A trip to a summer camp can be an unforgettable experience for a child, an opportunity to increase self-esteem, make new friends, gain some independence and try activities that are not done at home. Depending on the program, vacationers can go sailing or horseback riding. Some may take a break from the screens.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a summer camp. The most important thing is what your child likes. What are their interests or hobbies? Do they want to delve into music and art or explore science at NASA’s space camp? As the director of a Japanese camp in northern Minnesota for eight years, it was encouraging for me to see that camp participants come together through a common interest in language and culture.
According to the American Camp Association, there are more than 12,000 camps in the United States, including day camps and overnight camps. The ACA website is an excellent resource containing about 4,000 accredited camps that offer safe and favorable conditions.
With so many options, deciding on a camp can be difficult, so we’ve put together a few tips to help guide the selection process. While some camps open registration for next summer as early as the fall, most camps will start in early spring. Popular camps are filling up fast, so be aware of this if you have a specific camp in mind.
1. Set your budget
Day camps can start at about $ 25 a day, while overnight camps start at about $ 50. The cost can skyrocket from there depending on the facilities, activities and the ratio of staff and vacationers.
According to ACA spokesman Lauren McMillan, prices continue to rise along with inflation. The ACA survey, which includes data for 2021 and projections for 2022, shows that the average daily cost is $ 178.49 per person in a day camp and $ 448.53 per person in an overnight camp. McMillan notes that more camps have responded from the affiliated nonprofit sector, which could skew the results.
Parents and guardians will want to include money for the canteen, any additional activities, and travel to and from the camp. Some camps offer scholarships, so don’t let the initial cost be a deterrent.
2. Choose a goal for the summer
Does your child want to learn a language, improve music skills, learn the basics of camping or master computer programming? Is it important for the family to put them in a religious camp? Other considerations may include staff diversity and vacationers, daily schedule and whether or not any activities are mandatory.
In the camp where I worked, I had the opportunity to try many types of Japanese activities, including calligraphy, kendo (traditional martial arts) and taiko drums. The staff spoke mostly Japanese, and Japanese food was served in the kitchen. The children quickly learned to use chopsticks, as during a visit to Japan.
Some summer camps offer the opportunity to get credit in high school or college, particularly for some classes not available in local schools.
3. Day camp debate against overnight stay
Talk to your child to see if he is ready for the night. A day camp, a great step, will probably be close to your home if you don’t want to plan a vacation and stay at a hotel or rental nearby. Parks and recreation centers, universities, museums and zoos can organize day camps during the summer.
4. Consider a virtual camp
For those who prefer a home – for example, if worried about the coronavirus – there are virtual camps. Esme Krom, a 16-year-old girl from Cambridge, Massachusetts, attended an online session of the Norwegian branch of Concordia Language Villages.
“We learned about different Norwegian bands and musical vocabulary,” Crom said in an email. “All the usual activities at the summer camp worked pretty well online, such as Norwegian-themed articles and dating. . . except for the singing, which ended up being pretty funny for all of us because of Zoom [lag]».
5. Check dietary restrictions
If your child has any special dietary needs, you want to ask the camp if he can accept them.
Michelle Isban of Westchester, New York, offered the following advice after sending her 9-year-old daughter with a food allergy to summer camp.
“I asked all the camps about allergy protocols. Some camps did not feel her allergies, ”Isban said. “Parents need to feel comfortable to be able to speak out and stand up for their children to ensure that their needs are met and that they will be happy and safe in their summer home.”
Walt Whitman’s camp in Permont, New York, has a separate kitchen, food station and allergy specialist, and she has been active and professional in dealing with food allergies.
“We filled out forms and weekly calls,” Isban said. “They have separate snack boxes for each child with snacks that meet their allergy needs.”
At the family camp the child can meet some of the counselors and daily schedule with some familiar faces nearby. If next summer they return to their usual activity without their parents, they have an advantage: knowing the layout of the site, staff and some camp rituals.
The best way to find a camp can be word of mouth from campers or staff. At Minneapolis St. Paul’s airport a few summers ago, I saw three boys who looked about 10 years old who were excitedly chatting about their time at camp. When I approached them with the counselor, she said they were from the Nebogamon camp, and allowed me to take a picture of her T-shirt for the staff because I wasn’t sure I could remember the name, let alone pronounce it.
I emailed information about the family camp and talked to the principal over the phone. The following summer we visited for a week. There was a consultant from the airport so we already felt like we had a friend. We both rode in the wind, tried archery, painted T-shirts, climbed, and enjoyed socializing with families and staff.
7. Prepare for homesickness
Once you’ve decided on a camp, be sure to talk to younger children about homesickness. They should not hesitate to talk to their counselors about disappearing home. Send some photos of your family or any pets.
By the end of the session most vacationers will not be ready to leave. Some will cry with emotional farewell when they start talking about coming back next year.
8. See how they bloom
It was a joy to watch the impact of the summer camp in Kat Lonsdorf, a former tourist since the days of my consultant. She first came from Washington, D.C., as a skinny and curious 6-year-old. She attended a Japanese camp for 10 years and went on a study abroad program in Okinawa. She is now the producer of NPR, and she has returned to Japan to report on recovery efforts in Fukushima nearly ten years after the nuclear disaster.
“Going to camp every summer was one of my favorite memories of growing up,” Lonsdorf said in an email. “I still have friends from the camp, even 20 years later. It was an amazing – and yes, also a botanist – bonus that I learned the language in addition to all that. ”