Ahhh…the lazy days of summer.  We look forward to the sun and fun of summer break, but for us working parents and anyone who needs childcare throughout the year, we begin to panic just a little.  The frenetic search for options to keep our kids occupied and entertained all day…every day…for 8-10 weeks while school and preschool are out typically starts just after Christmas break.  From specialized camps like horseback riding, cooking, and basketball to a nanny or manny, parents weigh options reviewing costs, variety, and convenience to determine the best fit for their families. how to choose a summer camp

Studies show that summer camp offers tremendous benefits for kids, but how do you choose the right one?  What should you look for when searching for, and selecting, a summer camp for your kids?

Longevity:  How long has the camp been around?  Often camps that have a history of success and have withstood the test of thousands of kids each summer, are usually a good pick.  Years of experience means there aren’t many situations they haven’t handled and kids and team members keep returning. While that doesn’t mean you need to stay away from newer camps, you may need to dig a little deeper to ensure the camp you select meets your standards. how to choose a summer camp

Staff:  Who is watching your child each day?  Check to be sure there is an adequate number of adults over the age of 18 directing the program each day.  While high school kids have loads of energy and are a great addition to the camp team, adults sometimes offer added structure and discipline to positively encourage campers’ behaviors.  Look for a good mix of age, experience, and personality on the staff team and of course how they interact with the kids: are they kind, respectful, caring but firm, etc. Do they smile and welcome your kids and have they taken the time to get to know them – their likes, dislikes, habits, and more.         

Reputation:  What reviews have you found about the camp online and from trusted friends?  Keep in mind, statistics indicate that people rarely post online about positive experiences with products or services, but check them out.  If the reviews consistently show a deficiency in one area it could be a warning sign. Ask the camp if you can talk to some parents of campers before enrolling.  Visit the camp if possible and ask how many kids they average each summer – larger numbers and sold out camp weeks usually indicate campers are having fun. Find out if the camp is ACA accredited.  Accreditation means they follow an established standard of policies, procedures, and practices to maintain the quality and safety of the camp. how to choose a summer camp

Variety:  Do campers do the same thing every day?  You want your kids to have fun, and stay active and engaged throughout the day.  Changing up the games, activities, and routines, even in a specialized camp setting, can provide the variety kids need to keep their interests piqued.  Look for special events like water play day, add-on activities like Lego Robotics or gymnastics, and special features each week like laser tag, Nerf wars, magicians or other fun stuff. 

Cost:  Is it economical for your family?  Sending your kids to camp shouldn’t send you into debt.  Identify camps your kids would enjoy and compare the value of each one.  You may choose to enroll in one or two weeks of specialized camps like music, art, or theater, which can be more expensive and then enroll the rest of the weeks in a less expensive camp to provide even more variety for kids.    

Convenience:  Is the camp near your home or work?  Let’s face it, you want to get home early on summer days to enjoy the warm evenings and maybe take a dip in the pool.  Be sure the camp you select doesn’t make your commute longer or more intense. Less stress will make the day more enjoyable for you and the kids so look for camps within close proximity to home or work.

Safety:  Do you feel comfortable that guidelines are followed to keep kids safe?  Ask to see the camp policies and procedures for team members. The camp should have a secure check-in and check-out system to ensure campers are released to authorized adults.  Check out the environment to be sure kids are monitored appropriately and the ratios of kids to counselors is adequate.

With so many camps to choose from, start by searching for camps that fit your child’s interests, activity level and length.  Then once you have several to consider, narrow it down using this checklist. Remember, kids can have fun with a cardboard box and some tape, but the summer non-routine can sometimes throw kids off their game.  Don’t be surprised if they are a little whiney mid-week and don’t want to go to the camp they really loved the first two or three days. It happens… and if you’ve made the right choice, by the end of the week they’ll be crying because they don’t want to leave!  

Once you find the right camps, be sure to register early.  They often sell out and you want your kids to have the best summer ever!

Need more information on how The nZone’s summer camp can help benefit your kids, give us a call or contact us HERE!