Writer / Katie Burrell
Are you looking for a way to give your child the best summer ever? Sign up for summer camp and rest easy knowing that you can give him an enriching, exciting summer break without leaving the central Indiana area. Is she interested in martial arts, gymnastics, music, sports or technology? There’s a camp for that. Ready to give him a real outdoor experience? There’s a camp for that. Just looking for a safe place for your child to spend the day while you’re at work? There’s a camp for that. Camp registration is currently underway, and now is the time to secure your child’s spot. The only problem is, how do you choose?
Talk to any adult who spent summers away from home, and you’ll probably hear the same thing: Camp gives youngsters a chance to experience independence, make new friends and discover new things about themselves. And, most importantly, all of this happens in a safe environment.
You’re probably looking into camp because your child isn’t old enough to stay home alone during the long, summer days. You’ve said goodbye to daycare costs, but still have to find childcare when school’s out. Camps are the most effective solution because you face the same waitlist as every other family. However, it’s important to note that most camps begin registering children as early as the end of January. While many accept children throughout the summer months, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your first choice. In addition, let’s face it; you’d rather not have to drag your child out of bed because he doesn’t enjoy camp. Giving your child a choice and discussing the options may be the best approach to finding the right fit for your family. Hopefully, this will be a long-term fit and you’ll find that your child actually looks forward to camp each summer.
Types of Camps
By now, it’s probably obvious that your child has his own style and his own interests. There’s a good chance that you can find a camp that fits their personality and maybe even expand their horizons. Depending on your needs you can consider the following types of camp:
- Day Camp: This option allows you to drop your child off before work and pick him up at the end of the workday. Activities are planned throughout the day to give your child engaging experiences. Some day camps off specialty camp-like experiences as well. Counselors are often high school and college-age adults who become mentors to the younger children. Most camps require counselors to go through emergency and professional training to ensure they are equipped to handle situations that may arise. The interaction between the counselors and campers is often a huge plus because they are able to develop a big brother or big sister type of relationship.
- Specialty Camp: These can be day camps, or they can simply be enrichment camps. If you don’t need childcare, but want to give your child a chance to leave the house, develop new skills or simply maintain some educational experiences during summer break, these can be great options. Some specialty camps offer half-day, evening or full-day schedules. Some examples include music camps, technology camps, sports camps and art camps.
- Licensed Daycares: Many of the licensed daycares in the area offer summer camp options for school-aged children. Space is limited and families who already have younger children enrolled are typically given priority. These camps take place in the daycare facilities often take field trips and offer activities similar to traditional day camps.
- Overnight Camp: These camps can serve as childcare, but are often chosen for the experience they provide. Most overnight camps require children to be 12 years of age or older. These camps give children an opportunity to realize their independence, develop relationships outside of their family and circle of friends, and often force them to unplug from life’s distractions. Like Day Camps, high school or college-age adults who serve as superior role models for the young campers often staff Overnight Camps.
Where to Look
With so many specialty camps available, you may be surprised to find that some of your favorite organizations and tourist attractions offer camps.
Here are some places to begin:
- College Campuses
- Community Centers
- Parks and Recreation Departments
- Daycare facilities
- Private Schools
Questions to Ask
If you had your child enrolled in a daycare setting before he was of school age, you probably came prepared with a list of questions to ask potential childcare providers. You questions about camp should be similar. Consider asking questions such as:
- What time does the camp day begin and end?
- Will food be provided or will the family be responsible for packing snacks and lunch?
- What does a camp day schedule look like? Will most of my child’s day be spent inside? Outside? What types of activities offered? Sports? Swimming? Learning? Should we pack spare clothes or dress according to the daily activity?
- What is the camp counselor to student ratio? Most guidelines suggest one counselor for every 10 children between the ages of 3 and 4, one counselor for every 12 5-year-olds and one counselor for every 18 children over the age of 6.
- What is your camp counselor return rate? A good number to look for is 40 percent.
- Are rates daily, weekly, monthly? Will I be required to pay for a day that my child won’t attend?
- How do you handle emergencies?
- How do you handle behavior issues if they arise?
- Tell me about your safety procedures. Is the camp area fenced in? Do the doors lock during camp hours?
Above all, trust your instincts. If you feel that you can head to work with peace of mind this summer, then you’ve found the perfect spot!