrate on learning a new skill, and they'll go back to school with a new sense of their own talents.”

But not all specialized camps are created equal. Learning from experienced and talented people can be an important way to learn new skills, but Mishkin points out that the whole child must be considered. He says, “A specialized camp should not only teach a specific skills or create a specific opportunity—it should also create a good environment in other, more fundamental ways. Going away to basketball camp shouldn't just be about playing basketball—it should also be about building relationships, working in a team, and exploring other talents the child may have, basketball related or not. Specialized camps should still focus on the whole child.

Is Your Child Ready for Sleep-Away Camp?

It can be difficult to gauge whether or not your child is ready for a sleep-away camp, or if that's even an option you should consider for your child. Andrew Mishkin says, “It starts with knowing your kids. Some kids are comfortable sleeping away at an earlier age. Others…less so.” He recommends that a child who enjoyed at least three sleepovers in a row during the previous school year might be ready for a sleep-away experience. But ask the camp about their policies regarding campers who would rather leave the cabin behind for a summer at home. Find out if a full or partial refund is offered. Some day camps offer one or two overnight trips that may be optional. This is be a good way to test whether your child is ready for the sleep-away experience or not.

What to Ask

What are the basic questions a parent should ask when calling around to camps and visiting them? Here’s a checklist of questions to keep on the ready when you’re talking to the staff:

  1. “What is the ratio of counselors to children?” The more counselors, the more likely the campers will be organized and monitored by staff.
  2. “Is the staff CPR and first-aid certified?” Make sure there are certified staff members on hand.
  3. “What is a typical week of camp like?” The answer should be clear and focused, and of course, it should sound interesting to your child.
  4. “For an outdoor camp, what are the alternate arrangements or activities when it rains?” Be sure you are satisfied with the arrangements. Some summers can tend to be pretty rainy!
  5. “Are there any field trips?” This is important to know in terms of your work schedule and as a learning experience for your child.

Overall, it should be easy to communicate with camp staff, and they should listen to your needs as a parent. One of the best things you can do is talk to other parents. Networking and word-of mouth is an important way for people to find out the best camps in their area. Like anything else in life, you have to trust your instincts, and remember that even the best laid plans don't always work out. It’s an experience, so use what you learn this year to help you make an even better decision in the summers to come.

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