10 Questions to Ask Before Deciding on A Camp

As the daylight hours begin to stretch into early evening and the calendar pages head toward June, parents start thinking about how to best fill their child’s summer days. The process of picking the best camp experience for your child doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, by taking the time to talk with your camper and answer these few questions, it can be as easy as 1-2-3. You can turn your child’s school vacation into weeks of camaraderie, fun and discovery, and enjoy your summer as well, knowing that your child is spending part of his or her days learning as well as being entertained.

1) Is my child old enough to go to camp?

What camps are best suited to his or her age? “Ask your child: Are you interested in going to camp?” says Peg L. Smith, former CEO of the American Camp Association (ACA). “This is a family decision, and the best way to determine if your child is ready is to learn firsthand if they want to go.” To make for the best, age-appropriate experiences, camps breakdown their programs by age groups (4–7, 8–10, 11–13 and 14–16). This helps in choosing the right camp for your child’s maturity.

2) How much will it cost?

Depending on what your expectations are, sending your child to camp can be a very affordable enrichment option. According to the ACA, there is a wide range of price options available that depend on the choice of camp, the facilities offered and your camper’s needs. For budgeting purposes, parents can plan on an average day camp fee of around $43 per day and an average residential camp fee of around $85 a day. Remember that camp fees may be tax deductible as childcare expense. Ask your tax advisor to see if you qualify.

3) What are my child’s interests?

“There are traditional camp experiences that include campfires, telling camp stories and lots of free, unstructured play,” says Smith. “There are also specialty camps that offer martial arts or swimming for example, as a way to sample a sport before making a longer commitment. Offer your child a few options to choose from as a way to find out what new interests he may have.”

4) Where can I find out about all the options?

Whether it’s traditional day camp, specialty camps or residential camps, there are lots of options available. Visit the CharlottesvilleFamily.com Online Summer Camp Fair page for lots of information about local camps. You can also visit acacamps.org and click on “Find a Camp.”

5) What’s an average day like?

The daily schedules of each weeklong day camp vary. Some run from early morning until late afternoon (with extended day care, if desired). Others offer a combination of half-day or full-day sessions. At a residential camp, you can send your child for the entire summer or select a few weeks here and there.

6) Whose camping experience is it anyway?

“Too often, we get kids in camps that their mom or dad wanted them to attend,” says camp counselor Shawn. “I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing camp activities that your child is interested in,” he adds. “If your daughter doesn’t want to play soccer, you’re better off enrolling her in a different camping experience. Everyone will be much happier by the time the end of the summer rolls around.”

7) Can your camper use more exercise?

Summer camp is a chance to move your child away from video and computer games and introduce him or her to a new sport—maybe one that will hold their interest throughout the year. According to Smith, 63 percent of campers who learn a new activity continue with it after camp ends. “Campers use this opportunity to get outside, turn off all those electronic devices and reconnect with nature.” Smith adds, “It’s a chance to see if your child can develop a jump shot or learn to pirouette.”

8) Why is it important for the camp to be accredited?

Accredited camps have met the industry requirements in the key aspects of camp operation, program quality, and the health and safety of campers and staff. These camps comply with appropriate standards and counselor/camper ratios. To find out if a camp is accredited, visit acacamps.org and click on “Find a Camp” or call 800-428-2267.

9) What else can my child learn at camp?

There’s another kind of education that goes on at camp says Christopher Thurber, author of The Summer Camp Handbook. It’s a place for kids to “relax and learn life skills—such as making friends and playing fair—that will serve them and the people whose lives they touch.” Thurber adds, “At camp, young people bond with positive adult role models whose integrity and leadership-by-example tower over those of celebrities or sports heroes. High-quality camps are places where young people not only realize their potential in athletic or artistic pursuits; they realize their potential to do good in the world.”

10) Will my camper have fun?

“Fun should rule during June, July and August,” reminds Counselor Shawn. Even though parents want every experience for their children to be worthwhile and educational, its important to remember that it’s summertime, and there’s a lot of learning that happens while you’re having fun.


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