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Choose the Summer Program That's Right for Your Child

Page 4 of 4

By GreatSchools Staff

Do Your Homework

Once you've narrowed down your choices to those that fit your needs and budget, talk to other parents, check the local newspaper, library, parks and recreation department and community organizations like the YMCA to find out about your options. There are camp fairs in many metropolitan areas where you can meet representatives from summer programs in your area.

A Google search will show you that there are many camp advisory sites on the Web. They are free and can be helpful in showing your range of choices. But remember that sites often make money by selling advertising to the camps they list, and their recommendation isn't a substitute for you doing your homework.

"Going to any Web site is just one part of choosing a camp," says Sheets.

Check the ACA Web site to see a list of the organization's accredited camps. A camp on this list has met the organization's extensive list of standards for its site, staff, health and safety, food service, programs and transportation.

However, some very good camps choose not to apply for accreditation, acknowledges Sheets. Those with long waiting lists, for example, don't feel they need to go through the extensive process, which costs a camp money and staff time.

In any case, you'll want to see if the camp is a good fit for your child. Your best sources of information are the director and parents whose children have been there. Ask the camp director for references if you don't know parents whose children have attended.

Many camps post lovely pictures on their brochures or Web sites, but parents still need to ask detailed questions about the facilities.

"I'd be particularly interested in where the kids are sleeping," says Sheets. "I've slept in cabins, in tents and out under the stars. They're very different experiences."

You'll also want to see if your child will be happy with the camp's culture. If the brochure emphasizes the sports program, for example, a parent should ask what specific activities make up that program.

"There are great camps that are extremely competitive," says Sheets. "And great camps that are not."

Plan Now for Next Year

The best time to visit a camp or program is when it's in session. While it's too late for that this year, you may want to factor a camp visit into your vacation plans this summer.

Bring your list of questions, talk to the director, take in the scenery, but most of all, watch the way the staff treats the campers and the campers treat each other. That will help you get a head start on your planning for next year.

Comments from readers

"Do you know of any camps for learning disabled children or children with disabilities in the Flint Michigan area? How do I go about finding these types of camps?"
"This information is very helpful. I found the camp for my child that she and he will love. If your child loves to sing then next year send them to American Idol Camp that is where my children are going and i think they will have the time of their life."
"Most Michaels Art and Crafts store offer a summer camp program...its just for a couple of hours each day. But if your child loves to draw or do crafts this is the place for him or her...its only $8.00 a day for either 9:30-11:30 or 12:30-2:30!"
"Great article. I'm a year away from looking into camps for my young son. As many concerned parents it's a juggle to determine what would work best for your child and our schedules. One of the last options would be to hire a teenager to care for a young one. I remember my teenage years and looking back as a babysitter I wasn't the most attentive nor would I have known what to do in case of an emergency. It's always best to do your research way ahead of time."
"I am a stay at home mom and have 5 year old and 2 year old who will be staying home for summer from school. Any suggestions on what I could do with them?"
"Good day, I was interested in reading this as I operate a fashion design camp! Westchester Fashion Academy for Children! Quite different. The interested children select from 1-4 weeks of portfolio design, pattern making,sketching their creations in preparation to visit the fashion industry to share their work with the behind the scenes real pattern makers and boutique owners ! We also offer textile design, where they can create their very own textiles, to create a design using their fabric! This camp is for ages 9-17, we are located in White Plains N.Y.914-428-1047"
"I am so pleased to have access to this type of information. I am now a bit more informed on how to make a summer camp choice for the little ones in my life. Thank You."
"Hello, Thank you for this article. It was very informative and easy to read. I work away from home and reconized the need to have my son's summer plans set preferably as early as April and no later than mid May. It definitely brings peace to one's mind and lifestyle. One thing I did not feel comfortable with was the suggestion of hiring a teenager to watch a child or group of children. Granted my son has participated in a theater program that involved several young college students and older teens as the 'team leaders'. This was done under the supervision of qualified adults. I don't have Dr. Dobson's book in front of me to quote, but his suggestion to not hire teenagers, especially teen boys to care for children for long periods is worth considering. Please don't take this wrong, the article was very helpful. "