Summer vacation may seem like months away, but it’s the perfect time to at least start researching which camp you’ll ship your kids off to. This boat has likely sailed for most of the longer-stay summer camps (unless you’re already thinking of next year!), but enrolments are still open for quite a lot of shorter camps and day camps. We have compiled a guide on how to choose the best summer day camp for your child.
Research the camps
If you’re a first-time camp parent, ease your anxieties and do some research. Look for camps with good reviews, good reputations, low camper-to-staff ratios and staff who are required to have working with children checks.
This information can be gleaned online, through word-of-mouth or through going to the camp open days and getting a feel of it.
What’s your budget?
Of course, it’s important to consider money in absolute terms, as in how much you can spare to send your kids to camp.
However, you should also be mindful of hidden perks or traps. For example, a camp that seems more expensive to begin with might end up being better value for money if the price includes lunch and bus travel to and from the location.
You should also look out for any promotions a camp might have, such as early bird deals or sibling discounts.
There are scholarship programs for families who need it. If you attended a certain camp when you were young, your alum status may make you eligible to apply for financial aid.
Did you know that day camps could be tax deductible? Consider this when calculating expected total costs.
How long are they comfortable being away from home?
Day camp is ideal if your child is young, has issues with separation anxiety or hasn’t been away from you before. It gives them the camp experience without the overnight stays. It will also help get them used to being away from you so that gradually, in years to come, they will be comfortable going for longer and longer.
Timing is everything
If you have a vast array of camps to choose from, you can afford to be strategic with the timing. For example, when will there be a shortage of non-working parents at home/kindly relatives/play dates? When will your work colleagues start getting fed up with the sight of your kids unplugging the office sandwich press in order to charge their iPads? When you’ve exhausted your supply of summer holiday babysitters, a well-timed camp can fill the gap!
For some kids, it helps to not play your trump card too early. For example, if your budget can only stretch to a certain amount of camp days, try to space these days cleverly, that way, it will break up the long vacation and give the kids something to look forward to.
Give the kids a say
Obviously they can’t go wild and choose from any camp/s they want to. But they will feel more invested in the experience if they have some input as to how and where they spend their summer vacation.
What are their interests?
Related to the point above, it’s important to consider what your children’s interests are and pick a camp accordingly. This will encourage your kids to be more engaged in the experience, give them opportunities to hone their skills and allow them to meet like-minded friends.
What are YOUR interests?
Indeed, won’t somebody pleeease think of the parents???
When picking a summer camp for your kids, don’t be afraid to be a bit self-serving.
Perhaps your biggest drivers are practical issues, such as the need to avoid starvation by continuing to turn up at work during the summer. In that case, pick a camp that meshes well with your work schedule.
But other lesser-known motivators could include the following:
- Want a gift that keeps on giving? Sign them up for a guitar camp so that when they come back home, they’ll immediately go straight to their room, lock the door and practice their new skills all night. By the close of summer, they’ll have written a hit record that will have your family rolling in the dough. (Well, one can dream).
- Need to redecorate your house? Ship them off to pottery camp and prepare to revel in the wonky vases and half-hearted mosaics that accompany your kids on their return. Note: This strategy works best if your kid has an aptitude for the arts and crafts, otherwise you’ll spend your remaining days explaining to little Jimmy why his ‘beautiful’ picture of a drunk-looking elephant cannot be hung in the guest room.
- Want to learn a new skill? Don’t waste your own time – you’re way too busy. Send your kid off to learn it at camp and they can teach you the essentials when they get home.
- Love your kid but hate doing certain activities with them? Let me illustrate this point with a personal example. My daughter adores crafts such as knitting, jewelry-making and pretty much everything else. Me? I’m not a crafts person at all. So even though I make an effort to interact with her through a medium in which she is interested, both she and I know that my heart’s not fully in it (acting also being my weak point). Sending her to a dedicated crafts camp means that I’m outsourcing this tedious task to people who don’t think it’s a tedious task. Everyone wins!
PS: I just realised this section is way longer than the others, which in absolutely no way reflects my parenting philosophy.