You decided that your kids are ready for summer camp. Great! Now what?
The planning process can be daunting, or even just overwhelming. Worry no more, we are going to take you through step-by-step on how to begin planning your kids’ next summer camp adventure.
“Summer camp is an experience that every child should have!” says Camp Director, Lauren Smyjunas, at Mayerson JCC Camp at the J. “When finding the sweet spot, it is important to think through consistency for younger campers. Young children need routine and structure.”
Go ahead and grab a pen and paper and remember your goal. The goal is for your kids to be excited about summer camps and to find programs that match their interests. Keep your kids on the same page with you and you’re more likely to find a camp you both love.
Step 1: DECIDE FULL-TIME OR PART-TIME
There are fantastic local day camps out there, even for the littlest of campers, ages 2 – 5 or Prek age and older. Full-time and part-time camps depend on your kids’ age. Older kids may be able to be away from you longer than younger.
“Determine if you need part-time or full-time care for your child,” says Nikki Downey, family life director at the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati. “Specialty camps and overnight camps are great to mix into the summer. Traditional day camp offers variety for children and peace-of-mind for parents who are looking to cover the whole summer.”
Another thing to go over together as a family are work and sports schedules. If both parents work full-time, for example, who will be in charge of drop-off and pick-up? Have a plan to help the process go more smoothly and relieve stress for you and your campers.
Planning Per Ages of Kids
Prek Campers: There are many programs out there that offer part-time to full-time camps for young kids and the benefits are endless. Outstanding camp programs provide a safe environment, social fun, independence and more.
“Sweet Spot” Campers: For your campers who have already spent time away from you, an all-day camp could be beneficial. How independent and social is your kid? It’s about what they need and what will work best for them and your family.
Preteen/Teen Campers: The cool thing about camps that cater to pre-teen and teens (ages 13 – 17) is the sky’s the limit. Teens have more flexibility to choose their schedule and personal interests.
Step 2: CHOOSE YOUR TYPE OF CAMP
Consider the type of camp that gauges your kids’ interests. Adventure camp? A sports camp? Academic? Research and compare different camps, and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from other parents or professionals. Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association? What is the camp’s history?
“Camp should be a place for campers to try new things, meet friends and build foundational skills,” says Smyjunas. “Older campers are looking for choices and special events.”
During your camp search, browse websites and bring your kids to Cincinnati Family’s Summer Camp Adventure Fair 2023 set for Saturday, March 4 at the Blue Ash Recreation center. You can meet one-on-one with camp directors, see videos on various camps, get information and lots more.
“Parents can research a variety of day camps in the area,” says Downey. “If your child has never been to a specific camp, or camp in general, contacting the camp director to get a tour of the camp grounds is a good way to see in-person what camp looks like, ” continues Downey.
“Seeing these places in-person before camp starts helps alleviate some of the fears in the child and parent.”
If your kids like the idea of camp, then forge ahead and sign them up!
Camp Directors do a good job breaking kids into “huddles” or groups based on age so they can offer age-appropriate activities. Camps are focused on teaching new skills and helping kids make friends so their day at camp is something campers will look forward to. Many offer weekly trips or expert visits to keep the schedule fresh.
Planning Per Ages of Kids
Prek Campers: Day camps for wee ones have everything from games, crafts, circle time, water play, a solid routine, outdoor activities, pretend play and more.
“Similar to the preschool day throughout the year, however, filled with more time outside, swimming, expert visits, and also has nap time,” says Downey.
“Sweet Spot” Campers: Sports, nature, educational, STEM and arts camps are some of the fun options for those “sweet spot” campers in grades K – 5. Perhaps they have already been to camp before and are ready for an all-day experience. These campers are ready for more independent and group activities, plus outings and field trips throughout the week. Pack the bug spray, don’t forget the sunscreen and prepare for kids to get dirty and meet new friends.
Preteen/Teen Campers: Overnight camps, travel, social nights, academic camps, specialty areas, and more, teens will benefit from exploring exactly what they love to do.
Step 3: FINANCIAL PLANNING
“Registering early allows families to break payments up across the months leading up to camp,” says Downey. Some local camps, including the YMCA, offer a wide variety of assistance, and many families qualify for voucher camp weeks, she continues. Reach out prior to registration to see if your camper qualifies.
There’s a camp for just about every budget, and many camps offer scholarships as well. Ask the director for summer camp scholarship options before you sign up. The American Camp Association (ACA) believes the benefits of the camp experience are “priceless,” but they also realize that parents’ pockets aren’t bottomless. Check out ACA’s Find a Camp (find.acacamps.org) to explore what camps offer assistance. According to ACA, camp fees can range from less than $100 to more than $1,500 per week for ACA-accredited resident and day camps.
Step 4: REGISTER EARLY
Other than saving money or having the opportunity to budget a summer camp for your kids, registering early has other benefits. Some local camps fill-up in their first week of open registration, according to Downey. It is always good to be looking in March or earlier, especially if you don’t want to miss out on the camps you really want.
Step 5: GET ORGANIZED
Once you have found the perfect camp, it’s time to get organized. Make a list of things your child will need for camp such as clothing, bedding, toiletries, and any other items that are specific to the camp your child will be attending.
Step 6: LETTING KIDS GO
“Camp is a fun and exciting experience that every child should have,” assures Smyjunas. “Campers will manifest skills such as team building, leadership, resilience, good sportsmanship and more.”
Planning ahead for summer camp requires diligence, but having all of your ducks in a row before the big day can make the process less overwhelming and more enjoyable for both you and your campers. Remember that summer camp is an experience that every child should have, and by taking the time to plan and prepare, you can ensure that your child has a safe, fun and memorable summer camp experience. So, go ahead and start planning for your kids’ next summer camp adventure, it will be a summer to remember!