The hot months of July and August may seem far off in the midst of March, but it’s never too early to start planning your children’s summer vacation. For many kids and nostalgic parents, summer equals camp. Whether your child attends standard day or a specialized overnight camp, the experience can be a valuable and memorable one. But with so many options out there, selecting a summer camp can seem overwhelming. The tips below can help you narrow your search and choose a camp your kids will be raving about until the following year.
Get cracking. Camps can fill up fast, so it’s wise to start your search well before the hazy days of summer are on the horizon.
Determine your children’s needs. Do your kids have a keen interest in sports? Art? Computers? Is this activity something they enjoy? Do you want them to develop it further? Are they ready for overnight camp or would they be better off at a local day camp? Do the children require any special medical, behavioural or educational attention? Create a list of camp “necessities” and “nice to haves” to pare down your choices.
Set a budget. Camps, especially residential ones, can be very costly. Take a close look at your bank balance, decide on your financial limit and stick to it. Investigate camps run by not-for-profit organizations if you’re worried more expensive private options will break the bank.
Ask around. Talk to relatives, neighbours and friends about camps their children attended. Though your kids’ interests are bound to be different, recommendations from other parents can give you a general idea of the camp’s atmosphere and help you weed out unsuitable options.
Look for a fit. Does the philosophy and style of the camp match your own? Do you believe it offers the freedom and/or structure your children need? Are the activities offered ones your kids are attracted to? Talk in detail with the camp’s director to get a better understanding of how the camp deals with rules, activities, counsellor training and problems that could arise.
Create a shortlist. After you’ve asked around and done the above legwork, narrow your search to three or four options. If possible, arrange for you and your child to meet the director on site so that you can get a better feel for what the camp is about. If this isn’t an option, set up a time for an in-depth telephone interview and:
Be prepared. Create a list of questions—alone and with your kids—that will help you understand the camp, its atmosphere and whether its structure and counsellors can meet the unique needs and interests of your children. Once you’ve interviewed the directors on your shortlist, re-examine the answers and discuss the options with your partner and/or children (if old enough). A clear winner should start to emerge and hopefully, you’ll be ready to choose a summer camp your kids are sure to enjoy!
Need more information on parenting? Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help with a child to elder care resource and referral service that is geared toward enhancing the quality of family life. Call your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to see if you are eligible for the child to elder care resource and referral service at 1 866.468.9461 or 1.800.387.4765.
© 2005 WarrenShepell