It can be overwhelming to decide how to pick a summer camp for your child, and it often seems like there is an endless list of things to do before your kids can actually go to camp. How do you pick the right camp? What should you ask the camp director before sending your kids away for the summer? What should you pack your kids for their time at summer camp? When should you send your child their first letter? But don't worry, we've got all the answers to those questions. Check out our full timeline for the camp countdown, with instructions about what to do each month of the year when it comes to camp planning. Is it time for camp yet?
It's not too early to think about summer camp! If you are considering day or sleepaway camp, there are ways to research and plan for camp throughout the year. The American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey suggests the following month-by-month camp planner with ways to plan for your child's summer camp experience.
Open houses – Many camps have open houses and fall festivals that offer families a chance to see the camp facilities and get a feel for the camp. It is also a good opportunity for families to get to know the camp director and ask questions about the camp philosophy and program while in the camp setting.
Search for camp with your child – Parents and campers should take time to look over a camp’s website, brochure, and video. They will give families a sense of what a particular camp is like. Most camp websites have photo slide shows, videos, virtual tours, and maps, which will give parents and children a glimpse of the camp and the camp program. The more involved a child feels in the decision of choosing a camp, the more successful the camp experience will be.
Look for camp early for savings – Families who have already decided on a camp for their child shouldn’t wait to register. Many camps offer early bird specials. Registering early can be a real savings for parents and also ensures that your child won’t be shut out of the camp program he or she wants. Ask the camp if they offer payment plans which can make it easier for parents to pay for camp over the year. Some camps also allow you to prepay the camp season and will give you a significant discount.
Talk to camp directors – Parents want to make sure they click with the camp director. Speaking with the camp director and asking some key questions is a good way for families to find out about a camp’s philosophy and if it matches your own. Get to know the camp director through phone calls, correspondence and in person. Make sure to give the camp director an accurate picture of your child and what your specific goals are for your child’s camp experience.
Make camp part of holidays – Instead of purchasing another toy for your child, you can make camp a holiday gift.
Prepare child with overnights – If you are considering sleepaway camp, schedule sleepovers with friends and relatives and make sure these overnights are successful. If your child felt panicked and needed to come home in the middle of the night, they may not be ready for sleepaway camp.
Home visits and camp fairs – These are both good ways to get to know a camp director and about a camp program. Ask about the camps’ mission statement and what type of child is successful at camp. Camp fairs bring dozens of camps to a community and provides parents the opportunity to speak one-on-one with many different camp directors in one day. Often times, a camp director will come to your home for a home visit which allows you to get to know the director and for the director to get to know your family.
Share positive messages – As camp approaches, talk to your child about the camp program and the activities he or she will be participating in. Parents should let their child know that they are confident in the child's ability in having a successful camp experience.
Pack together – If your child is going to overnight camp, pack together. Your child will feel more secure if they know what they are bringing to camp and you can use the time packing together to talk with your child about how much fun camp is going to be.
Mail letter to camp – Send a letter to sleepaway camp so your child has a letter the first day they are at camp. Let them know how much fun they are going to have at camp.
Camp season is here!