How to plan a summer they’ll talk about all year long.
By Jill Levin

summerNext summer may seem far away, but before you realize it, it will be June and your kids will be out of school. NOW is the time to start thinking about choosing a summer camp for your child. Summer camps help children develop new interests, choose a new direction and make lifelong friends. How do parents decide which is the right program for their child? Here are a few guidelines to help you make a wise choice.

OVERNIGHT or DAY CAMP? The very first decision is should your child attend a day camp where they return home at night or an overnight camp where they remain for one or more weeks. That decision will depend on the age and desires of the child, parents and the family budget. Most sleep-away programs accept children who have finished first grade. If your child expresses an interest in going away and sleeps at the homes of friends easily, they are ready for an overnight experience.

TRADITIONAL or SPECIALTY CAMP? There are two basic types of camps: the traditional and the specialized. Traditional camps offer activities, which include: land sports, water sports and the creative and performing arts. Campers are scheduled for activity periods throughout the day and evening. Specialty camps offer instruction in one or two very focused skills, such as a particular sport, musical instrument, or theatre. The day will be divided into two or three lengthy activity periods with some free time in the afternoon and evenings. There are benefits to both depending on what you and your child want from a summer experience.

CONSIDER THE FIT! Does your child need to develop new interests? Does he or she need a dose of self esteem? Would your child like to improve skills in sports or the arts? Is your child happier with a variety of activities or a program that focuses on one particular interest? The answers to these questions will help guide you to the type of camp that fits your child.

A summer camp offers much more than a recreational experience. Camps teach life skills such as developing independence, relating to peers, coping with fears and challenges and problem solving. Each camp director has a clear sense of what children should gain from camp and how to go about imparting these skills and attitudes.

Certainly there are also practical considerations: Location, transportation, dates and tuition. Extra fees will influence the choice you make. Other considerations are size and single sex versus coed (California camps are primarily coed) the type of activities and how the day is scheduled.

MATCH THE CHILD’S INTERESTS WITH A VARIETY OF CHOICES: As your child gets older – sometimes as early as 6th grade — they may have outgrown camp or are looking for something other than a traditional camp experience.

Your child has said emphatically they will not go to camp; camp is for younger kids! What’s next? The choices are many and varied, and as unique as your teen. Your options include: outdoor adventure, enrichment programs, community service and language immersion, to name a few.

DO YOUR RESEARCH: Attend a camp fair, read local parenting magazines, or use an advisory service.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s important to get to know the director and the philosophy that guides the program. Each type of program warrants different questions. What are the goals for the campers? How are discipline problems dealt with? What are the qualifications for the counselors and staff? How are they trained? What is the ratio of staff to campers? How does the program communicate to parents?

Tips on Trips and Camps is a wonderful resource to use in locating the perfect program for your child. Jill Levin is the West Coast Advisor. She offers personalized consultations and expert knowledge on camps, teen programs, educational opportunities, travel, outdoor adventure, community service, language study and more. She will listen to your needs, guide you to appropriate programs, and assist you in your selection process.

Be sure to attend Tips on Trips and Camps’ Annual Summer Opportunities Fair which is being held Sunday, February 6th at Marymount High School, 10643 Sunset Blvd (across from UCLA) from 11 am to 2 pm. Stroll through dozens of exhibits and meet the directors of camps and programs from around the country.

Take advantage of expert advice and make an educated decision. If you choose wisely, your child will grow in skills and independence that will last a lifetime. If you want your child to get the maximum benefit from the experience, do your homework now.

Jill Levin is the West Coast Advisor with Tips on Trips and Camps. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and has two grown children. For the past 10 years, she’s provided thousands of students with exceptional summer experiences. If you want Jill’s assistance for next summer, or need more fair information, contact Jill at 310-202-8448 or email: Jill@TipsonTripsandCamps or visit their website: