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How to Choose a Summer Camp

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Barr is the Owner/President of Camps Canada, a summer camp based in Ottawa, Ontario. As a voice for Canadian Camp Owners and Camp Directors, Matt is a frequent guest on radio and television programs across the country discussing the latest trends and issues in summer camps. He can be reached by email at: matt@campscanada.com










Summer is a great time for kids. They need to get away from the everyday stress of school as much as adults need to get away from their full time jobs. What better way to help kids relax and enjoy their time off than to send them to summer camp? (By the way, this gives parents a nice break too.)

Before you make a camp decision for your child, there are a lot of factors to consider. You will want to do your homework before you drop your child off for the day to be cared for by people you hardly know. It's not easy. There are so many camps to consider and they come in all shapes and sizes. There are day camps, overnight camps, golf camps, horseback riding camps and science camps to name a few.

Here are some general considerations:

Your child's interests

What does your child like to do? Children know what they like and don't like. Ask them for their input. If your child is active and loves to play sports, a sports camp is probably right for him or her. If your child is creative, then choose a camp that offers arts and crafts. Camp choices are as varied as children themselves. Choose a camp with the specific focus geared toward your child.

Day Camp versus Overnight Camp

Depending on the age, maturity and independence of your child, he or she may or may not be ready for an overnight camp. Some overnight camps accept children as young as six years old. Only you can decide when the time is right.

Convenient Location

Location is important because you will have to drop off and pick up your child every day. You'll want to consider your drive time and also keep in mind the hours of the camp.

Cost

Of course, the cost is something to consider. The cost of camp should reflect the service provided. When comparing camps by price make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. Some camps include lunches, while others include snacks, t-shirts, hats, extended hours and off site field trips. Price alone, can be misleading. I've always believed, "You get what you pay for".

Research

With pencil in hand, contact the camps you are considering and ask some specific questions. Not all camps are created equal, so ask the same questions to each camp director and compare their answers. You need to feel comfortable with their answers before you make your choice. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few questions to get you started:

1. Who do you hire as counselors? Are they experienced? How old are they? Are they certified in CPR and First Aid? Have they undergone a criminal record check?

2. What are your hours for the camp program? for pre and post camp care? Is there an additional cost for extended hours?

3. What is the ratio of campers to counselors? Ratios of 8:1 are common. A maximum of 10:1 is probably the maximum ratio you would want.

4. Are snacks or a lunch provided? Is the lunch program optional or mandatory?

5. What do you do on rainy days? Are your facilities air-conditioned?

6. Do the children swim every day? What are your rules for supervision at the pool? Is there a wading pool for young campers?

7. Do you offer any discounts?

8. Can you provide a list of references or testimonials? Word of mouth is the best reference. Ask around and find out where other parents are sending their children.

9. How are different age groups divided?

10. What if my child doesn't like the camp? Do you offer a guarantee? What is your cancellation policy?

11. Where can I find more information about your camp? Do you have a web-site? Can I register online? Can I pay by credit card?

The best way to determine if a particular camp is right for you is to ask a lot of questions. Camp directors are used to answering questions about every detail of camp. If you don't get the answers you are looking for, keep searching. You need to feel good about your decision. After all, you want your child to have an awesome camp experience that will forge memories to last a lifetime.



camp planner
Click anywhere on the image below to open our Summer Camp Planner. (PDF)

Click to open our Summer Camp Planner (PDF)