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Choosing a Summer Camp - How to Pick One They'll Talk About all Year Long!

Summer camps help children develop new interests, choose a new direction and make lifelong friends. With so many camps to choose from, how does a parent decide which is the right program for their child? The summer camp industry has changed dramatically in the past few years and parents should learn about the different options in order to make a wise choice.

Overnight or day camp – The very first decision is should your child attend a day camp where they return home at night or an overnight camp where they remain for one or more weeks. That decision will depend on the age and desires of the child, parents and the family budget. Most sleep-away programs accept children who have finished first grade. If your child expresses an interest in going away and sleeps at the homes of friends easily, they are ready for an overnight experience.

General or specialized camp – There are two basic types of camps: the traditional and the specialized. Traditional camps offer activities which include land sports, water sports, and the creative and performing arts. Campers are scheduled for activity periods throughout the day and evening. Specialty camps offer instruction in one or two very focused skills such as a particular sport, musical instrument or theatre. The day will be divided into two or three lengthy activity periods with some free time in the afternoon and evenings. There are benefits to both, depending upon what you and your child want from a summer experience.

Consider the fit – Does your child need to develop new interests? Does he or she need a dose of self-esteem? Would your child like to improve their skills in sports or arts? Is your child happier with a variety of activities or a program that focuses on one particular interest? The answers to these questions will help guide you to the type of camp that fits your child.

A summer camp offers much more than a recreational experience. Camps are educational institutions that teach life skills such as developing independence, relating to peers, coping with fears and challenges, and problem-solving. The activities offered are the means by which educational goals are achieved. Each camp director has a clear sense of what children should gain from camp and how to go about imparting these skills and attitudes.

Certainly there are also practical considerations: Location, transportation, dates and tuition, extra fees will influence the choice you make. Other considerations are size and single sex vs. co-ed, the type of activities and how the day is scheduled.

Do the research – Ask your neighbors. Check the library. Attend a camp fair. Speak with a referral service. Search the internet. Always ask the camp or program for references from last summer and contact them! If you choose wisely, your kids will grow in skills and independence through a summer experience. If you want your child to get the maximum benefit from the experience, do your homework now!

Eve is Director of Tips on Trips and Camps, one of the oldest and largest camp advisory services. Each year, TIPS provides free advice and guidance to thousands of families. For more information and advice, to request brochures and DVDs, or speak to a knowledgeable consultant, visit or call Eve at 1-800-519-8477.

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