How To Choose Right Summer Camp For Kids

Early Childhood Education Programs

Tips#1: Read Together Every Day
Read to your child every day. Make this a warm and loving time when the two of you can cuddle close together. Bedtime is an especially great time for reading together.
Tips#2: Give Everything A Name
You can build comprehension skills early, even with the littlest child. Play games that involve naming or pointing to objects. Say things like, "Where's your nose?" and then, "Where's Mommy's nose?" Or touch your child's nose and say, "What's this?"

It's much more than s'mores and sing-alongs: Top camps provide lifelong memories and skills. Here's how to pick a winner — and help your kid have an awesome summer.

Even before I had kids, I knew they'd go to summer camp. What child of mine wouldn't want to do the same?

It's a question many parents struggle with — and one that camp professionals are eager to answer. Camp, they say, lets kids roam and play in a way they rarely do in their own neighbourhoods these days. It takes them away from computers, TV, and other high-tech time-suckers, swapping them for conversation, fun, and games in a natural setting. And perhaps most important, camps are no-parent zones. “Kids have to learn how to separate from their families and become resilient and independent. Camp gives them a safe way to take these steps,” says Peg Smith, chief executive officer of the American Camp Association.

Day camps are a good starting point: “Kids learn about being part of a community and to cope with temporary separation,” says Smith. “They're not only a good transitional step for kids but also for parents, who often need to learn these same separation skills.”

Camp directors say most kids are ready for an overnight option by age 12 — especially if they've enjoyed day programs. Whether you're thinking about sending your child to the little day camp down the street or an overnight outfit a few states away, follow these tips for planning a no-regrets summer.

Tips#3: Say How Much You Enjoy Reading Together
Tell your child how much you enjoy reading with him or her. Look forward to this time you spend together. Talk about "story time" as the favorite part of your day.
Tips#4: Be Interactive
Engage your child so he or she will actively listen to a story. Discuss what's happening, point out things on the page, and answer your child's questions. Ask questions of your own and listen to your child's responses.

Doing Your Homework on Day Camp

Clearly, when you're choosing a day camp, your options are limited to places close to home.. Good camps expect to hear from you during the selection process. The best camps always have someone who can talk with you before, during, or after camp, or will find someone to return your call. They will always have parental references for you to speak with, and many larger ones hold open houses. What should you look for? While there are specific qualities that make some camps better for a certain child than others (a kid who loves art, for instance, might not be a good fit at a place that's all about horses), keep an eye out for these key things:

  • A history. There are definitely great new camps out there. But some experts (and families) believe that operating a camp for decades, especially with the same staff, does mean something. In today's world, a camp simply couldn't stay in business for generations if it were unsafe or poorly run.
  • A philosophy. Does it focus on sports? Arts? Leadership? How is this philosophy integrated into its programs?
  • An emphasis on creating community. Good camps think about how they place kids together to create the most inclusive experience for all. Another hallmark of community: a scholarship program
  • A well-trained staff, in adequate numbers for a low campers-to-staffers ratio (about 10 to 1 for kids ages 8 to 14). The staff should be background-checked, too, with references, an interview, and a criminal-records search.
  • An element of choice. Your child will feel more independent if he can choose some activities.
  • A communications plan for letting parents know about upcoming events, and for notifying them if a child becomes sick or injured.
Tips#5: Read It Again And Again And Again
Your child will probably want to hear a favorite story over and over. Go ahead and read the same book for the 100th time! Research suggests that repeated readings help children develop language skills.
Tips#6: Talk About Writing, Too
Draw your child's attention to the way writing works. When looking at a book together, point out how we read from left to right and how words are separated by spaces.
Updated: January 30, 2018 — 1:02 pm
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