Camp can be a great environment in which to make new friends, learn new skills and break the routine of the school year. Whether it be pd day camp, March break camp or summer camp here is what you need to look for in a camp:
Location Location Location!
Day camp is most convenient when it is in your ‘hood. Look around the community, talk to neighbours, check children’s resource guides for camps in your area. You don’t want to be driving across town for drop-off and pick-up (unless it is a uniquely AMAZING camp).
Camp should be convenient to your family/work/activity summer schedule.
Hours and Extras
Many day camps offer extended hours (early drop-off, late pick-up) which can be a big help to working parents. Day camps are available for younger campers while full day, weekly and monthly options are open for older campers.
Some camps offer shuttle bus services to make drop-off/pick-up easier. Some camps include meals and snacks so parents don’t have to pack lunches.
It is valuable to investigate what hours and extras would be of benefit to your family.
Specialty or General Camp?
Specialty camps are perfect to build on specific skills or interests. Like a soccer camp where your child can work on their “bend it like Beckham” talents.
There are many specialty camps to chose from: dance, art, cooking, karate, gymnastics, eco/environmental, language, music, etc. There are even special needs camps where kids with physical, medical and/or developmental challenges can enjoy the camp experience in settings specific to their needs.
General camps present a variety of activities throughout the day to continually engage your kids.
Some kids are overnight camp ready at an early age – eager for independence. Other kids (and to be honest – some parents too) are never ready for overnight camp.
Overnight camp should be a positive experience. Should you be considering overnight camp for the first time, ask potential camps their advice on preparing your child.
When considering a camp be sure to investigate the following:
* Camper to staff ratio
* Medical facilities
* Medical training (i.e. can they administer an epi pen?)
* Special needs elements (if so required)
* Food requirements (i.e. special meals for religious, allergy, health reasons)
* How does the camp deal with homesickness? Bullying? Anxiety?
Family Budget Friendly
Kid camp needs to be budget friendly. Ask potential camps if there are sibling discounts available, special prices for returning campers and/or reductions to fees if you refer a friend.
For tweens/teens there are options to go to camp as a leader-in-training or staff member (which means reduced fees, or no fees and sometimes a pay check!). Leadership roles can be valuable experiences for older kids.
Related to Family Budget Friendly, when considering a potential camp keep in mind what camp gear requirements. Does your child need special hockey equipment? Dance shoes? Sleeping bag?
Camps (especially overnight camps) should have testimonials and references available either on their websites or upon request. It is good to know what other campers and parents experienced, their favourite activities and their overall recommendation.
Beyond all of these points, the most important element in what to look for in a camp is what interests your child. Start a casual conversation with them about what types of camps interest them. Do they want to try something new or build on existing skills? Kids are honest (as we, parents, know very well) and will be quick to chime in on the conversation. Let their voices be your guide into which camps to research.
Camps create an environment where kids can make life-long friendships, engage in fun activities and grow personal skills. If only they had camps for parents…*sigh*