When Choosing A Perfect Summer Camp For Your Child, Consider This...

With summer fast approaching, we wanted to share the article below regarding summer camps for children and how to choose the right one.  We found it on www.lifehacker.com, written by Alan Henry. We hope it will prove useful when faced with all available options.

Image taken from www.mountain.org

"Choosing the right summer camp can be pretty daunting. Navigating a world of camp types, subjects, and fees can all be a pain, whether you’re the one going or you’re looking for something for the kids to do this summer. Here are some tips that will make the process a little easier. Now’s the time to start hunting for the perfect summer camp. Many camps are already filling up, and some of the most popular may already be at capacity, or with waitlists for late-summer seasons. Don’t worry though. If you’re looking to send the kids somewhere they’ll learn something interesting, or even just give them something to do (and come home after) to help them stay busy, you have plenty of options.

Start with Their Interests and See What’s Available The first (and obvious) thing to do is match up your kids’ interests with a camp they’ll enjoy. If your child is into computers or programming, look for coding camps or computer science camps in your area. If they’re into art or music, check with a local fine arts center or orchestra—at the very least they’ll be able to give you some leads. Similarly, make sure you talk with your kids not just about what type of camp they may want to go to, but how comfortable they are with the idea of overnight, stay-away camps versus day camps where they get to come home every night. Beyond picking up the phone and calling around, here are a few sites that can help speed up your search:

ACA’s Find a Camp from the American Camp Association lists thousands of accredited day and away camps all over the country, from the traditional “outdoors-in-the-woods” style of camp to technology day camps you go to for a few hours a day.

SummerCamps.com allows you to filter by type of camp, like single-focus specialty camps or general education camps, touring camps or travel camps, or camps operated by non-profits like the YMCA or the scouts. You can search by location, camp name, or general topic.

Kids Camps also allows you to select specific types of camps and browse just those options, from arts and music camps to special interest camps (like cooking, space, or aviation camps) to educational camps like college prep camps and computer camps. Just scroll down to start with your interests, or use your location at the top.

Camps.com boats over 16,000 camps around the country that you can sift through by location, category, keyword, and more. Alternatively, search by region or zip code to see what’s close to home, or just in the general area near you. Each listing comes with contact information and a link to the camp’s web site.

Certifikid is like a daily deals site for summer camps. They only service a few locations around the country, but if yours is one of them, you’ll get notifications for discounts and price drops on camps in your community, which can be perfect if you’re looking for a specific type of camp or you’re on a budget.

Campeasy also only services a handful of regions, but they also have a wealth of specialty camps like performing arts camps, exploration camps, and a healthy combination of day camps and sleep-away camps for you to choose from. Each of these sites gives you a way to find a camp as close to or far away from home as you choose that’s still interesting and engaging. Many also have more information (or contact information) for children with special needs. Contrary to perception of summer camps, many are only a couple of weeks as opposed to all-summer long, and many are day camps, where a “camper” only spends a few hours a day at “camp” before they come home. There are plenty of all-summer, “live in a cabin in the woods” camps out there, but if your kid is a homebody, or you have other vacation plans for the summer, those day camps are great too. A few things to keep in mind, though: STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) camps are extremely popular right now, so definitely check on capacity before you try to book or spend time digging up discounts for a particular camp. Arts and music camps are also popular, but ironically getting your kids into a music camp is probably a bit easier this summer than trying to get them into a robotics camp.

Ask for Discounts and Session Deals Summer camps may feel like they have you over a barrel when it comes to money, but there’s a lot you can do to ease the pain on your wallet. For example, before you sign up, reach out to the camp director or admissions staff and ask about sibling discounts or multi-week discounts. Many will cut you a break if you send more than one child. Other camps enroll by the week, so if you want your child to stick around for, let’s say, a month, you may be able to get a break on the overall price. It doesn't hurt to ask. Similarly, if you’re sending more than one child to the same camp, the camp may be able to cut you a deal. If you’re willing to talk to neighbors and get a bunch of kids together to go to the same camp, you may even be able to negotiate a larger group discount. Getting on wait lists or calling back every few days may also save you some money, especially if you can jump on another family’s cancellation or any last minute pricing before a session begins.

Don’t Forget Local Non-Profits and Community Colleges If your child is interested in day camps, sticking to programs in your community is a good bet. Check with local universities, community colleges, and non-profits that may operate fine arts centers, concert halls, or museums in your community. Many have their own summer learning programs for kids of all ages, and they may be much more affordable than a traditional for-profit summer camp. Plus, many of those programs can offer kids something special that they won’t get elsewhere. Your local orchestra may have a camp where kids learn from professional musicians, for example, or your local museum may give kids the opportunity to go behind the scenes at their favorite exhibits. Plus, many of those camp fees may come with a membership to that non-profit organization (or the camp may be cheaper if you are a member, which makes signing up worthwhile) that you and the family can enjoy year-round.

Dig In to the Camp’s Details Once you find the perfect camp and hone in on how much it’ll cost you, the real research begins. It’s easy to use a search engine. It’s more difficult to pick up the phone and start asking questions about how the camp handles things like discipline or conflict between campers, how the camp staff and counselors are screened and trained, and what the camp return rates are. Even so, those are critical questions to ask, especially since most summer camps, especially the sleep-away kind, are parent-free zones. The American Camp Association has an excellent set of questions you should ask when considering a day camp or a sleep-away camp that include the ones we mentioned above and then some. The ACA, of course, suggests you only consider camps that they've certified (and we’d recommend it, especially for overnight or sleep-away camps, while there’s no reason to ding your community college because their music camp isn’t ACA certified and everything else seems okay.) Their list even has questions that your kid may want to ask the camp director, packing tips, and reminders about things like medical insurance and spending money if it’s required. Similarly, Bright Horizons has a checklist of questions to ask before you consider a day camp, as well as a printable PDF you can check off or take with you when you visit a camp before sending your kids off to it—which you should, undoubtedly, do. Their checklist goes a little deeper, and makes sure that camp staff are trained in first aid and CPR, asks how the camp communicates with parents, what the ratio of campers to staff is like, and so on. Sending the kids off to camp doesn’t have to mean them being away from home for weeks on end unless that’s what you—and they—want. It also doesn’t mean breaking the bank just to give them something to do over the summer. Don’t be afraid to find a camp that matches their interests (instead of what you think they should learn) and do your homework. There are deals to pick up and great experiences to be had, and the summer hasn’t even started." Image taken from www.fishngame.org

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