By Sarah McGowan
It’s hard to believe, but those long, lazy days of summer are just around the corner! While the summer months can conjure up nostalgic memories of relaxed, school-free days, they can also be a challenge for parents who work, or who are looking for ways to keep their kids engaged and active as the summer wears on.
Luckily, in the DC-metro area, there are a variety of camps available that range in price and cater to different interests. With so many available options, keeping a few things in mind can help you find the perfect camp for your child:
What interests your child?
This is probably the most important question to answer. With so many themed camps to choose from, it helps to think about the types of topics and activities that interest your child. Some camps are very focused. Would your child be happy playing soccer or basketball every day? Is your child happier playing indoors or outdoors? As a camp instructor, I witnessed more than one unfortunate mismatch between camp and child. Picture a kid who is fearful of worms and finds fishing boring at a camp where that was the activity all day, everyday – this actually happened. The camp, aptly named “Fishing Camp,” was a dream come true for most of the kids, but perhaps the parents of this young man didn’t realize to what extent the kids would be fishing, or thought he would “warm-up” to the sport.
Do your homework. If you can, talk to someone who has had a child who has previously attended the camp. If you have any questions or uncertainties,call the camp director. And, by all means make sure your child is part of the camp decision process. By the way, STEM camps are all the rage right now, so if that is something that interests your child, be sure to sign up early!
Most overnight camps are offered to children starting at about seven years old. Camps range from high-adventure (think ziplines, white water rafting and horseback riding) to performing arts-focused to traditional camps that touch on a little bit of everything. Once again, think about what interests your child. You might also want to consider accommodations – is the camp single sex or co-ed? How many kids attend the camp? Do campers spend the night in tents or cabins? These types of details can make or break a camper’s experience.
When we hear “camp,” many of us think of the traditional “sleep-away” camp, but there are also many exciting day camps to look at too. Day camps are typically offered to children beginning at four years old. Similar to overnight camps, think about the theme and camp size. While many day camps offer a variety of activities, there are a number of specialty camps focusing on sports, the arts, nature, etc. Additionally, you want to think about transportation – is busing an option, or will you need to drive your child each day? Do camp hours coincide with work hours, or do they have an aftercare program? You may also want to inquire about lunch options for your child.
The following are more resources to help you and your child make some decisions about how to spend a week (or eight weeks!) of their next summer.
Week-long day camps are offered through the Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William County Parks and Recreation Departments. With zoology, soccer, fishing, gymnastics and chess camps (to name a few), there truly is something to fit every child’s interests.
Prince William County:
For a comprehensive listing of private day and overnight camps, check out Washington Parent’s 2017 summer camp guide: washingtonparent.com/guides/guide-camp.php.
The American Camp Association has guides on how to choose and prepare for camp, as well as comprehensive information on topics like camp accreditation, the value of camps and camps as an