What’s the Best Camp For Your Child? I asked an expert.

child, girl, magnifying glass, searching, lookingI have never been to summer camp. My kids have never been. I am totally unqualified to help you make a decision for your child, but unlike a man, when I don’t know something I ask for direction.

I asked Barb Levison from Tips on Trips and Camps about how to choose the right camp. Here’s what she said.

Me: What are the most important factors when choosing a camp for your child?

Barb: There are several important things to look at:
1 – Does the camp share our basic family values and philosophy? It is helpful to look at the camp philosophy portion of their website

2 – How is the camp day structured? Do campers choose their activities, or does the camp choose for them?

3 – What kind of facilities does the camp have? This can vary from extremely rustic living quarters(tents, central bathrooms) to air conditioned bunks and everything in between. Some camps have very little indoor space; others have several separate buildings for activities such as a gymnasium, arts and theater space.

4 – What activities does the camp offer, and who are the adults teaching these activities?

5 – Who are the staff and what training do they receive?

Me: What are the most common misconceptions about overnight camps?

Barb: The most common misconception by parents who do not understand the benefit of overnight camp is that families send children to camp because they want a break from their kids. The truth is that overnight camp is a gift parents give to children to help them with invaluable personal growth, independence and self confidence in a safe, nonjudgmental, nurturing environment.
Me:  What are the biggest mistakes parents make when choosing a camp?
Barb: The biggest mistake is not doing independent research and simply going to a camp that a friend has suggested. The right camp for your child is often not the same as the right fit for your friend’s child.
Me: Can you provide some tips to take the guesswork out of choosing a camp for your child?
Barb: Besides calling a Tips on Trips and Camps Advisor (she laughs), here are some general tips.

1 – If you have the luxury of visiting camps the summer before you actually enroll, do it. There is no substitute for an actual visit.
2 – If you cannot visit, call and ask directors if they will visit you at home.
3 – At the very least, have an in depth phone call with the camp director (not simply the person who answers the phone, but the actual director), and have a prepared, detailed list of questions for him. You need to be 100% comfortable with the director; after all, he is the one caring for your child and hiring camp staff.
4 – Ask every camp for references.
Barb also told me parents should be very wary about what they see on websites. Many camps invest a lot of money into this new age brochure, but don’t let the smiling kids fool you. Thorough research is your best bet.
Tips on Trips and Camps is a free advisory service helping parents find overnight summer camps and programs for children ages 8 to 18. Through visits to camps in session, feedback from families and personal relationships with directors, the Tips consultants truly “know” the camps and take pride in helping families find a fit for their child.
Barb Levison is the Northern New Jersey and New York City consultant for Tips on Trips and Camps and can be reached at 646-719-1149 or BarbLevison@TipsonTripsandCamps.com
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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.

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