When children make the leap from daycare to elementary school, it’s a milestone that brings on a slew of changes. One of which is the schedule, including summers without school. Parents are then faced with the big question: how will they handle child care during these periods?

The Benefits of Camp
Although some parents keep their children at home for various reasons, many are not able to. “Both my partner and I work full-time, so putting my son in summer camp is a necessity,” says Julie Bilmes, the mother of a six-year-old boy.

But sending your child to camp is not simply about logistics; there are also many benefits. Children foster friendships, cultivate independence and learn responsibility. But more importantly, they have fun. Bilmes noticed her son really enjoyed the experience. “He loved the swimming activities and all the field trips,” she says.

Aside from having fun and developing important core values, camps can also be a place to learn. Some offer specialized programs from ballet to science to karate. Many parents believe that summers should be a time of both play and learning.

How to Pick the Right Camp
It can be initially overwhelming for parents to sift through the hundreds of camps and choose one. But it’s easier once you ascertain your main criteria and deal breakers.

For many parents, important criteria center around the activities offered, the qualifications of the staff and the camp’s reputation. Other elements to consider are price, location and camp hours. Children can also be influenced by which camp their friends attend.

Top ten questions to ask
Every family is unique and will have different needs and preferences. But no matter what the specifics are, here are some important questions to ask prospective camps:

  1. What is the staff to camper ratio?
  2. What is the average age of the staff and how are they recruited?
  3. How is the staff trained?
  4. What are the procedures for medical routines and emergencies?
  5. What are the camp’s philosophies and values?
  6. What is the daily schedule, and what activities and field trips does the camp offer?
  7. What percentage of the campers return each year?
  8. How long has the camp been in business?
  9. How many campers attend each summer?
  10. What is the background and experience of the camp directors?

Once you’ve done the initial research and narrowed down your choices, it’s a good idea to speak with other parents to get testimonials. You can also visit the camp to see for yourself. With a bit of research and investigation, parents can equip themselves to make the best choice for their family.