It's that time of year again, time to think about what to get your son or daughter for the holidays. There is surely a reason the holiday shopping season is more than a month long... to allow you time to research the best camps and summer programs of course! Finding the perfect place for your son or daughter to spend their summer can be a daunting task, so knowing what to think about can make the process a lot easier. In my opinion, there are four major factors to consider when choosing the right camp or summer program for your child:
1. Location, Location, Location: Where would you like your child to spend his/her summer away from home? This is a key factor when thinking about the level of independence they will feel while they're away. Do you envision driving them to camp, putting them on a bus or train or flying them to their destination. The location can sometimes play a huge roll in the type of experience they have. Are you looking for the big city feel, the college campus, or the mountains? Neither answer is wrong, but this is certainly a major factor to consider.
2. The Type of Program: Are you looking to send your child to a traditional camp in the great outdoors or are you looking for something else? Despite what many may think, there are many types of camps and programs out there, all with benefits that will last a lifetime. At a traditional camp, your child will experience the great outdoors, disconnect from technology and focus on meeting other campers who are, for the most part, like them. Traditional camps can be a life-changing experience, but they are not for everyone. If your child falls into that category, there are endless possibilities in the realm of specialty programs that focus specifically and professionally on their interests. Are they into sports? Art? Science? Business? You name it - its out there. Whether it is a weekly tennis camp, three or four week business program, science academy or art program, it is easy to find the best program for your child with one simple tool: Google. Don't be shy! If you can dream it, you can find a summer program for it!
3. Duration of the Program: How long are you hoping to send your child for? This is an answer that is very specific to each individual child. Some children thrive in the camp atmosphere and long to be away from home for the full eight week summer. Many don't. More importantly, this decision tends to be about you, the parents', comfort level. Ultimately, you have to weight the mode of communication you have with your child, your comfort with the staff on site and your child's ability to live independently to decide how long to send them away for. This is probably the most important factor to consider, and there is a different answer for every child.
4. Who do you want your child to meet? This is an interesting question and will vary from program to program. Many (not all) traditional overnight camps tend to be focused on attracting a population of campers who are very similar to one another. Whether it is Jewish Camp, Christian Camp, Boys Camp, Girls Camp, etc., you tend to be in a place with like-minded peers. For this reason, many camps hire staff from all over the world to bring a component of varying cultures. When you step outside the world of traditional camp and into the world of specialty programs, the student body tends to expand to a much more diverse group of campers/students. Depending on what the answer to the first three questions are you are likely to have an idea of who you envision your child spending their summer with. While some camps/summer programs focus on narrowing the demographic for students who always experience diversity, others focus on expanding it. Like always, there is no correct answer, but instead this tends to be a result of the first three factors.
BONUS: Filling Extra Weeks: Even if you leave here today with the idea of one particular camp or summer program, it will likely leave you with extra weeks to fill. Keep others in mind as you make your plans as the majority offer weekly programs as well.