A camp planning lifesaver for parents

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What to look for in a campCamp2W

Once you're aware of what's out there, it's time to narrow your search. Here are some tips on how to cull the list of possible camps:

  • Communicate with your child. There are so many options when it comes to day camp that you and your child might be overwhelmed. A little communication, however, might help you narrow the list. Start by asking your child what he or she is interested in, and balance that with what you know about your child's personality and interests, says Michelle Lillie, director of the arts at Lillie Pad Studios and Summer Art Camp in Millersville.
  • Consider your family's needs. You may be looking for supervision for your children while you work, or you might just want the opportunity for the kids to get out of the house and experience something new. This criteria will help determine whether specifics such as whether you're looking for full-day or half-day camps, as well as how many weeks you will need to enroll your child.
  • Research the camp. There are several important factors to consider before choosing a camp. First, ask if the camp is accredited through the American Camp Association, or has certification through the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene or the Maryland Office of Childcare, which set minimum standards for safety, including background checks and drug tests for employees, according to Hurman. "Most camps well exceed the minimums, but having to follow set standards is important for a safe environment," she says.
  • Ask for a curriculum or agenda of what is planned at camp. "You want to know they're busy and you're not just paying for expensive babysitting," Newman says.

Keep communicating

Before camp starts, be sure to fill out all of the paperwork and medical forms.

"I can't stress enough how important this is," Harris says. "The more we know about a child ahead of time, the better able we are to ensure they have a good experience at camp."

Harris also encourages communication between the parents and the camp counselors and directors, especially if your child has any special concerns such as food allergies, behavior or learning disabilities, or health issues. And, of course, once camp starts, if your child comes home miserable or has any problems, be sure to address that with the camp as well.

"Our goal is to make good memories, and we will do what it takes to make sure every child has a good time," Harris says.

Choosing among camp types

Wondering what type of camp might be best for you child? Here is what camp directors had to say about the various options available:

  • Sports camps ¬ These help improve skills for kids who are already focused on a particular sport, but can also be a good way to introduce kids to sports they aren't as familiar with. And they keep kids active!
  • Education camps ¬ Avoid the summer slump by keeping the learning going. A good thing about camps with an education focus is they are structured differently than school, so kids have fun while learning in a new environment.
  • Art camps – Whether the focus is on glass blowing, painting, drama or dance, these camps can cover a specific area much more in depth than kids will ever get in school.
  • Special needs camps — Kids with special needs will find a place to let loose with others in the same boat, whether it's asthma, diabetes or a specific disability.

Be prepared!

Questions to ask before signing up:

  • Is the camp accredited or certified?
  • What are the hours? Are there extended-care options?
  • What are the payment options?
  • Is there a sibling discount?
  • Is transportation available?
  • What food is provided and should kids bring?
  • How does the camp deal with food allergies?
  • What is the camper to counselor ratio?
  • What training does the staff receive?
  • What will my child be learning/doing?
  • How are campers grouped (by age/activity)?
  • Are parents welcome to visit?

From the American Camp Association and area camp directors.



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