Summer camp season is right around the corner, and it’s important to do some research to make sure your kids get the most out of their experience!
I’ll be honest: When my son was three, I had no idea that summer camps were such a big thing. To be truthful, I didn’t want to give up any of my summer time with him, and I didn’t — I scoffed at those who put their kids in camps when they could use that time to spend with their little ones.
Then, my son turned four! I adored him and our time together, but I also saw what an amazing and curious little brain he had. Some of the summer camp offerings in my area were fabulous opportunities I thought he might not have with me, nor in other areas we may live, so I wanted to take advantage of them.
I found, however, that all camps are not created equal. For instance, last summer, our local STEM studio offered a Lego camp. My son was crazy for Legos, and I thought he’d love it.
He did. But honestly, I felt like I spent an exorbitant amount of money for him to play Legos with a bunch of other kids. Yes, he had fun, and it gave me some free time. But, I don’t know that he got anything from that camp that he couldn’t have gotten from a neighborhood playdate.
Another camp, however, was amazing. A Dive and Snorkel camp provided him the opportunity to learn ‘survival skills’ on the beach, explore “Hermit Crab Trail,” and experience paddle boarding and snorkeling in the special places we’d never know about otherwise. Money well spent!
So, what should you think about before you sign your littles up for summer camp opportunities?
1. My first recommendation is to talk to the people who are running the camp.
Ask them exactly what they will be doing (for instance: Is ‘Minecraft Camp’ learning about Minecraft and its secrets or just sitting around playing Minecraft with a bunch of other kids?) and decide if that is a unique opportunity your child may not have elsewhere or at another time.
2. Another very important thing to think about is what your child’s interests really are.
I have continually asked my son if he wants to do ‘flag football’ camp this summer because he recently played a game and he loved it. He has told me over and over he does not, so wish that I might, it is not a good idea to sign him up, hoping he’ll enjoy it because he loved it the one time he played. We want to honor our children’s interests with opportunities if we are going to share their time with camps.
I’m an advocate for trying new things, but there’s also much to be said for talking with your child to gauge her interests.
3. Be sure you know what the financial expectations of the camp will be.
Often summer camps will have base fees, but some things are not included and will cost you extra. Be sure to ask about those things, or any other fees that may be hidden so you can make an informed decision based on total cost.
4. Be sure the schedule is one that will work with yours.
Sometimes, at the beginning of summer and before camps, we are zealous and think that getting up at the crack of dawn will be no problem because we already do it for school. And then the first summer vacation morning comes…
We start to resent signing our children up for stuff because we don’t want to be up so early! Don’t overbook your summer. Summer camps should be fun and unique opportunities, but if they are a burden to you and your child with time (or money) commitments, they may not be for you, or at least for right now.
5. Most importantly, never, ever feel awkward asking about the certification levels and background checks of anyone who will be around your child at any time.
Sometimes we assume that because the summer camp is well-known or has a long history in the area, we don’t really need to thoroughly investigate the education, experience and safety levels of those who will be in charge of our children. If any camp ever hesitates even the slightest in making you feel one thousand percent that your child is safe, run the other way. Run fast.
Summer camps can be amazing fun and provide our children with memories that last a lifetime — given we do our homework before we sign them up!