Believe it or not, summer is right around the corner. For many people, this means pulling out the grill, relaxing with friends, and enjoying the warm weather. For the kids, though, it could mean attending summer camp. Many camps reach their capacity early, so now is the time to start making your summer camp arrangements.
There are many summer camp programs available, but choosing the right camp for your child will make the experience something they'll remember for years to come. Here are some tips to make your child's summer camp memorable, enjoyable, and comfortable for everyone involved.
1. Pick a camp focused around an activity that your child enjoys:
This is definitely the number one priority when choosing a summer camp. Not all camps offer the same activities. Many camps now offer special sessions that focus on a theme (such as adventure) or an activity (such as horseback riding), while others offer educational experiences such as environmental science. Another very important option are those camps with a religious affiliation. Catholic summer camps offer children a chance to still experience the life lessons, fun and friendships that are made at any camp, but these integrate faith into their daily routine and foster their faith life. Catholic summer camps are located in most states. Many of our Wisconsin members have enjoyed their stays at Camp Tekawitha in Shawano and Camp Gray in Reedsburg. Catholic Financial Life members are also eligible for a $100 grant annually towards a Catholic camp. Click here to find out more about our grant opportunities.
2. Choose a camp that is the right distance for you:
While this may sound logical to some people, distance is often overlooked. Make sure that your son or daughter isn't going to a summer camp that is too far away from home, to avoid homesickness. Remember, homesickness can work both ways, too. If you can't enjoy your summer because your child is too far away at camp, and you're constantly worried, then it is time to look somewhere closer to home. Also, in the event of an emergency, you want to make sure that you are a reasonable driving distance from your child.
3. Make sure the camp can accommodate any special needs your child may have:
Summer camps come in many sizes and flavors. So consider including your child in the search process. You may discover something that tips the scales in favor of one camp or another. You might ask yourself if your child would fair better at a small or a large camp, at an all-girls/all-boys camp or or a coed camp. If you have concerns about the camp environment, take advantage of the camp's open house so you to see the facilities and meet the staff. This can help relieve the anxiety of parents and campers alike--especially when campers are younger or are leaving for longer camp sessions. If your child has special needs, there are also many camps available based on their needs and cognitive abilities. Websites like ChooseACamp.com* or KidsCamps.com* provide lists of camps that allow you to filter by details such as state, activity, and special requirements, so that you can pick out the best fitting camp program for your child.
4. Coordinate with friends
If your child is on the shy-side or you are worried about homesickness, check with the parents of your child's friends. While making new friends is an important aspect of camp, some children feel more at ease if they can attend camp with one or more of their friends. Make sure the camp is aware that they are traveling together so they might be placed in the same bunkhouse.
5. The early bird gets the worm (and the discount):
If you're thinking about registering for a summer camp, many camps offer early bird specials for those who register before a specific date. In addition to that, there are many grants available to save money on the cost of summer camp. The American Camp Association provides a searchable list of grants that you can apply for online.
6. Schedule overnight trips to prepare for camp:
If your child has never been to camp, or if it's been a long time since he or she has slept away from their own bedroom, then overnight trips can help them adjust to sleeping in a new environment. The best option is to arrange for your child to have a sleepover or "practice camp" at a friend or relative's house. A "practice camp" can help determine if your child is really ready to be away from home overnight. If they get homesick during a "practice camp," an overnight camp might not be the best option for them. There are many day camps available as well, which works great for children who want the experience of camp, but have difficulty sleeping away from home.
* Catholic Financial Life does not endorse any individual summer camps or third-party camp search sites and the individuals camps or programs listed therein.