By Jess Michaels
You’ve decided this is the summer you are going to send your child to camp. How exciting! You will be providing your child with the opportunity to build confidence, become more independent, and try exciting new activities all in a safe and nurturing environment. When choosing a camp, there are many factors you want to consider. There are also some common mistakes parents make when choosing a camp. Here are the top five mistakes you’ll want to avoid when finding the right camp for your child.
- Following the herd – Keep in mind that each child is different and a great camp for one child may not be the right fit for another. Try not to choose a camp just because your best friend’s child goes there or it’s the camp that everyone in your neighborhood goes to. Make sure to do your own research and find a camp with a philosophy that compliments your own family values. While some parents are looking for a camp that develops self-esteem through team sports and healthy rivalry, others may be looking for cooperative learning and noncompetitive activities. Remember to involve your child in the search. The more involved a child is in the process of choosing a camp, the more successful the experience will be.
- Sending your child to sleepaway camp too early – Just because children can go to overnight camp beginning at age seven doesn’t mean your child is emotionally ready. If you are considering sleepaway camp, make sure your child is interested in going and has also had successful overnights at relatives and friend’s house. Children should also be able to do certain things like shower, brush their teeth and get dressed independently. Keep in mind that some children may not want to be away for a long period of time and that some children are happy to continue going to day camp.
- Sending your child to camp with a friend – Although going to camp with a friend sounds great because your child might feel more comfortable, it isn’t always a good idea. When you send your child to camp with a friend, your child will feel they have that friend to count on and might not be as outgoing in making new friends. One of the friends may also get closer to another camper and the child he or she came with could feel left out. You also might run the risk of the children not being as close when they return home after the summer.
- Not looking beneath the surface – It’s very easy to create a beautiful website and marketing materials but that can’t replace seeing the camp in person and getting to know the camp director. Seeing the camp, especially the summer before when children are there, allows families to get a real feel for the camp. Going to the camp also gives families a chance to get to know the camp director. Families want to make sure they click with the camp director and feel comfortable leaving their child in his or her care.
- Picking a camp that doesn’t have outside review – When choosing a summer camp, parents want to make sure they take an active role in determining that the camp they are sending their child to is fully committed to providing a summer of fun and growth in a well supervised and safe camp environment. Make sure the camp you choose is inspected each summer by the Department of Health and ask if the camp is ACA Accredited. Beyond a state’s basic licensing requirements, ACA Standards address specific areas of programming, personnel, health care, emergency response, management practices and youth development
Families looking for a summer camp can contact Renee Flax at the American Camp Association, NY and NJ for free, one-on-one advice in finding a summer camp. Call 212.391.5208 or visit www.acanynj.org