We all have our own cherished memories of summer camps from our youth. And as parents, we want to make sure our children can form those same timeless memories and experience all the joy and excitement of summer camp.
However, making sure they can have these experiences can be a stressful matter for many of us. The endless choice of camps, agonizing over which one to choose and what to pack can add plenty of pressure onto our schedules. That’s why we’ve written this parents’ guide to summer camp, to help you through the process.
1. How to choose the right summer camp for your child
As a parent, you have plenty of choices here. On one hand, this can be great, as you can find summer camps for all types of interests, while on the other hand, it can make coming to a decision even harder. Sports camps, band camps, programming camps, and faith-based camps are just a few of the options available. To help you get started with your research, here are some great resources:
In terms of honing your choices, here are a few important points to consider when choosing the right summer camp for your child:
- Location: If it’s your child’s first overnight camp, you may feel safer if they’re nearer home should any emergencies arise.
- Counselors: What’s the counselor to camper ratio? What training have the counselors received? What’s the camp policy in terms of counselor-camper interaction?
- Activities: This is one of the most important factors and will be driven by your child’s own particular interests.
- Accommodations: What are the dorms like? What’s the cafeteria and menu like? And what are the rest of the facilities like?
- Reviews: Read online reviews left by campers and parents, to get a feel for what the experience of previous families was.
2. What to ask the camp organizers
Internet research is great and can answer a lot of questions, but sometimes you need to speak to the organizers before you’re completely comfortable. This is understandable, as you’re placing your trust in an organization and its staff to look after your child for an extended period of time, which may also be your child’s first solo-trip away from home.
Here are some great questions to ask, to help you build a picture as to whether or not the summer camp is right for you and your child:
- How do they manage any anti-social behavior or bullying issues?
- What are the emergency procedures in case of an accident or injury?
- Are there any medical staff on-site?
- How do they manage any cases of homesickness?
3. Involve your child in the process as much as possible
You want your child to buy into the choice you make, as this is fundamental to them having a great summer camp experience. They, therefore, need to feel part of the decision-making process.
A smart way to manage this is to build your own shortlist first, based on criteria such as price and location, then present these options to your child. This way you’ll know whichever option they prefer will be acceptable to you. This should save any tantrums or sulks over your child feeling that they didn’t get their own way.
4. Be smart with your packing and preparation
Whatever you do, don’t leave the packing until a day or two before camp. Start planning this a couple of weeks in advance, so you have plenty of time to go out and buy summer camp essentials such as bug spray, sunscreen, and hand sanitizer.
You also need to plan all the paperwork and other necessary admin. This includes declaring any medical conditions via the correct forms and knowing what to do with any medication your child might need while they’re at camp. For a complete rundown of everything you need to do and all the items you need to pack, read our summer camp packing list guide.
5. Take some time out for yourself
We all know that being a parent can be tiring and stressful. There’s nothing more important than our children, so it’s only natural that we can feel a little nervous when they’re in someone else’s care. However, be safe in the knowledge that you’ve completed thorough research, read plenty of summer camp tips for parents and made the right choice.
And now that your child is letting loose and having a blast at summer camp, allow yourself a bit of time to yourself or with your partner, to relax and de-stress. That way, when the family reunites, you’ll all feel rejuvenated and refreshed.