Summer Camp Scoop: 10 Camp Planning Tips

Photo Credit: Maine Camp Experience
Photo Credit: Maine Camp Experience

Before you know it, school’s out for summer so camp should be top-of-mind. Want to make the most of your kid’s time off from school? Here’s the lowdown about why and how.

Sleepaway camps, in particular, provide kids with the opportunity to unplug, connect with nature, have fun, make new friends, experience new adventures, learn new skills, set goals and achieve them, gain independence and confidence, and participate in social action initiatives.

To maximize all those potential benefits, choosing the right camp is important.  Here are 10 CAMP PLANNING TIPS:

1. Camp planning happens year-round.  Parents should plan and register kids NOW for summer 2014 and/or plan NOW to tour camps this summer for 2015 registration.  Nothing beats seeing camps while they’re in action.

2. Child readiness.  A couple of good indicators are: if they’ve successfully slept overnight at a friend’s or relative’s house, and if they’ve gone to and enjoyed day camp and may be ready for additional activities. Also, if you’re touring now for the following summer, know that a year is a long growth period. Camps accommodate kids ages 6 or 7 to age 17. A popular age to start can be around age 8 or 9; oftentimes younger siblings start at a younger age.

3. Focus your search. Ask yourself important questions: All girls or boys, co-ed or brother/sister camp?  Length of session (7 weeks? 3.5 weeks? 2 weeks?). Note:  some camps offer shorter “get your feet wet” trial sessions the first year. Also, try to think long-term, not just your child’s first year; the goal is to envision them attending the same camp in subsequent years.

4. Use helpful resources to determine potential camps. For example, tools like “Select-A-Camp” or a Camp Guide, who can personally assist families via phone, live chat and email. It’s also helpful to look at a camp’s testimonials from camp families, alum and staff, videos, and more.

5. Involve your child in the decision. Many parents choose to do the initial research, narrow it down to a few camps, and then have their kids help choose. Ask your child what type of activities he likes best, as well as be open to new activities and opportunities that may not be available at home.

6. Think about the type of programming. Different camps offer varying amounts of elective periods; some are more structured.  Consider what would work best for your child.

7. Choose the camp that is right for your child. This may not necessarily be where her neighbors, friends or relatives attend. While knowing someone can be an initial comfort (or crutch), it’s best to choose the right camp match for your child. Consider personal interests, the camp’s culture, activities, size, accommodations, and policies. This will make your child more happy and confident, plus provide him with the opportunity to expand his horizons and make new friends – one of the best benefits of summer camp!

8. Consider the cost. Figure both tuition and extra costs (trips, canteen, and special activities).  Also, don’t just compare the numbers  – assess the ROI, i.e., what your child will gain from the experience at each different camp.

9. Speak with the directors. Learn more about their background, the staff, and the camp’s offerings and culture. Also, ask for references and speak with alumni family about their experiences. Click here for a good list of 20 questions to ask a camp director.

10. Consider the destination.  As many parents have shared, it is wonderful to choose a camp in a place like Maine which is transformative and different from home, including campers from different geographies.  Parents and siblings also benefit from selecting a camp in an idyllic setting. They, too, enjoy the relaxed pace, smell of pine in the air, crystal clear lakes, and memorable vacation experiences during initial camp tours, Visiting Day weekends and pre/post camp trips.

Maine has the greatest number of the oldest, most established camps in the country. Each summer 20,000 campers from nearly every U.S. state and 30 countries travel to Maine for camp. Another great way to sample and enjoy camp in Maine is Family Camp where the whole family can experience camp life together. Family camps run in August following the traditional camp season.

Photo Credit: Maine Camp Experience
Photo Credit: Maine Camp Experience

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Laurie Kaiden is the on-staff Guide for Maine Camp Experience, a community of 33 premier sleepaway camps in Maine and comprehensive camp-planning resource. She provides personalized camp assistance and recommendations. Check out Maine Camp Experience to find the right camp match and soon you’ll be a true summer camp enthusiast – living #TEN4TWO.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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