Be choosy with summer camps for kids

Tobie Blanchard, Sasser, Diane  |  1/4/2011 1:15:02 AM

News Release Distributed 04/21/10

As the end of another school year draws near, parents need to plan for what to do with the kids during the summer. Summer camps are often the answer, but LSU AgCenter family life specialist Diane Sasser says parents should ask many questions when deciding on a camp.

“I don’t mean to put a lot of pressure on parents, but a child’s experience at camp will make a significant impression,” Sasser said.

Options can be overwhelming for parents. Sasser says parents should find out everything they can before choosing a camp to make sure it is the best fit for their child.

"First off, make sure the camps goals and philosophies are the same as yours," she said.

Ask for references, and find out how many campers return to the camp. This will give parents an opportunity to talk with families who have attended the camp and help them learn more about it.

"If the camp director will not supply references, strike that camp off your list immediately," Sasser said.

Ask about facilities and day-to-day schedules. If you can visit the camp, do so.

Parents also should look into safety issues.

– What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?

– How does the camp ensure the safety and security of its campers?

– Are their security guards on duty at the camp?

– What medical facilities are available and what medical staff is on camp?

– How many lifeguards are on duty during water activities?

Find out camp policies on packages and letters from home and phone calls. Parents also should know upfront all the costs involved in the camp, including any extra cost that might not be included in the camp fee.

Parents may have other questions they want to ask before registering their child for a camp.

“Don’t feel self-conscious about asking questions. If the director is uncomfortable with questions, that is a real red flag," Sasser said.

Parents choosing a sleep-away camp may have to prepare their child for the experience. Sasser says parents must make sure their child is ready for the experience.

"You don’t want to send your child away for a week to a camp they’ve never been to with a bunch of strangers if your child is not accustomed to being away from home."

Parents trying to find the perfect summer camp for their child may want to start their search on the Internet. If you have a type of camp in mind, look online to see what is available in your area.

Summer day camps are popular with many families in Louisiana. City recreational departments and nonprofit organizations offer programs open to school-aged children. Youngsters can participate in organized activities such as a sports and swimming or arts and crafts. Many of these camps are offered on a week-by-week basis, but children can attend throughout the summer.

Parents looking for more focused activities can send their children to specialty camps such as art camp or zoo camp hosted by museums and zoos across the state.

LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Camp is another great option for fourth through sixth graders. The theme for this year’s camp is “Get in touch with 4-H at Camp Grant Walker.” Youngsters attending the sleep-away camp in Pollock will have the opportunity to take part in many diverse and fun activities while carrying on the strong 4-H camping tradition.

Parent magazines can help parents discover other opportunities for summer fun.

Sasser says don’t leave your child out of the decision. Talk to them about what their expectations are for the summer and what sort of activities they would like to take part in.

“Ultimately, if you child isn’t happy with the camp, then it was a wasted opportunity,” Sasser said.

When you find the camp that suits you and your child’s needs, register your child with the camp. Good camps are popular and spots fill up quickly.

Tobie Blanchard
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