Summer camps are many things: part day care, part education tuition, part experiment in independent living and part fun! All of these parts add up to camps with unique mission statements, unique camper requirements, unique camper restrictions and unique personalities. Suddenly the thousands of summer camps across the UK seems more like millions. When it is time to choose a summer camp, don’t let the numbers scare you. A little investigation and your kids will soon be on their way to summer camp bliss!
Summer Camp Requirements
There are many factors that will help you narrow down the number of summer camps under consideration for your children. Factors that every parent must take into account include:
- Boarding facilities – would you prefer a day camp or a residential camp?
- Themes – are you interested in a general camp or one that focuses on art, music, dance, religion, technology, a particular sport, etc.?
- Gender – are you considering single gender camps, mixed gender camps or both?
- Age requirements – what are the minimum and maximum ages for campers? And for camp counsellors?
- Flexibility – will the camp be able to meet your child’s dietary or medical needs?
- Ratios – what are the ratios of campers to counsellors, and campers to equipment?
- Registration – is the camp registered with a governing body and fully licensed?
- Location – will the camp be an easy commute, or will it require a full day of travel?
- Cost – can you afford the camp fees, or do they offer assistance of any kind? Remember to include “hidden fees” such as uniforms, day trips, snacks and lunches and pocket money.
Interviewing Summer Camps
Once you have narrowed down several camps that fit your requirements, begin interviewing them as you would a potential employee. First, create a short list of the camps you feel best suit your chosen criteria. Next, investigate the camps by:
- Sending away for promotional literature.
- Reading reviews in guides such as Allen’s Guide.
- Emailing questions or to ask for clarifications.
- Speaking with staff via telephone.
- Setting up an appointment to view the camp.
- Bringing your kids to a camp open day.
- Networking with past campers and their parents.
- Requesting to see camp registrations and counsellor certifications.
Viewing the Camp
When visiting a summer camp, you and your kids should observe several aspects of camp life. Keep an eye out to see:
- If the camp is clean and well maintained.
- If the staff appear friendly and interested in the activities and campers.
- If an effort has been made to decorate the camp and make it feel welcoming.
- If the camp’s license and/or registration is clearly displayed.
- If the camp does boast the facilities and amenities advertised.
- If the camp is well laid out and appears safe.
- If the camp food hall and cooking areas are clean and suitable.
- If lodging seems appropriate (if required).
Choosing a Summer Camp
When you have completed your research and visited the camps on your shortlist, the time will come to make your ultimate decision. While it is important to select a summer camp that will fit well with your kids’ personalities, interests and abilities, if you find that you are torn between more than one camp then consider yourself lucky – several camps will work for you! On the flip side of the coin, if your most favourite camp is already filled, don’t despair, that may have been the best but there will be several close runners up as well. And if all else fails, consider asking your kids which camp colours or mascot they liked the best. Someone has to cast the deciding vote!