Summer camp: two words that elicit memories of fun and adventure for some, and trauma and misery for others. For most children, summer camps are a great way to make new friends and experience new activities. The reason why some have a negative association with summer camp likely has to do with their specific experience – mainly the fact that they were stuck into a situation that didn’t meet their basic summer camp needs. If you consider your child’s likes and dislikes, and their strengths and weaknesses before choosing a summer camp, the likelihood that they’ll have a positive experience is greatly increased.
Make your choice based on your child’s interests
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many parents put the majority of the decision on factors like cost, proximity, and whether or not their child’s friends are attending the same camp. These are all important factors, but the number one thing you should worry about when choosing a summer camp is how it fits your child’s interests.
“The first (and obvious) thing to do is match up your child’s 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,” notes Lifehacker.
If your child is heavily involved in a specific activity, you may be missing an opportunity to further their education if you send them to a general summer camp. Once you start researching, you may be surprised at just how many specialty camps exist – from farming and agriculture camps, to wilderness survival camps, and even circus camps like the one offered by the Cincinnati Circus.
Conversely, if your child is not devoted to a certain activity, sending them to a highly-specialized summer camp can be a mistake. General interest summer camps can help your child figure out what they’re interested in.
Visit the camp
Once you’ve selected a camp that you think will suit your child, the next step is to make 100% sure that you’ve made the right decision. There’s really only one way to do this, and it involves taking a tour of the prospective camp.
You wouldn’t send your child to a college or daycare center without first getting a feel for the environment. Why should a summer camp be any different? It’s hard to get a feel for a place when all you do is look at pictures online. Set up a tour and feel at ease that you’ve made the right choice for your child.
Listen to your child
As the parents, you know best. Your child might think they want to spend two weeks at an overnight archery camp, but deep down you know that it won’t end well. Ultimately you must make the final decision on which summer camp your child will attend.
But you can’t block them out of the process entirely. Listen to your child. If they are apprehensive about a sleepover camp, you might want to opt for a day camp. If they tell you that a certain activity bores them, you might want to steer clear of camps specializing in said activity. One suggestion is to narrow down your camp choices to a few options (all of which you’re OK with) and let your child make the final decision out of that carefully-chosen set.
Author: Frank Lawson