The Summer Camp search season, which began in January, is well underway. If you haven’t made any camp decisions yet, don’t worry, but know that it is really time to focus on this, as programs are filling up. Lots of issues to consider: Sleep away or Day Camp? Sports, arts, or academically focused, or some combination of all three? GCP offers some guidance to help you figure it out.

Sleep away Camp: At some point, often sooner than you expect, your son may ask you about going to a sleep away camp. He may have heard about it from a friend whose older siblings have gone, or perhaps he just thinks it would be fun adventure that he’d like to try. Sleep away camps generally have programs which can range from a 1 week stay to an 8 week stay. Usually the camps which offer the longest stays do not allow children to opt for a shorter stay. Sometimes the 7 or 8 week camps may have a 4 week option, but rarely for a shorter period. Sleep away camps can have a single focus (e.g., sports) or include a variety of activities for your son to try.

A common question parents have as they begin to look into sleep away camps is: Is my son ready? Parent’s magazine has developed a short quiz, found here, to help you answer this question. Much of this decision turns on how independent your son is, how easily he adapts to new situations, and the strength of his desire to go. It is important to remember that even if you are ready for him to try camp and are tempted to really encourage him, it should be his decision to go.

How to Find The Right Camp?

Suggestions as to where to send your son to sleep away camp can be found all over: on-line, in most family magazines, at local camp fairs, from friends whose families have been going to the same camp forever, from parents at school who have loved (or hated) their child’s camp experience. One shortcut you may want to take to use a camp advisory service. These services provide consultants who can listen to the list of things you are looking for in a camp and make a recommendation as to what camp might be good for your son. Many of these advisory services are free of charge to the families. Should you choose to use an advisor, you should feel free to discuss any criteria you deem important. When I spoke with a counselor about camp for one of my sons, I wanted to be sure that we looked at camps with diverse populations, and the advisor was very helpful with this request. There are many camp advisory services available. A good one to try is Tips on Trips and Camps, which as its name suggests offers advice on all sorts of summer programs for your children.

Day Camps: If your child wants his summer days filled with activities but doesn’t want sleep away camp, day camps are the way to go. He can learn new skills, find new interests, make new friends, and sleep in his own bed at night. Finding a good camp for your son also takes some time and effort. It is helpful to get recommendations from friends, but it is important to consider whether the camp will work for your child. A recent article from Manhattan Family magazine, found here, offers tips for finding the right day camp for your child. It suggests that you pay close attention to the schedules offered at the day camps, consider the costs (and whether scholarship or financial assistance is available), and explore open houses offered by the camps. Manhattan Family also offers a very helpful list of questions to ask camp administrators before choosing a camp, which can be found here.

More to come on camps. But if you haven’t gotten started on this already, time to get going!!