When I start planning our summer, and checking out all of the activities, day camps, and trips to see family out-of-town, I start feeling overwhelmed. There are so many different camps to choose from, and I want to make sure I am picking the right summer camp (that fits into our schedule) before I'm stuck on the waitlist. Here's my method to sort through everything to find the best options for my children.
Will camp be fun?
The first thing I think about in picking a camp is fun. After a long and intense school-year, I want my kids to have a great time. I want them to laugh, play outside, make new friends, and just be a kid. I want their days at camp to feel like summer should feel.
But how you do you know which camps will be fun? One of the easiest places to check out the camp’s fun factor is by reading the online ratings and reviews. When you read the reviews, look closely at the way parents talk about the camp. This should give you a good idea. Besides online reviews, ask your friends about their child’s experiences.
What will they learn at camp?
In addition to having fun, I want my child to learn something at camp, whether it is learning a new sport, learning a new skill, or just learning about nature. I think that growth is a critical part of going to camp.
According to the American Camp Association (ACA), there are several key benefits and anticipated outcomes of the camp experience, including:
- Social Skills Development
- Self-Respect and Character Building
- Community Living/Service Skills
When you’re evaluating camp options, find out their philosophy and goals. What do they hope your child will accomplish?
Here’s an example from Avid4 Adventure, “The campers who attend our summer day camps, overnight camps, school programs and events come away filled with confidence, enriched with newfound skills and launched into a lifetime of empowering outdoor adventure.”
Besides making sure that they’re going to have fun and actually learn something, I worry about the “not fun” things too, such as: camp safety and of course, the cost.
Here's a quick checklist to evaluate summer camp options:
- What will they do during camp?
- Do they offer a big variety of activities?
- Will there be downtime?
- Do they share the schedule with you?
- What are the camp’s hours of operation (and do they fit with your schedule?)
Evaluating the Camp’s Staff
- What staff qualifications do they require?
- Do they have background checks?
- How much experience do they have?
- What kind of training is provided?
- How do they recruit their team?
Summer Camp Safety
- What kind of safety measures do they have in place?
- How does the drop-off/pick-up process work?
- What happens if there’s an accident?
- Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA)?
Summer Camp Cost
- How much does camp cost?
- What’s included in the cost? (Are meals and snacks included? Will there be field trips for an additional charge? Do they require additional equipment that you’ll need to buy or rent?)
- When is payment required?
- Do they offer scholarships or an early registration discount?
Summer Camp Ratings & Reviews
- What have other families experienced?
- Do you have any friends that would (or would not) recommend it?
- We hire the most committed, experienced instructors around
- We use professional-caliber equipment, so campers learn how successful mountain biking, kayaking and climbing are supposed to feel
- We transport campers to authentic local recreation areas they can keep coming back to explore
- We teach campers solid skills—not just the basics of adventure sports, but how to use sound judgment and problem-solving in all aspects of their lives
Was this post helpful? Or do you have more questions? Let me know in the comments.