Helping Your Kid Pick a Summer Camp

With the taste of spring in the air and the mourning doves singing at your window, you know that summer break is just around the corner. Of course, just because your kids have the summer off from school doesn’t mean that you have the same luxury. The decision of what to do with your kids over the summer is a big one. Summer learning loss is a big issue, and to prevent that with your children, it’s necessary to engage them in activities that stimulate their minds and thinking over the course of the summer. For a lot of families, that includes some sort of summer camp. But as your kids come home with packets of information about summer camps—and as you realize that there are twice that many places they could go to camp that aren’t advertising through the schools—the paradox of choice can leave both you and your child unable to make a decision. Here’s how to help your kid pick a summer camp this year.

Start with Your Finances

Consider how much your family is able to spend on camps this summer and how much time your kid is in camp to determine your price range for individual camps. For example, if you only want your kid in summer camp for one week and have a $1,000 budget for summer camp this year, you can look at camps that cost up to $1,000. If, on the other hand, you have that same $1,000 budget but need your kid to be in camp the entire six weeks they’re out of school then, on average, you need to be spending no more than $166 per week of camp. Once you know your budget, eliminate any camps from the equation that go over that budget, preferably before your kids get attached.

What happens if your kid is already attached to a camp that’s outside of your budget? It’s okay—and necessary—to stick to your guns. But if they really want to attend that expensive Cheerleading camp and you can stretch the budget, it could be a great opportunity to teach them the value of a dollar by telling them they need to earn—and pay back—the difference between what you were willing to spend on their camp that week and the actual cost of the camp they wanted to go to. This expectation will also ensure that they’re only fighting that hard for camps they really want to attend—not just camps their friends are going to.

Next, Look at Your Schedule

If you’re going on a family vacation in the middle of the summer or you are planning to take your child to their grandparents on a specific weekend, consider those needs before planning your child’s other summer excursions. Remove any summer camps from the equation that fall on those specific weeks. That way your kid isn’t getting their heart set on any camp that they can’t actually attend—and you’re not trying to rearrange everyone else’s schedule to suit your kid.

Consider All Your Options

Once you’ve considered your finances and your schedule, lay out all your child’s options with them. Your kid will get the most out of their summer camp experience if they, not you, get to choose their summer camp. This is because they’ll go into the camp eager to participate in the activities rather than dreading every moment of being there. For that reason, your best bet is to eliminate any options that you’re not comfortable with them choosing, and then let your child make the ultimate decision about what camp they want to attend.

If your child will be attending multiple camps, the best way to do this is to sort the summer camp offerings out by which weeks or days they’re offered. Grab a big calendar to work with your child on. First, ask them which camp they definitely want to attend this summer. If the camp is only offered one week, write it in on that week—and get rid of any other camps that were only offered on that week since your child can’t attend both. If the camp they really want is offered multiple times throughout the course of the summer, go through the other camps that are offered those weeks and have your child pick which week of camps they’re least excited about. Get rid of that week, and pencil their favorite camp in at that point.

Once they have ensured their placement in their most exciting camp, go through the rest of the summer week by week. This lets your child think through their options in small segments, which can prevent them from becoming paralyzed by choices.

Confirm Your Decisions

Once your child has picked out their summer camps, leave them for a couple of days and then call them back and confirm that they’re still sure about which summer camps they want. Sometimes kids will go to school and talk about the summer camps they’re planning on and then decide they really want to go to a different camp. By giving them an opportunity to consider their options and come back, you prevent yourself from paying deposits and then having your kid not want to go to that camp in the end.

Once they’ve confirmed their decision a second time, all that’s left to do is pay your deposits on the camps and make sure they have everything they need, from cord snaps to specialized guitar picks, to enjoy their summer camp experience to its fullest possible extent. If you do it correctly, your kids won’t even notice that they’re continuing to learn throughout the course of the summer!