Choosing the Right Summer Camp for Your Kid
By Tanni Haas
It’s no exaggeration to say that the one adventure kids really look forward to all year is the summer camp. But how do you choose the right one? Based on my experiences as a parent and conversations with other parents, I’ve come up with the top four factors to consider.
It goes without saying that cost is an important factor, especially if you have more than one child. Summer camps can range widely in price, depending on whether they’re bare-bones camps with a limited number of activities, or camps that offer a lot of expensive activities like overnight trips. But don’t just consider the price of the camp. Also consider how much money you’ll have left for other summer activities, like family trips. Kids’ summer vacations are long and can feel even longer if the whole family has to stay home for many weeks because you didn’t have a budget to do other things. I learned this the hard way the first time my son went to a summer camp. It was so expensive that we ended up not having money for our planned family vacation.
Another aspect to consider is the distance to the camp from your home. If the destination is far away, you may end up spending a lot of time and money driving to and from camp. This issue is made even more challenging if you have kids who go to different camps, at different times, and for different lengths of time. A good friend of ours spends a lot of the summer crisscrossing the U.S. on the way to and from the different camps his kids attend.
Day Camp or Sleepaway Camp
One of the biggest choices every parent faces is whether to send their kids to a day camp or a sleepaway camp. In my experience, it’s best to start with a day camp until your child expresses interest in going to a sleepaway camp. Believe me: children are fully aware even at a young age that sleepaway camps exist and that some of their friends have already attended them. If your kids haven’t said they’d like to go to a sleepaway camp, it’s probably because they’re not ready yet. It can also be a good idea to send your kids to both day and sleepaway camps. While sleepaway camps give them a chance to experience real independence and to make new friends, day camps let them come home in the late afternoon and spend some time with their regular friends.
Single or Multiple Camps
Finally, ask yourself whether you want to send your kids to one camp for all or part of the summer, or whether your kids will go to multiple camps. There are good reasons for both options. On the one hand, sending your kids to a single camp can save you time and money shuttling between camps. It would also let your kids cultivate friendships for a longer period of time. On the other hand, sending your kids to several camps would let them explore different interests and make more new friends.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.