Choosing A Summer Camp For Your Kids

Ah, summer. Time for swimming in the pool, playing outside and…vegging on the couch? I don't think so! As parents, the last thing we want to see for three months is our child watching too much T.V. and doing little else. Fortunately, the antidote exists: summer camp. Most cities have a wide variety of summer camp activities, from active play to specialty themes, like dancing or theater. It's a matter of knowing what you want and where to find it.

Start With Her Interests

It's much easier to wake your child up at 7 a.m. during the summer if she knows she's going to do something she loves. Explore some ideas together. If she takes dance, does she want to take even more at a dance camp, or would she want to try something new like soccer or science? For younger children, they may not yet have developed strong interests, so look at camps that offer a variety of activities so they can get exposed to different things.

If you need to place your child in several weeks of camp, consider choosing different camps to keep her interested. The drawback of this is that she'll have to make new friends each week, and you will be shuttling her all over town. Some camps, like at the YMCA, offer different types of camps in one location, so your child could take dinosaur camp one week, then ice skating, then swimming.

Will you send her to day camp or overnight camp? When kids are ten or so, they may be interested in spreading their wings and staying away from home for a few weeks. See what options are in your area.

Budgeting for Camp

Camp's not cheap, so determine how much you want to spend and how many weeks you want to put your child in camp. And always ask about discounts! Many camps will give you a lower rate if you have more than one child in the camp or if you sign up for multiple weeks and pay in advance. Some newer camps that are trying to get more customers offer a deal like buying a few weeks and getting one free. Also check your local Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com deals.

Where to Look

Bigger cities usually have a camp guide in the newspaper that will describe each camp and provide contact information. You can also look online. KidsCamps.com allows you to search by location or type of camp. You can also go directly to a museum's website to see what sort of offerings they have for the summer. Churches too offer summer camp, and you usually are not required to be a member of the church.

Ask friends what camps they recommend, and look for reviews online. Not all camps are created equal; look for one where the staff genuinely care about kids and are organized. There's nothing worse than a camp counselor not knowing where your child is at pickup time!

Photo: Flickr user Nic's events. Creative Commons 2.0.