Should Your Kids Help Decide What Summer Camp They Attend?

Do you let your kids have an opinion on summer camps?

kids at summer camp

Choosing your child(ren)'s summer plans is a big decision. The summer is a time for fun and adventure! There are so many options and programs for children of all ages, with different likes and personalities. There are day camps, sleep away camps, speciality camps, special needs camp, and camps that vary in session length and cost. Parents must consider many factors when making this decision, but one factor that sometimes gets overlooked is your child's preference.

Why Should Parents Involve Children?

Involving children in the camp decision will help them feel more excited about their summer plans. Kids feel more connected to activities they choose. Giving your child a seat at the table provides them with a feeling of power and independence and may also lessen any anxiety about attending the camp. In order to ensure your child has a positive experience at camp, parents should talk to their child about their wants, desires, and fears.

Here are some things to consider when Including kids in the decision-making process:

Age

As children get older, it is important to include them in the decision-making process. A 4-year-old may say he wants to go to the camp with the most trampolines but a creative 12-year-old may let you know that she will be miserable at a sports camp. Sending an older child to a camp they don't want to attend is setting them (and you) up for failure.

Put your feelings aside and really listen to your children. As for the younger kids, trust your gut and know their personality.

Personality

It's important to know your child's personality. If your child says they want to go to art camp all summer, but you know they get bored with art after a short time, maybe send them to art camp for two weeks and then choose other programs for the rest of the summer.

There are camps to match every child's interests and maturity level.

Likes/Dislikes

If your child says they really dislike an activity, and that activity is a main part of the camp day, maybe that is not the best choice for her. Summer camp is meant to be fun and meaningful so make sure to let your child go somewhere that enriches them.

Friends

If your child is begging to go to the camp that all her friends from school are going to, do you allow it? This is a hard decision and depends on your individual child. For many kids, going to camp is about making new friends and establishing "camp friends." This concept is more important in sleep away camp. For day camp, the options may be limited and all the kids from school may go to day camp together. Some shy or introverted children may feel more comfortable with some familiar faces. If your kid has a hard time at school, finding a specialty camp with all new kids might be a great thing for their confidence.

Cost

Children have very little understanding of their parents finances, and camps can be very costly. The summer is meant to be filled with new experiences but that does not mean you need to spend a ton. Whether or not to let your child know about camp costs is a personal decision.

If your child is begging to go to a camp that is out of your budget, expand your search and show them more options.

How Can Parents Involve Their Kids in the Decision-Making Process?

American Camp Association, the leading authority in youth development and the camp experience, advises parents to make choosing a camp a family decision. American Camp Association has tons of resources on how to choose the best camp for your family. Use their "Find a Camp" database to narrow down your choices. But remember to talk to your child(ren) and get them involved in the decision-making process to ensure a great summer for the whole family.

Explore the camp options and examine the materials provided by potential camps. Also, make sure to check out camp web sites so your child can views photos, maps, or virtual tours of the camp facility, sample daily schedules and menus, and information about the directors and staff.

When touring camps, it is important for parents to have a list of questions. Encourage your child to also create their own list of questions and to think about what is most important to them for their summer fun. Go to camp websites with your kid, and look at pictures, daily schedules and special activities. A camp's website will give you a good feel for what the camp is like. Schedule camp tours for sleep away camps or go to family fun days for day camps with your entire family. Let your child run around and experience the camp grounds. Being in the camp environment helps kids decide what types of settings they will enjoy most, whether its exploring nature, doing arts and crafts, or playing sports.

Dave Stricker, owner of Camp Wah-Nee, a co-ed sleep away camp in Torrington, CT says:

Kids can, and absolutely should, have a say into the decision. I don't think many camps would want a camper who really wasn't excited to go, where it wasn't at least in their heart that this would be a fun place to be! Also, they need to agree and tell you if the camp has the kind of activities that they really do want to do (not what we 'hope they'll learn to like!') But so much of that is we parents reading our kids properly—knowing where their true interests will be met, while gently guiding them to try something new. Too often though, kids tour multiple camps and get caught up in something glitzy (maybe the go-carts, or the ice cream parlor?). We need to know better, and match not just the activities or facilities, but the culture and the heart of any camp. Parents need to judge that, and choose a place that matches how they hope their kids will grow up! And in that choice, parents must have the final say.

So while you may not want your kids choosing just any camp, involving them in the decision-making process for camp will not only make the experience more enjoyable for them, it can decrease your anxiety because you know your child will be having a happy fun-filled summer!

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