04 February 2008

Summer camp fairs help kids AND parents make smart choices

Suzy (friend of Sara!) is getting an informed jump on summer camp:

I have a five year-old who's not very clear on what he DOES like to do (as opposed to what he DOESN'T like to do).  This weekend was a summer camp fair at a local convention center and I decided to take him to find out what our options are for the summer. Firstly, the fair was awesome for someone who just moved to town and is new to the "you have to program for the summer" problem that doesn't come up when they are in daycare.  And as an added bonus, it was fun for me to watch what he was really interested in, the things he thought he was interested in and figured out on the spot weren't so interesting (Golf Camp!) and the things he had no interest in whatsoever (apparently: immersion Spanish).  It was fun and we both learned something.

Such a good idea. It's tempting to sign our kids up for what we would find interesting.

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Some kind of swimming program is a must for our kids. Lots of cool fun, good exercise, and time for me to talk to other moms while we wait.

YES! Go to camp fairs! And Open Houses! I worked at a summer camp in roles from counselor to Office Manager and can tell you from experience that not every camp is for every child.

The ACA database is a good source, but is not complete. They only have accredited camps listed. The place that I worked followed the rules, but could not fork out the thousands of dollars to do the certification - we opted to spend it upgrading things like plumbing.

Things to keep in mind:
-Ask ALL of your questions, and let your child ask questions too. If they helped pick the camp, they are more likely to enjoy it.
-There are NO stupid questions. (ex: Q. If my kid gets homesick, how far will you let it go before I am contacted? It varies by facility/director, but could be important to you.)
-Be sure to read all materials sent in advance, and fill out ALL of the forms before you arrive. This saves you time and sanity at registration.
-If you're unsure, ask for the names of parents that you can ask about the program. Camps should have a list of folks that have experienced their camp so that they can give you a parental view, rather than just hearing from the staff. Yes, the parent's they pick will probably be a little biased toward that particular facility, but they are more likely to be frank with you about their experience.

Camp can be a great experience for most kids, but the bottom line is that the more homework you do, the better your child's experience will be.

I always found good summer camps through my school. Usually they have a list of camps that other parents have recommended or the school has contacts with so that you know the camp is very legitimate because your school knows someone there/or who has gone there.

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