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Choosing a Sleepaway Camp in the Off-Season

(Image: © Stieber-

What do you do when your child comes to you over the winter and says “I want to go to sleepaway camp THIS year?” What do you do if you first decide now that you want to send your child away to camp this summer? Can it still be done? Yes! Many excellent camps still have space for Summer ’16 and we can help you find the best camp for your child now.

Start by considering your child’s personality and interests as well as any requirements that you may have (i.e. price range, location, full-season, camps with shorter sessions or 4 week camps, activities, single sex v. coed v. brother-sister, siblings who will go in the future). Next, call us as we have first-hand knowledge of the camps, know the directors and have personally visited and observed the camps in session. We know about the administration, facilities, philosophies and cultures of the camps. When you speak with your camp advisor, be honest and share information about special needs, if any, or difficulties that your child has had in the past. In order for us to help you find the best summer camp for your son or daughter, it is important that you tell us everything that we need to know about your child. Please do not hold back— and you should not hold back with a camp director either. Remember that everyone wants your child to thrive at camp and sleepaway camp is 24/7.

Mother and Daughter Playing in the Pool(Image:© Sonya

Your camp consultant will suggest several overnight camps to you and get you information from them. Review the materials that the summer camps send you and look at their websites as well. Then call any of the camps that you are considering and speak to the camp directors yourself. Ask them lots of questions. It is also helpful to ask camp directors for references and to check with those as well.

As tempting as it may be, try to avoid canvassing lots of friends to find out what they have heard about different summer camps. Their information is not always based on personal knowledge. Of course, if a friend sends their own son or daughter to an overnight camp that you are considering, their feedback may be very useful to you. However, do not select a camp merely because your friend or neighbor sends children there. You should also think hard about sending your child to camp with a friend from home.

After you have narrowed down your camp choices, start to include your child in the process. Your boy or girl will become less nervous and more excited about going if they are involved. Show your child a few DVDs of sleep away camps you like. Your camp referral agent will help you select one or a (very) few camps to have home or skype visits with. It is not necessary or overly helpful for you to visit an empty camp in the off-season. Rather, when conducting your search at this time of year, it is more useful for you to speak to and, if possible, meet with the camp director.

Boys with Goggles and Beach Towels(Image: © Sonya

The director sets the tone at the camp and you want to feel comfortable with them and their philosophy. Your child should be present at any home visit. Let the director get to know your boy or girl and let your child ask questions. You should ask the camp director about anything that is important to you as well. After all, you will be entrusting the summer camp with your child. Often your camp choice will be obvious to you at this point. If you still need help deciding on the best summer camp for your child, call us. At the end of the day, listen to your gut feel and choose the sleep away camp where you can envision your child returning for many wonderful summers to come.

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