“I am bored.” Every parent hears these three words from their children during the summertime, often followed by sighs and outrageous requests. The good news? There are hundreds of summer day camps offered throughout the Valley.
Confused about where to start? We created a checklist to help you find the right fit for your son or daughter.
What your child pursues during free time will offer perspective for choosing a summer camp. My daughter loves painting and drawing. Last summer, I enrolled her in an art camp. She couldn’t wait to get dressed in the morning because the camp focused on her interests.
“The main goal from any summer camp is to keep the kid engaged,” says Phoenix mom Renny Bagchi. With summer camps costing as much as they do, she wants to be sure her kids are enjoying the experience and getting the most out of it.
Is your son the life of the party or does he hide in the corner when he walks into a room full of people? When choosing a camp, consider how much your child’s introversion or extroversion might influence the experience.
If large groups are intimidating, enroll your child in a smaller camp. My daughter tends to hide behind her shyness when there is a large group of people, so I eliminate bigger programs because I know this setting will make her nervous.
“One camp doesn’t fit all,” says Scottsdale mom Jamee Emens, mother to triplets with very different interests. “Parents really need to know their child first and find a camp second. Just because a camp is highly rated doesn’t mean it’s right for the child.”
For some parents, location, drop-off and pick-up times are important because of work schedules.
“The best option is something that is convenient, has long hours and is enjoyable,” says Reena Rastogi, MD, of Phoenix. She sends her two kids to school-district camps because “they can be dropped off at 6:30 a.m. and be picked up at 6:30 p.m., they have a familiarity with the campus and it is a great fit for work schedules.”
Visit the facilities
Poonam Gowda, of Phoenix, wants her two daughters’ summer experiences to be “positive and uplifting,” so she does the necessary legwork to vet programs before enrolling.
Arrange for a visit with a member of the camp staff. Drive to the location so you will know how much time to allot when you’re dropping off the kids. If possible, bring your children with you, especially if they are nervous about a new environment. Ask about staff training and credentials and how disciplinary situations are handled.
Smita Mehta, MD, a Scottsdale mom of two daughter, says she always asks to meet the camp director. She believes the “director’s personality offers an idea of what the culture at the camp will be like.”
Learn about costs and policies
Ask about registration fees and whether there are extra costs for snacks, lunches or special excursions.
Each camp has a set of rules that are designed to make the experience safe and fun for your kids. Most camps distribute policies regarding the first day, drop-offs, pick-ups, schedules and use of electronic devices.
Safety is a priority
If swimming is part of the curriculum, make sure a lifeguard will be present. Staff should be CPR certified.
Darshana Patel, who has toddlers, isn’t comfortable with a camp until she has an opportunity to watch “how an instructor employs pool safety [procedures].”
Ask about the camp’s fire-evacuation plans and lock-down measures in the event of an emergency. And though it may seem obvious in our desert climate, make sure water breaks are scheduled frequently so children stay hydrated—and that sunscreen and/or hats are mandatory when they are outdoors.