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How to find the perfect summer camp for your kids

Tuesday - 5/21/2013, 2:45pm  ET

Save money when choosing a camp

WTOP's Kristi King

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WASHINGTON - Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial kickoff to the summer season, with visions of summer camps dancing in the heads of both parents and their kids.

Choosing the right camp can be tricky, but parents who are swamped with brochures and phone calls are more likely to find the right fit by asking detailed questions.

Brenda Hyde, [CONFIRM TITLE] publisher of Family Magazine, suggests the following questions for parents to use in their search:

  • What's the ratio of kids to camp counselors?
  • How many counselors return from year to year or are former campers themselves?
  • What kind of training do the counselors go through?
  • Do they have CPR training or conflict management in case there are bullies?

Making sure children are divided into age groups is important as well.

"You want your child to be with kids who are physically and mentally the same developmental age, so they're not doing things that are inappropriate for their age," says Hyde.

Another helpful way to learn about a specific summer camp is to ask the camp for references. Parents should follow up by actually contacting the references provided.

Hyde says themed summer camps give children the opportunity to discover whether they're truly interested in something they think might appeal to them.

"Do they really want to get into horseback riding?" says Hyde. To find out, parents can send them to a horseback-riding camp, instead of investing in lessons all year and finding out that their kids don't really like it.

Children going to overnight camps might feel homesick, but Hyde advises parents to avoid the impulse to rush in and try to save their child.

Instead, Hyde advises parents to use talking points like this one: "Oh, I'm so sorry, but believe me, the feeling will go away. This too shall pass." Hyde says parents should advise homesick kids at camp to go out and find something to do, telling them to keep busy and that they will feel better the next day.

Going to summer camp can be a great way for children to develop self-confidence.

"Let them learn from the experience," says Hyde. "It is a wonderful growth experience."

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