Ten Tips for Choosing a Summer Camp

By Katie Moosbrugger

*If you are reading this post at 9 am, turn to Fox 8 News to watch TMoM present these tips live!

Whether you’re a seasoned pro at picking camps – or you’re new to the scene – the process never gets any less daunting. Actually, I think it gets more challenging as your child gets older because the options become endless, logistics with friends and siblings gets crazy, and the inevitable dreaded conversation about when can they do a “sleep-away” camp – creeps up sooner than expected.

If you haven’t noticed (and I will be amazed if you haven’t) summer camp registration is in full-swing. My e-mailbox is a-buzz with friends asking friends for which camps and for which weeks they are signing up their children. I may only be a couple years into the camp scene but I’ve picked up a few tips that I thought would be timely to share. For all you seasoned pros, please add additional advice in the comments below!

1. Start early!
I know it still feels like winter, but it is not too early to think about summer camp! In fact, it’s not too early to register either. Many camps around our area are already signing up campers, and I know of a few camps that have already reached full capacity. Begin your research, pick the days or weeks, and book your slots. Trust me, by the time it starts warming up, you may not have any options from which to choose.

2. Consider Your Child
Try not to choose a camp just because your friends or neighbors are sending their children there too. Talk to your child and (while keeping your budget in mind) find out if she wants to pursue an educational camp, or an arts camp, or a sports camp. Together, create a list of activities that your child is interested in – or would be interested in. Let your child help in the decision process – it helps them get excited too.

3. Read the Fine Print
Be sure you are in the know about many of the camp policies before you reserve your slot. Important things to consider would be 1) counselor to child ratio, 2) variety of activities, 3) swimming policies, 4) cancellation policies, 5) transportation, and 6) staff certifications for CPR and First Aid

4. Consult the TMoM Summer Camp Directory
We recently updated our list and we’ll continue to update it as needed. Click here to go directly to the directory and bookmark it – you’ll need to keep it handy over the next several weeks. Check back often as more 2018 camp information becomes available.

5. Think About Logistics
Obviously a lot depends on the age of your child, but the difference between a half-day and full-day program are huge. Half-day programs make the most sense for younger campers, although some camps offer the full-day option because their program goes into greater depth the longer you stay. Age, cost and your child’s preference play a big role in this factor. If you have more than one child, scheduling them both at the same camp, on the same days, and at the same times can be a beautiful thing (that is, if you can get them to agree on the same camp). Also, if your child is interested in attending a camp in another city or state, obviously there are a lot of additional logistics to consider.

6. Know the Types of Camps
Will you choose Traditional? Specialized? Day Camp? Residential? Vacation Bible School? Traditional camps offer a variety of (land and water) activities and are good for younger kids or those with shorter attention spans. On the other hand, specialized camps that focus on a specific sport or activity are better suited for older kids (like rising 3rd grade and older) who are motivated to improve a particular activity and can concentrate for a longer time.

Day camps (the half-day or full-day programs) are a lot easier on your budget than a residential “sleep-over” camp which can last anywhere from one week to the entire summer. Residential camps offer a great opportunity for kids to gain independence, while also building skills and friendships.

Finally, you will see on our summer camp directory that there are several options for special needs camps in every area of the Triad, as well as in other areas in North Carolina!

7. Consider Vacation Bible Schools
Don’t overlook vacation bible schools! We are blessed to have so many vacation bible schools to choose from in the Triad. And the best part? Most don’t cost a dime; they simply ask for a donation! No matter your denomination or beliefs, VBS programs welcome everyone and they mostly focus on music, art, dancing/movement, and sometimes drama. While VBS tends to appeal to younger campers, many VBS camps need older kids to work or volunteer as camp counselors. Keep checking our directory of vacation bible schools as it will be updated in April when churches release their information.

8. Ask Around for Referrals!
Ask your friends, teachers, neighbors, and other parents at you child’s school. The best information comes directly from the sources who’ve experienced it directly!

9. Visit Camps in Person
If you’ve tried some of the tips mentioned above but are still not getting a good “feel” for what the camp experience will be like, then visit the camp in person. For camps that don’t fill up too quickly, you can scout it out in action early in the summer and decide whether or not it’s right for your child later in the summer. Or, visit camps this summer to make a plan for next summer!

10. Recognize the Investment
Summer camp is an investment – both financially and emotionally. However, you will see that the return is fantastic. Summer camp helps build social skills, independence, confidence, responsibility and life-long friendships!

What about you…do you have advice or tips you can add to this list? Add them in the comments below!

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