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 – experts have tips that will make it easier.
“Camp can be an amazing experience for children and teens,” says Steven Schauder, 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.”
Here are nine tips to consider when choosing a camp:
- Talk to your child about what he or she wants or likes to do. Summer camp is a great place to learn new sports and skills, or really delve into an area of interest. Consider your child’s personality and interests, and make sure you talk together about the options: many activities, or practice time for one special ability or talent? For example, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County shares a list arts-related camps every year.
- Remember that it’s summer. If there’s no special skill or interest expressed, don’t force it. Look for something comfortable so your child comes home more self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-confident and resilient no matter what else they do. What a wonderful summer gift that can be!
- Ask about the camp staff backgrounds and credentials. How long have they been operating? Find out how staff are trained, what credentials and certifications staff have, and how the staff handles discipline and conflict between campers.
- In Palm Beach County, ask any camp you are considering whether 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 already required to conduct fingerprint checks. Click here for camps listed with the Palm Beach County School District.
- 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 child to a camp with his or her friends. This may help if you need a carpool schedule.
- Consider costs and budgets. In choosing a camp, check to see if the prices are all inclusive or if there are extra fees for trips, transportation, uniforms, extended hours for working parents, and meals. 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. You may also want to consider camps run by the parks and recreation departments of local cities or Palm Beach County. They tend to be more affordable.
- Check the camp communications plan. How do they let you know about upcoming events, or notify you of illness or accident? Are there policies on monitoring or limiting internet use and electronic devices by the campers?
- Be kind to yourself, too. It takes a lot of trust to give your child over to the care of other adults, especially that first summer. Letting your child see that trust, encouraging him or her to have their own adventure with your blessing, takes courage. This is a growth opportunity for mom and dad too!
- If you are a Palm Beach County resident and need information on our community’s Summer Camp Scholarship program, please click here. Age and income eligibility requirements apply. And you must fill out the application by April 13, 2018. This county-operated website also includes a directory of more than 100 camps in the program.
- Steven Schauder, chief program officer at Prime Time Palm Beach County
- Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County