Kids’ Summer Camps: How to Choose the Right One, and What to Pack

Educational research shows that kids often slide backwards during the summer, at least in their recall of what is taught during the regular school year. However, time off from the formal structure of school allows many students to pursue their own unique interests.

Summer camps are a great way for kids to explore their interests while continuing to learn. They also provide an opportunity for children to improve their social intelligence skills. Of course, most children will have a better time at summer camp if their parents take the time to find the right camp for them. Preparation and purposeful packing is also required to help children feel confident when heading off for a few nights away from home.

Below are some tips on how parents can choose the right summer camp for their children, as well as a list of items kids should pack for summer camp. These items may not be on the list suggested by the summer camp, but they’re good to have on hand to help kids feel safe and loved. An LED headlamp, for example, can help a child feel comfortable and safe while waiting to fall asleep at summer camp.

Tips on How to Choose a Summer Camp

There are many facets to consider when signing your child up for summer camp. A few areas parents should consider are:

Cost. Overnight summer camps usually cost between $500 and $2,000 per week. You may be able to find less expensive or even free summer camps by looking for programs managed by local non-profits. Remember that you will need to tack on little “extras” like a new headlamp and other necessary items. Budget your summer camp expenses ahead of time to avoid stress.

Goals of attending summer camp. What is your purpose in sending your child to summer camp? Sure, every parent could use a break during the summer, and every child hopes to avoid summer boredom. However, your child can learn a lot more than just how to handle an LED headlamp during a week or two of summer school. Are you looking for an opportunity for your child to try lots of new fun activities? Or would your child be more captivated by a themed camp? Outline your goals for your child’s education and personal development; let that list guide your decision in choosing a summer camp.

If your child is already passionate about a certain sport or activity, consider sending him or her to a specialty camp. From skiing to chess, from gardening to rock ‘n’ roll, there is a summer camp for nearly every interest. You could probably even find a camp that would teach your future engineer how to build a solar-powered LED headlamp. Furthermore, in these days of competitive college admissions, parents may consider some camps to be an investment for college funding. If a child adores baseball, a summer camp at the age of 8 may set him up to be the MVP in middle school and high school sports, and for college scholarships down the line.

Age of your children. Overnight camps are thrilling for many children, but they can also be quite frightening. Most 8- to 10-year-olds will be mature enough to handle an overnight camp. Younger kids do well with day camps.

What to Pack for Overnight Summer Camps: An LED Flashlight and a Teddy Bear

Proper packing for summer camp can make the difference between a fantastic time away from home and a miserable period of missing Mom and Dad. Most summer camps will let you know what you should pack for your child, but some comfort items may be left off their list. Pack the items below to help your kid feel safe and confident throughout summer camp:

1. LED flashlight or LED headlamp

Having a flashlight or a headlamp will help your child feel safe at summer camp. Plus, he or she will probably need an LED flashlight or headlamp for nighttime trips to the bathroom. An LED headlamp is a wonderful option for more active children who would like to have their hands free as they wander around camp. If you’re hoping to help your child make friends at summer school, you could send them off with an LED lantern, which will light up the whole cabin.

2. Teddy bear or other stuffed animal

Having a well-loved stuffed animal can help any child feel safer. Nights are often the most difficult time for children who are prone to homesickness; a furry friend helps these kids get to sleep, so they can get the most out of their packed days at summer camp.

3. Pictures from home

Just as adults carry pictures of family and friends in their wallets, kids like to have reminders of home nearby to help them feel loved. If a child feels homesick at night, he or she can use a headlamp to look at pictures of family and friends.

In the end, choosing a summer camp is a lot like choosing a school. Research summer camps by checking national summer camp databases and talking to fellow parents. Once you’ve found the best camp, pack carefully so your child has a few special items on hand to help them feel loved even when they’re away from home.

[ photo by: Leah Gregg ]

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