Summer camp: How to choose the right one for your child (and budget)

Summer camp may months away, but for all you parents, now is the time to sign up.

New research out of Clemson University is showing just how crucial the right summer camp can be to your child’s future.

So to help you choose, we got expert advice.

Leslie Conrad had such great experiences as a kid, she now runs six camps through the Clemson Outdoor Lab.

When it comes to deciding which one is right for your child her strongest advice is to find a place with no connections to the life your child knows.

“I would advise that they look at camps that might be a little further away or a camp that they know all the neighborhood kids aren’t necessarily going to. So it gives them a little bit of freedom to be independent, to be their own person and not under those constraints of things that they might be at home or at school,” she said.

Overwhelmed the choices? One easy online tool is the American Camp Association. The “find-a-camp” link helps you narrow your search by location, activities, needs. And every camp meets the ACA’s safety accreditation.

Barry Garst, an Associate Professor of Youth Development Leadership with Clemson lead a recent study that surveyed 2000 parents. The findings pinpoint how crucial camp is for a child’s development.

“They told us that their children were more self confident, they were more independent, they took care of themselves better, they made friendships more easily, their social skills improved and if you look at the outcomes. They met really strongly with what we call 21st Century skills.”

Those are skills that future employers are seeking.

If cost is a big concern, there are lots of camps that offer sponsorships, scholarships or even operate on a sliding scale where lower income families pay less.

So while the ACA website can narrow your search by price, you may also want to called the camps out of your price range and see if they’ll work with you.

“I honestly believe the everybody should go to camp,” said Conrad.

Her camps specialize in children with disabilities, so she says there is a place for everyone. The sooner you start looking, the more choices you’ll have to make this summer unforgettable.

A few more pointers, recommendations from other parents go a long way.

And also call the director to make sure the camps vision and values align with yours.

For camp ideas you can check with local universities, scout groups, the y-m-c-a, parks departments and churches.


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