It’s the new year, so it’s already time to start planning for your children’s summer plans—a time when they must be taken care of and entertained while school is out. Should you choose sleepaway summer camps for your child, or should you let them take the reins? On the one hand, any parent would want to have the utmost control over where their child is spending the summer. On the other hand, if you don’t let your child have any sway over the decision, they might end up disappointed in their experience at overnight summer camp.
To make matters more complicated, some kids aren’t too hot on the idea of summer sleepaway camps in the first place. How can you choose a perfect camp if your child isn’t giving you any input because they’re not excited about the decision?
Who gets to choose?
You might use the “I cut, you choose” method with your kids when it comes to cake – one cuts the cake, and the other gets the first pick of a piece. You can bring this same philosophy to a summer camp decision. For instance, pick out four camps that you think are safe and trustworthy, perhaps with different activities and options, and then let your child choose their favorite.
Base your initial choices on your child’s favorite activities. Ask them what they would spend a week focused on if it was their choice and look for sleepaway camps that center those activities. This can be a passion they have already started to pursue or something new they’re looking to get involved with. There’s an overnight camp for nearly every interest you can imagine, from sports to religion, art, nature, and more. Use these interests to narrow down your choices, along with cost, safety, reviews, distance from home, etc., so that it will add value to your child and be a convenient solution for you, as well.
Keep in mind as you go through this process that you should always be keeping a watchful parental eye on your child’s requests about their sleep away summer camps. For instance, ensure the overnight camp caters to your child’s age group.
“You have to ask, ‘Are the activities appropriate for the child’s age?” said an overnight camp assistant director in Florida.
Work vs. Play
You might think summer is a great time to get a head start on learning programs for the future, but keep in mind that kids also need a break.
The assistant director warns about summer learning: “Those kids are in school all year, and they’re tired of hearing about it. Kids need to have time to play, and parents sometimes forget
that. We encourage them, but we don’t force them to participate in anything they don’t want to. They’re forced all year.”
Luckily, many overnight summer camps strike the happy medium between learning and play. Just don’t push something like math camp unless your kid is genuinely enthusiastic!
Safety and Convenience
Safety is a top concern in any place you send your child for an extended period. Sleepaway camps have their own safety concerns you should consider before making a final choice. If there are any specialized activities, is the organization registered with a governing body? What is the protocol if an emergency happens at camp? But it’s not just the rare accidents you should worry about. Consider the day-to-day implications of disciplinary safety as well.
The assistant director also recommends inquiring about discipline programs. “As a parent, I would
want to be told ‘These are the rules’ so I could talk them over with the kids, and that will help to ensure safety.”
Finally, you want to ensure the camp has a location, price, and reputation that make sit comfortable for you. Consider whether they offer transportation, affordable rates, and a solid leadership staff that solves your childcare needs.