How to Pick the Best Summer Day Camp for Your Child

A camp expert from Bennett Day School’s summer camp shares tips all parents can use to help kids get back to a fun-filled summer.

With all the difficulties facing kids the past few years no thanks to the pandemic, this summer has potential to get kids back closer to normalcy and a summer day camp is just the place for it to happen. Bennett Day School’s camp experts, for instance, are already busy preparing a summer of fun and learning on its campus in Chicago’s West Loop.

From weekly camp themes to scavenger hunts and multiple field trips each week for kids 4-16, Cally Vevers, Director of Auxiliary Programs at Bennett Day School, says the focus isn’t about filling every second with an activity. Instead, the goal is for campers to socialize with each other and make new friends while enjoying a project-based learning inspired program that sets the camp apart.

“Summer camp is definitely a space to do it in. Our programming allows kids to really explore who they are and what their interests are, what their hobbies are, and because of the freedom and flexibility, it allows for more genuine connection,” Vevers says.

As an added benefit, Bennett Day Camp uses Chicago as its playground to expose campers to cool architecture, local neighborhoods, and different cultures. The full-day camp is held Monday through Friday, with morning and after camp care available and Vevers says the camp is all about flexibility for families.

As a mom herself who maintains friendships from her own summer camp days, Vevers offers parents a few helpful tips to help them choose a summer day camp this summer.

What parents should know

1 Start a search.

Evaluate what your family needs and use a variety of resources (i.e. search engines, local summer camp fairs, referrals from friends and family) to find something that fits. Do you need an all-day program with before and after care? Or a half-day camp? Do you want to pack lunches or have them provided by the camp? Bennett, for example, caters campers’ lunches, but campers can also bring their own, too.

2 You know your child best.

Your decision-making process will likely look different depending on the age of your child. For younger children, it will likely be less of a conversation with them and more about what they seem to be interested in. For older children, they will want more input into their summer, she says. When considering a camp, learn what types of field trips they offer, what types of programs are available and whether the camp matches your child’s interests. Camps that specialize in one program or offering may not be a great fit for children who are still figuring out what their favorite hobbies are.

One of the things that sets Bennett Day Camp apart from others is the project-based learning element the PreK-12 school is known for that also inspires camp programming. In designing Bennett Day Camp, Vevers says she creates space for campers to explore materials and take things in their own direction, allowing for more open-ended and project-based fun and learning.

“It really allows them to explore and follow their own interests,” she says. “Everyone can follow their own path and get more out of camp than maybe a more traditional camp.”

Every week of camp at Bennett includes STEM, art and movement activities to cover a broad range of interests. The middle and high school age students also can take part in weeklong specialty programs.

3 Learn about safety protocols and staffing.

Health and safety protocols related to COVID will likely still be something parents have to consider this summer. Quality camps should have procedures in place to keep kids safe and healthy and should readily share those plans with parents.

In addition, learn who your kids will be spending their summer with. While some day camps might rely on high school students to act as camp counselors, Bennett hires its camp staff from their teaching and auxiliary faculty, she says. All supervisors are adults.

4 Ask questions.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the camp director. “You want to find a camp you can trust,” she says. Don’t pick a camp just from the camp brochure or website, Vevers says. “If you are not sure, talk to the director.”

Bennett Day Camp registration opens soon. Sign up for alerts to make sure you get all the information you need to secure your child’s spot and learn more about the camp.

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