Summer Camp and the Smart Shopper
It’s that time of year again. The heat is building and kids are getting antsy, if they aren’t already finished the school year. Besides buying shorts that fit and sunscreen with the right SPF, we’re now expected to be smart consumers about the summer camps our kids attend. Gone are the simple days when kids spent the days going back and forth to the local swimming pool and if they did go to summer camp, all the camps offered basically the same activities: swimming, boating, arts & crafts.
Instead, parents are often asked to help kids choose between drama camp, basketball camp, science camp or camps with religious, environmental or humanitarian messages. Camps are touted as another thing to add to the college application and even camps that aren’t academically oriented often have a sophisticated (or sophisticated-seeming) educational philosophy. So where do you start?
Many of the guidelines for choosing the right summer camp are the same as when you’re shopping for anything else. First of all, decide on your budget. Camp tuition can be expensive, especially if you include travel expenses, special equipment and spending money.
A smart consumer always thinks ahead about how they personally plan to use a product and the same goes for summer camp. Your goals for the summer may be just to find a way to keep kids busy, safe and happy when school is out or it could be to help them grow and develop as a person by trying new things or developing new skills. For some parents and older kids, the goal is to spend some time focusing on a specific goal or interest which will eventually help the child make it onto a certain team or pad out a college resume.
Camps have the whole school-year to spend working on marketing material, so be careful not to get carried away by impressive brochures, websites and promo videos and instead keep the goals in mind. Asking other neighborhood parents for recommendations can be helpful but if you’re hoping your child will be able to gain confidence and independence then don’t send him or her to the same camp as all the other kids in the class. If the child is hoping to try new things, then sending them to soccer camp because they’re star of the soccer team may not be the way to go. And if you’re kid doesn’t really care what they’re doing as long as they get to be out in the fresh air and getting dirty, then there’s no reason to splurge on the camp with the highest price tag and the fancy new facilities.
There are a lot of great camps out there and if you find the right one not only will your kids have a great summer, but they’ll have invested in their future. And I personally think that could be a good bargain for you too.