Planning for summer camp in February feels like planning
for Christmas during Fourth of July fireworks. But camps fill up
fast, so starting early pays off.
Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, says camp
gives kids three key benefits: confidence because they've tried new
activities and been successful; curiosity because camp allows them
to explore; and character because camp fosters respect for other
campers, a sense of community and problem-solving
What's out there?
- Traditional camps offer a wide range of activities, from
athletics to crafts to confidence-building skills.
- Specialty camps meet a child's particular interest, such as
drama, music or sports.
- Travel camps take campers on hikes, bike, horseback or canoe
rides in parks or other outdoor sites, including abroad.
- Preschool camps are day programs for young children.
- Special needs camps are designed to meet the needs of children
with physical, mental or learning disabilities.
- Day camps can be a combination of fun activities and field
trips, generally offered during regular workday hours. Some offer
early drop-off and late pickup hours.
What to ask camps
Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions about how a camp is
run. Start with these topics:
- Background and experience of the director.
- Criteria for hiring staff: Average age, experience level,
- Ratio of staff to campers. Look for one staff member for every
six campers ages 7-8; one for every 10 campers ages 9-14; and one
for every 12 campers ages 15-17.
- Staff expertise at a specialty camp. A music camp should have
professional music teachers instructing campers, for example.
- Tuition and other expenses. Is financial aid available? Will a
trip outside the camp cost extra? Is there a refund policy?
- Condition and safety of facilities and equipment.
- How medical care is handled.
- Camp philosophy. Look for a clear statement of goals and a
program that meets those goals.
- Activities planned.
- For overnight camps, ask about director's availability to
campers, how homesickness is handled and about the condition of