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How to choose a summer camp your kids will love – even in a pandemic

Whether you're looking for enrichment for your child, a way to keep your kids occupied and supervised while you work, or need a short reprieve from parenting, there's sure to be a summer camp that's the right fit for your child and family. Even facing down yet another summer in the COVID-19 pandemic, summer camps are up and running!

The benefits of summer camp

Summer camp offers kids plenty of benefits, and many kids are thrilled with the idea of going away to summer camp. Still, for some kids, particularly those who are shy, introverted, or homebodies, the thought of going away for a night, let alone a week or more, can cause considerable anxiety. When kids are adamantly opposed, forcing summer camp on them may not be in their best interest.

But for kids who are eager – or at least willing to give it a shot without much fuss – summer camp offers opportunities kids may not have elsewhere. Summer camp provides kids the following benefits:

  • fosters independence
  • a place to develop new and lasting friendships
  • development of new skills
  • discovery of new interests and hobbies
  • the opportunity for creative expression
  • a break from being plugged in
  • daily exercise
  • improves their self-esteem
  • teaches kids to work with others makes them feel part of a community
  • prevents or reduces summer learning loss

Getting started in your search

Before you begin looking into summer camps, create a list of the criteria you're looking for. Here are some things you'll want to consider.

  • What is your budget for summer camp?
  • What is the purpose of sending your child to summer camp?
  • Do you want a resident (overnight) or a day camp?
  • Are you looking for a short-term (week or two) or summer-long program?
  • Do you want a camp that's very structured or
  • one that provides your child with lots of freedom and choices?
  • What are your child's passions, such as a particular sport, hobby, or other interest?

Once you've narrowed down some of the criteria, you can begin your search!

Next steps to finding the perfect summer camp

Once you've selected a few summer camps that meet your primary criteria and that fit your child's interests, share the choices with your child to see what excites them. Let your child know upfront that you still need to thoroughly investigate the camp(s) before making a final decision, but keep your child's choices in mind to ensure your child gets the most out of summer camp.

Once you and your child have narrowed the list down to a manageable selection, investigate the camps further. There are several things you'll want to consider.

Is this camp a safe option for my child and family during the pandemic?

Virtual summer camps range from a couple of hours a day to all-day camps offering a broad range of virtual activities led by counsellors. Virtual summer camp programs range from free to several hundred dollars.

Perhaps you're considering sending your child to an in-person summer camp. Make sure to ask the camp provider how they plan to promote behaviors to minimize spread, maintain a healthy environment, if they're prepared for if someone gets sick (including how and if they will notify you if any campers get sick), and any changes to operations for overnight camps, such as food service and sleeping arrangements.

What are the staff's qualifications?

Many summer camps use teens to staff the camps. Teens make excellent mentors and can bring liveliness to summer camp programs. However, the programs themselves should be developed by professionals and have professional oversight to ensure kids are getting the most from their camp experience.

How does the camp ensure your child's safety?

Find out what kind of safety training the camp provides its staffers. Also, is there staff on hand at all times that knows CPR? What are the camp's procedures in the event your child becomes ill, has an accident, or an emergency?

What is the daily schedule for campers?

Ask for a daily itinerary, so you know your child will be getting everything you and your child anticipate from the program.

What are the rules?

Each camp has its own set of rules. So, find out whether your child is allowed to call you. If it's a summer-long residential camp, can parents come and visit? Can kids bring along a cell phone or electronics? Also, how much money can they bring, and how is it managed?

Don't sweat it

Keep in mind, although there are many great camps, no camp is likely to offer everything precisely the way you want it. Just choose the one that best fits your child and satisfies your most important criteria. Remember, your child will have many summers to come and plenty more opportunities to work in more exciting camp experiences.

Kimberly is a freelance writer. She also owns an online store, Sage Rare & Collectible Books, specializing in out-of-print, scarce, signed, and first editions; fine bindings; ephemera and more at sagerarebooks.com.

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