12 Tips for Choosing the Right Summer Camp
1. Start looking early
Camps start offering early-bird discounts as early as January. Popular camps sell out long before the summer even starts. So start looking now!
2. Figure out what type of camp is right for your family
The most popular type of camp experience. Day camps are most likely offered at your child’s school or through your city’s recreation department. Day camps operate during normal working hours and may offer extended care.
Resident / Sleep Away Camps
The classic summer camp experience where kids are away from home. Camp options may be held in local mountains or other fun destinations where lodging, meals, and activities are included.
Whole Summer Programs
Campers stay with the same program or organization throughout the summer.
Camps by Session
Many organizations offer camps by sessions. It could be 2-day, 3-day camps, one-week camps, or just for the month. These camps are great for kids who with lots of different interests!
3. Find out what your kid’s absolutely obsessed with
Summer camps are one of the best ways to keep kids learning outside of school. And what’s the key to learning? Engagement! When your child’s interested in a topic, they’re more likely to engage with the activities and get the most out of their summer.
So what’s your child currently obsessed with? Animals? Gaming? Sports? Nature? Theater?
There so many camps out there that offer fun and meaningful adventures to match your child’s interests and maturity level. Talk to your kid about their likes and dislikes. Together, make a list of what programs align with their interests.
More than one interest? Pick camps that offer weekly themes or register for a variety of camps throughout the summer.
4. Don’t forget to look into your favorite places
Does your family love visiting the local aquarium, museum, or zoo? Chances are your favorite places and attractions offer a summer camp! Many of these places are listed in our CampGuide!
Southern California Attractions with Summer Camp:
- Discovery Cube OC
- Muckenthaler Cultural Center
- Sender One
- Birch Aquarium
- Bolsa Chica Wetlands
- California Science Center
- Cayton Children’s Museum
- Pacific Marine Mammal Center
- Heal the Bay Aquarium
- The Reptile Zoo
- LA Zoo
- Roundhouse Aquarium
- San Diego Zoo
- Wildlife Learning Center
Other places that may have a summer camp this year: Aquarium of the Pacific, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Natural History Museum, Underwood Family Farms, Annenberg Petspace, Battleship IOWA, and more. We update our CampGuide as soon as we receive details, so check back often!
5. Let your child explore outside their comfort zone
The best summer camps introduce kids to new experiences and topics. If your kid loves being inside on the computer, try a camp with activities like swimming, hiking, and being out in nature. Same goes for kids who love outdoor activities. Consider camps that develop their STEAM skills like coding, science, robotics, and filmmaking.
6. Do your research
Staffing Qualifications: Does the camp hire professional personnel or are the positions filled with teens? While teen staff members bring a fun energy to the camp, the program itself should be developed by professionals in education or child development.
Child Health & Safety: Check licenses and accreditations. American Camp Association is the leading authority in youth camp experiences. Find out how the camp accommodates children with special needs, dietary restrictions, and allergies. Is the staff certified in CPR and First Aid, and how does the camp handle emergencies?
Also ask about the environment of the camp, dynamics between kids, meals, lodging, and communication methods.
7. Ask about discounts and scholarships
Looking to save some money? Ask about early-bird discounts, sibling discounts, member discounts, scholarships, camperships, and financial aid.
8. Ask about additional costs
On the flip side, ask about those extra fees and add-ons! Camp t-shirts, transportation, special trips, group photos, and extended child care may be available.
9. Ease into sleepaway camps
Every child is different, so don’t choose a sleepaway camp solely based on age, but when it feels right for them. Start with spending the night at grandma’s house or try a family camp, where the whole family attends.
10. Don’t overlook your needs as a parent
Of course, you want your kid to go to camp they’ll love, but don’t forget your needs matter too. Consider your own work schedule, commute time, budget, and other family obligations.
Summer is about relaxing and if you’re stressed about getting your kid to and from camp, it makes the whole summer experience a little less enjoyable.
11. Don’t stress about finding the ‘perfect’ camp
There’s tons of awesome camps out there, but there’s no camp that will perfectly align with interests, schedules, budget, etc. And don’t panic if your first choice fills up, summer camps are an opportunity to explore different things.
Whatever you do, just consider your kid’s interests, be willing to push comfort zone boundaries, and know that you’re an awesome parent for giving your kid a chance to grow and learn this summer!
12. Keep Kidsguide in your summer planning toolbox
Our CampGuide has over 80+ Southern California camps and the list is growing daily!
This post was written by Alina Na