How to Compare Day Camps

In larger cities, there are scores of day camp options, and each has things that would make it a good choice. Here are some simple ways to organize those choices in order to find the best day camp for your child.• Compare the cost. Lay out a budget for camp, and from there, you can narrow the choices based on cost. Some day camps have scholarships for families with economic hardships, and the best time to check for these is during the first part of the school year. Even if a day camp doesn’t advertise its scholarships, it never hurts to ask. You can also offset some of the cost by volunteering at camp, if allowed.• Meal provision is another comparison parents need to make. Some day camps serve lunch every day, and some serve only snacks (meaning that parents are responsible for packing their child’s lunch). Before signing your child up for day camp, find out its policy on meals.• You also need to find out about extras. What does the camp provide, and what must you pay for? Some camps pay for extracurricular activities like field trips, and others do not. If you choose a camp that provides lessons in tennis, swimming, or horseback riding, you may have to pay for these. Some camps provide transportation and extended-day services for a fee as well. Find out ahead of time what your tuition covers and what it does not.• Does the camp you’re interested in have a specialty? Some camps focus on a hobby or subject area, which can be anything from cheer leading to computer programming. If your child has demonstrated a particular interest, let it guide you in making the appropriate choice.Before choosing a camp, ensure that it meets these minimum requirements:• ACA accreditation (the American Camp Association has standards for staff training).
• It offers time outdoors. Even traditionally indoor camps (like those for computers or cooking) need to allow children an opportunity to get outdoors during the summer.
• A low camper-to-staff ratio
• A good policy on the handling of discipline and disagreements. You should know ahead of time what will warrant a call home, or what will happen if your child doesn’t get along with the other campers.
• It has an open-door policy. You should be welcome to visit and observe the camp at any time that’s practical; some camps offer an “open house” or “family day” option.These are just some of the comparisons and checks involved in choosing a day camp for your child. If you judge a camp by these criteria, you stand a much better chance of choosing one that fits the needs of you and your child.