By Robyn B. Engelson
There are over 8,500 summer camps in the United States. If there are so many to choose from, why is it so difficult to select the right program for your child? All camps look great on paper. Every summer program produces a good-looking brochure and offers CD-ROMs for prospective campers. These promotional materials are filled with words like “rigorous” and “inspirational” and describe “life skills” and “life-long friendships” – all in an effort to make their programs seem attractive. But how can you tell what the program, staff, and campers are really like?
Ideally, you should visit prospective camps during a summer session and talk with the program directors and staff. Take a tour, observe campers during activities and quiet times. Sample the camp cuisine. Ask questions and form an educated and personal impression of the program.
Reality check: Most parents don’t have time to visit multiple summer programs all over the state (or country) and most summer camp directors are too busy during the summer to offer extensive, guided tours.
And So the Camp Fair Was Born
At a Camp Fair, you can meet with representatives from multiple summer programs without the hassle of traveling to and calling multiple program locations. You can ask questions, pick-up written materials, and talk face-to-face with a camp representative. A well-organized and diverse Camp Fair can be an effective and time-saving tool which helps a family explore summer options and come to a sound decision about summer camp.
It is a good idea to spend a few minutes preparing for your Camp Fair visit. Ask yourself, and your child, the following questions:
• How long does my child want to go away?
• Is my child ready for overnight camp?
• What type of program interests my child (academic, sports, adventure, arts)?
• What age group is my child comfortable with?
• Does my child want a co-ed or same sex camp?
• How far away does my child want to go for camp?
• How much does my budget allow for summer camp?
Having the answers to these questions, you will know what type of program your child is looking for. This will narrow your search and lower the number of people you need to speak with at the Camp Fair. However, be sure to take a list of the camps exhibiting. This list is helpful because it serves as a check-list of your must-see camps. You’ll want to know some details beyond the basics such as number of campers, cost, and length of sessions. Here’s a list to get you started:
• What is the camp’s mission and philosophy?
• What is the staff to camper ratio?
• How is the staff trained, what are their credentials, and how many were former campers?
• What is the background of the director?
• How many campers return for multiple summers?
• Can you provide the names of former campers who are willing to talk with us about your camp?
• What kind of medical treatment/facility does your program have access to?
Hopefully, your child will be interested in attending the Camp Fair with you. They may think of additional questions, different from the ones you will be asking. Encourage them to speak with the camp representatives and to form their own opinions about the camp.
With all of these tips, you’ll leave the Camp Fair knowing exactly which programs match your family’s needs, and your child will be ready to register for camp. Now comes the hard part … the packing!
For more summer camp information, contact Robyn B. Engelson, Owner, Camp Solutions. Robyn specializes in overnight summer camps and helps families find the right camp for their child with her FREE summer camp referral service. There is NO cost to you, parent or child, for this service.
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