By Jess Michaels
Summer is in full swing and your children are finished with school. Now what do they do? Do you regret putting off looking for a summer camp? Don’t worry, there are still some summer camps with availability for your child. And keep in mind that looking for a camp this summer for next year also has many benefits.
Call the Camp Director
If you have a specific camp in mind, call the camp director and ask what sessions are still open and if there is space in your child’s age group. Try to be flexible. Maybe you had the month of July in mind for camp, but be open to the second session of programming. This may mean changing around vacation plans or trips to see grandparents, but the more flexibility you have, the better chance you have of finding the camp you want at the last minute.
Even with last-minute camp decisions, parents want to make sure they are doing their research and choosing the right camp for their child. Ask the camp director about the camp’s philosophy and program. Does the philosophy of the camp match your family’s? Does the camp offer a program that is of interest to your child? Do you feel that the camp director is answering all your questions and is happy to do so? You are forming a partnership with the camp director, so you want to make sure you click with them and feel comfortable leaving your child in their care.
Be sure to look at the camp’s website with your child. Let your child search the site and see a sample schedule, pictures and what the camp menu is like. The more involved your child is in the camp process, the more successful the experience will be.
Not Sure Where to Start?
You can call the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, at 212-391-5208 for free, one-on-one advice on finding a camp. Their camper placement specialists can help guide you in your decision and help narrow down the many summer camp choices. Talking to friends and neighbors is also a good way to find out about summer camps. But families should keep in mind that just because a camp is the right fit for your friends’ child, it doesn’t mean it will be the right camp for your child. Take their suggestions, but make sure to do your own research. You know your child best.
It’s not too early to be looking for a camp for next summer. Looking this summer gives you the opportunity to go visit camps. “Tours are a great way to really connect with a camp, the campers and the camp’s leadership,” said Sam Borek, owner and director of Woodmont Day Camp in New City, N.Y. “Going on a camp tour gives you an opportunity to see the activities in action and get a feel for the spirit and tone of the camp. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and even talk to a camper or two in your child’s age group.”
Touring camps allows you and your child the chance to see what an actual day at camp will be like and see the lake, pool, bunks and dining hall. Both day and sleepaway camps offer camp tours throughout the summer. A camp tour gives families a good feel about whether the camp is the right fit for their child—and if you decide to send your child there the following summer, he or she will feel part of the decision process.
There are many resident camps that offer Rookie Days or Weekends, designed to give future campers a chance to experience the camp in session by joining in on camp activities before going to camp. While children enjoy the camp activities, parents are taken on a tour of the camp. Rookie Days are a wonderful way for children and their parents to get a feel for what the camp is like and to determine if it is the right fit before registering for the next summer.
Looking Early Can Help You Plan Financially for Camp
By touring the summer before and deciding on a camp almost a year before sending your child there, you will be able to plan financially for camp. Some camps offer payment plans for registering early, allowing you to pay over time for the camp. You can also make camp part of birthday presents and holiday gifts over the upcoming year. Many camps also offer early bird discounts for registering early, giving you a savings on the price. Families should inquire about sibling discounts for registering more than one child.
“Parents should keep in mind that choosing a camp early also gives you time to prepare your child for the camp experience throughout the year,” said Susie Lupert, executive director of the American Camp Association, NY and NJ. “By the time your child goes off to camp the following summer, he or she will be so eager from the excitement built throughout the year.”
Jess Michaels is director of communications for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ.
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