A camp planning lifesaver for parents

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Are you new to planning for summer camp and wondering where to start?

We have plenty of great tips for you, but Lauren Gruelich's story might give you the inspiration you need to get started on the camp hunt.

Lauren had so much fun at day camp at Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks Department that she never stopped going. Her story is what parents strive for when planning their kid's summer camp experiences in Maryland.

CampKidLauren started at the camp when she was 6 years old and attended every summer until she was 14. After that, she worked as a volunteer until she could enter the Counselor-in-Training program at age 16. Now in college, she works with the camp as an assistant director.

"My favorite parts of camp were all the great trips we went on and the friendships I made," says Lauren, who now lives in Mayo. "It was always so exciting to see everyone that came back to camp each year, and how we could maintain the friendships we'd made in previous years."

How do you ensure the same wonderful camp experience Lauren had for your own children? Here are some tips to get you started on finding just the right camp for your kids this summer.

Why day camp?

Day camp is great for kids of all ages. The experience gives young children who might not be ready to be away from home all the benefits of camp while still allowing them to sleep in their own bed at night, according to the American Camp Association.

"Sending your child to camp provides them with fun activities, educational opportunities and most of all, lasting friendships," says Jacque Hurman, recreation supervisor and director of North Arundel Aquatic Center.

But day camp isn't just for kids who need someone to watch them during the summer.

"For older kids, camps that appeal to their interests can provide enrichment and help them explore their interests at a time when they're trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives," says Shanae Newman, program coordinator for Camp Divalicious, a fashion camp for teen girls in Capitol Heights.

When to start looking for camp

According to Newman, parents need to start talking with their kids about camp and what they're interested in as early as December or January. Most camps finalize their schedules in February and start sending out information and opening registration in February and March.

"If there's a specific camp your child is interested in, I recommend you sign up right away," says Maggie Harris, assistant director of lifelong learning and youth at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, which hosts Kids in College camps. "For example, we held a Minecraft camp last year that was filled up the first day of registration."

There are other benefits of signing up early. According to Hurman, many camps will have early bird registrations, which offer discounts and help ensure your child gets the camps he or she wants at the times convenient for you.

But don't stress if you can't plan that far in advance. Many camps will take registrations up until the day camp starts if there is an opening.

"It's hard to predict which camps will be popular from year to year, but we do usually have a few openings in some of our camps throughout the summer," Hurman says.

Where to look for camps

Internet searches and camp directories, including the Chesapeake Family Day Camp Directory and Overnight Camp Directory are great ways to start looking for camps for your child.

It's also a good idea to attend camp fairs where you can talk with directors face to face and pick up materials from a variety of different camps. Chesapeake Family Camp Fairs in March.  Other ways to find out what's available in your area are to talk with other parents, ask the guidance counselor at your child's school or visit the local library, which may have fliers for local camps.

Click Next below to find out what to look for in a camp and questions to ask.

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