In the spring, parents start thinking about summer camp for their children. Finding just the right camp – one that fits your schedule, budget and your child’s interests – may seem daunting. Don’t worry, though, our experts are sharing their tips here to make it easier.
“Camp can be an amazing experience for children and teens,” says Steven Schauder, former chief program officer at Prime Time Palm Beach County. “It’s a place for children and teens to have fun, be physically active, develop new friendships, test new skills, meet new role models and continue learning outside of school.”
9 CONSIDERATIONS FOR A CAMP:
- Talk to your children about they want or like to do. Summer camp is a great place to learn new sports and skills or delve into an area of interest. Consider your child’s personality and interests, and talk together about the options: a broad range of activities vs. a focus on one special ability or talent? For example, the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County shares a list of arts-related camps every year.
- Remember it’s summer, after all. If your child has no special skill or interest, don’t force it. Look for something comfortable so your child comes home more self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-confident and resilient. What a wonderful summer gift that can be!
- Ask about the camp's background. How long has it been operating? How are staff members trained? What are their credentials and certifications? How do they handle discipline and conflict between campers?
- Ask camps if they conduct criminal background checks of all employees using fingerprints. Or pick a camp that operates year-round as a child care site or within a school setting. By law, those programs are required to conduct fingerprint checks.
- Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers and teachers for recommendations. Listen for referrals from people you trust whose children had a positive experience at the camp. You may also want to consider sending your children to a camp with their friends. This may help if you need a carpool schedule.
- Consider costs and budgets. Check if prices are all inclusive or if there are extra fees for trips, transportation, uniforms, meals and extended hours for working parents. See below for information about Palm Beach County's Summer Camp Scholarship Program, which is funded by the county and Children's Services Council and run by the county's Youth Services Department. Affordable options tend to be camps run by the parks and recreation departments of local cities or the county.
- Check the camp communications plan. How does it inform you of upcoming events or notify you of illness or accident? Are there policies on monitoring or limiting campers' internet use and electronic devices?
- Be kind to yourself. It takes a lot of trust to turn your child over to the care of other adults, especially that first summer. Letting your children see that trust and encouraging them to enjoy their own adventure with your blessing takes courage. This is a growth opportunity for mom and dad too!
- Palm Beach County residents who need information on our community’s Summer Camp Scholarship Program, click here. Age and income eligibility requirements apply. Be sure to check the application deadline. This county-operated website includes a directory of more than 100 camps in the program.
SOURCES:• Steven Schauder, former chief program officer, Prime Time Palm Beach County
• Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County