Choosing the Right Summer Camp Program

Summer will be here before you know it, and it is never too early to start thinking about summer camp for your family. The possibilities are endless when it comes to camp and there are literally hundreds of choices for camps throughout Rhode Island.  Certainly it is a great way for your children to build lasting memories, helpful skills and opportunities to create life-long friendships.  So parents you really want to do your homework and figure out what the best fit is for you and your children.  Here are some helpful hints to get you started.

When is the best time to start thinking about summer camp?

Families need to begin thinking about summer camp as soon as the summer ends, for the next summer.  I know that may sound too early but it is never too early to get the process started. Reality is that most families should probably start to think about camp at the end of the winter. Many programs will start promoting their camp programs during February vacation – it’s the first time during the school year parents think, wow, summer is just around the corner. Good camps will fill up fast, and many of them do have special discounted rates if you sign up early. Waiting till the last minute may leave your child out in the cold.

What types of summer camp are there?

There are basically two broad types of summer camp programs, and there are lots to choose from under each type. The first type is a general summer camp program with a little bit of everything, like The Children’s Workshop. We have themed weeks that cater to children of all ages. We provide a number of different experiences and activities every week for all of our age groups. Activities include swimming, cooking, games, sports and both field trips and in-house vendors. This type of camp is great for children who like to migrate from activity or activity, or even children who get bored easily, because there is so much to choose from.

The second type of camp is a specialty camp. These camps focus on a particular sport or skill. Children sign up for these camps and all day, they work on one type of thing. There are many of these camps around – any type from dance, to a sport, to a particular interest, like the outdoors. These camps are great if your child is looking to enhance a skill. If you have a child whose goal is to be a professional basketball player and they need some work on their shooting, then basketball camp is a great place to get the extra practice on the sport.

Families may also want to consider a sleep-way or overnight camp for those children who are ready for that new adventure.

Why should you involve the camper when making a decision?

Please keep in mind that there is a camp out there for every child but not every type of camp is right for every child.  Let them play a key role in choosing the camp that they are interested in attending.  A happy child is a happy family!  If the child is excited about the camp and involved in the decision-making process then they are more apt to have a wonderful experience for the summer.  In the end, we all want our children to have great learning opportunities at their summer programs along with a bunch of fun all rolled in together.

What questions should I have about camp?

If you are unsure between a few camps, there are definitely some great questions you can ask that might help you make an informed decision…

1. Does your current program offer a summer camp? A lot of children who go to before and after school somewhere will stay there for camp. They know the teachers, they know the routine, and there is a feeling of comfort for all involved. Check with your child’s program to see if there is a camp program that is right for you.

2.What location is best for you? Who will be transporting your child? If you will, do you want a place close to your home, or work? If a grandparent will, should you enroll your child somewhere convenient for them?

3.How many children per teacher? It’s important to find out some of the safety procedures in your child’s camp. How many children are enrolled? How many children are with one teacher/coordinator? If your child tends to be shy around new people and not ask for help, it might be a better idea to enroll them in a camp with less children and more one on one interaction.

4. How does the cost compare to the quality? It is not always ideal to ask which is cheapest, because cheap is not always better. Find out the costs of numerous programs and compare them to what is offered. You might find spending a little more every week will keep your child much more engaged.

5. Is it affordable? It’s not easy to put a price tag on your child’s growth and development but parents need to remember to be realistic and stick to a budget that is comfortable for them.

6. What kind of education, training and background checks to the staff have? Don’t be afraid to ask those important questions.  Such as what kind of training and background checks are the staff required to have before they are hired.  Do they have degrees or other necessary credentials?  Also is the camp accredited by any National organizations?

7. Ask for References. This is the best way to check out the camps past history, reputation and hear the personal opinion of another parent to help you make an informed decision.

Finding a great summer program for your children can be a fun way to spend some quality time together.  You can work as a team to investigate, explore and give your children the opportunity to build new skills by finding a quality program that fits all your needs.  So do your homework when exploring summer programs but make sure you involve the entire family and most importantly make it a fun learning experience for everyone.

Kelli DiDomenico is Director of Parent and Community Relations at The Children’s Workshop.  With over 20 years of experience, Kelli earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College and ran her own child care business before rejoining The Children’s Workshop family team in 2010.