Hopefully your child will be among the 12 million other kids going to camp this summer. The positive benefits kids gain from a camp experience – such as learning to take responsibility for themselves, making new friends, and building self-confidence and esteem – are well-documented and indisputable.
You don’t want to make a mistake when picking a camp, so here are the top 7 things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.
Make sure your child is ready for camp
Kids develop at certain rates. Some kids are ready for camp before others. If your child is mature, gets along well with others, and is comfortable being separated from you, he or she is probably ready for a camp experience. Otherwise, you might consider waiting a year or two.
Include your child in the decision-making process
It’s been proven time and again: The kids who enjoy camp the most are those who’ve been involved in choosing their own camp. When parents pick a camp without consulting their kids, their kids usually don’t like camp as much.
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when signing up for camp is not checking references. Always ask the camp director for at least three references, and be sure to follow through on making your calls. If you don’t hear glowing reports from the references, look into other camps.
Only pick a camp with activities your child likes
This one’s easy. If your son wants to learn to surf, send him to a surf camp. If your daughter wants to polish her gymnastics skills, look into a gymnastics camp. Don’t send your surfer kid to cooking camp. Don’t send your daughter who’s obsessed with gymnastics to an archery camp.
Meet the director ahead of time
It’s not a good idea to register for camp sight-unseen. There’s too much potential for something bad to happen. The camp might not be as safe as you thought, the counselors might not be as nice, the director might not be as qualified, and the facilities might not be as clean. So meet the director ahead of time, and/or take a tour of the camp, if possible, before the summer starts. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, so don’t sign up for camp without a test-drive, either.
Choose an ACA Accredited camp
Most parents would not send their kids to a non-accredited school, so why would you send them to a non-accredited camp? Picking a summer camp that’s accredited by the American Camp Association is the ONLY way you can be sure the camp meets or exceeds up to 300 best-practice industry standards relating to child safety and program quality, among others. If you don’t choose an accredited camp, watch out.
Find out the camp’s refund policy
What if your child doesn’t like camp? What if they break their arm before camp starts, or even during camp? What if something unexpected happens and you need to drop out? While many camps have no-refund policies, others are more lenient. Make sure you understand the camp’s refund policy in advance and get it in writing. You don’t want to make a finical mistake, especially in this awful economy.
These are the top 7 things to remember when choosing a camp for your child. Summer camp can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a child’s life when you pick the right program.