Choose a Camp in 5 Easy Steps
Do you want your child to go to camp this summer, but you’re not sure where to start when it comes to finding the right place and program? These five steps will walk you through the process so you can ensure a fabulous summer for your camper.
1. Research camp options
What kind of camp are you looking for? Day? Specialty? Where are you located, and how far are you willing to travel? Do you need transportation, after care or other supplemental services? Take some time to go over the information, jot down some questions and talk to your child. See what your camper wants to experience this summer, and let his advice help guide your decision making. You also can go to local camp fairs, where camp representatives can supply more information.
Along with the wealth of online information, be sure to speak with other parents from your area who may have recommendations and valuable insights. For example, the Keatons, a family who has used Friends’ Central School Summer Programs in Wynnewood, PA, for a long time, happily share what they like about their chosen camp: “We love the positive, energetic, imaginative staff and programming that keeps our children engaged all summer. After a full day of play and discovery, the kids can’t wait to tell us about their adventures."
2. Schedule a camp tour
Once you have narrowed down which camps interest your camper, schedule a time to visit each camp and speak with one of the staff members. Bring your potential campers on the tour, if possible! This gives them a chance to ask questions of their own and see how comfortable they feel at the location.
Here are the top five questions to ask during your tour:
- What is the daily schedule? Will my camper have any choice in the activities?
- Who are your staff members, and what is the camper-to-staff ratio?
- Do you have a registered nurse on staff?
- What supplemental services do you offer (i.e., extended day, transportation, lunch)?
- How do you stay in communication with parents during camp?
If you cannot schedule a time to tour the camp, do not hesitate to reach out to the camp office. The directors and staff members are readily available to answer any and all questions to help you feel comfortable and excited about your decision.
“Sometimes campers (and parents!) get nervous about camp. For example, at Friends’ Central, our swim program is a big draw, but it can also be a source of anxiety for parents. Going over the swim program, showing them the pool and introducing them to our long-time swim directors really helps to put their minds at ease,” says Alex McDonnell, director of Friends’ Central Summer Programs.
3. Register for camp
Although summer camp only ended a few months ago, many camps have already opened up their early-bird registration, which may offer special rates and discounts. You also may get the opportunity to visit the camp while it’s in session if you start the search process early enough. Fear not, though, if you are just beginning your search since most families begin their camp search in January and February, when full registration opens for most camps.
Be sure to take note of all deadlines so you don’t lose your spot. Many camps have their application online so you can register easily for camp and any additional services.
4. Attend camp orientation
As camp draws closer, you will receive more information about the camp program, including calendars and counselor information. If your camp offers an orientation, you’ll have another chance to view the campus before the beginning of the camp season. For parents (or campers) who are nervous, this is a great opportunity to speak with the nurse about any health-related concerns and to meet bunk counselors and fellow parents.
5. Go to camp!
Get excited! As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can contact your camp’s office or directors. Camp staff want your child’s first year at the camp to go smoothly, so do not hesitate to reach out to them.
The first year of camp for any aged camper can be daunting for parents, but with so many options and resources available, parents have a great chance to find the perfect fit.
Katherine Clayton, Friends’ Central Summer Programs coordinator, enjoys working with children and helping parents through the camp experience.