10 Tips for Picking a Los Angeles Summer Camp for Your Kids
How do you select a summer camp for your kids? How do you make sure it has all those magical qualities that will result in what you most want – a happy, safe, healthy, engaged child? Here’s our list to help you make finding a Los Angeles Summer Camp more manageable.
1. Attend the Summer Fun & Camp Fair. The Summer Fun & Camp Fair provides your family with the opportunity to learn about the many, many different summer camp options that are available. Meet the counselors and camp representatives, ask questions, gather information, and get a feel for each camp’s program. In addition, children will enjoy games, fun, raffles, and food trucks at the Fair. On Saturday, March 16th from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, the Fair will be held at Palisades Charter High School. And if you can’t make it then, on Sunday, April 7th the Fair is happening in Burbank at The International School of Los Angeles. RSVP online. MomsLA is one of the organizers of this annual event.
2. Talk to your child. Your idea of summer camp may not be aligned with your child’s idea of summer camp. So start the conversation early. How would your child like to spend his days? Inside? Outside? Riding horses or far away from animals? Coding on a computer or avoiding screen time altogether? Working as part of a team? Or creating independently? Is there a particular skill your child wants to learn or improve on?
3. Think logistics. What hours do you want/need your child to attend camp? Is your definition of a “full-day” the same as the camp’s? Is there food service or will you need to provide snack and lunch? Is transportation included? How far is camp from your home and how will the commute impact your family? Are extra care/extended hours available? Are day passes an option? What are the camp’s fees and do they fit with your family’s budget?
4. Do your research. You want to feel good about the camp you’re sending your child to, so do your homework. Find out about licensing, accreditation, background checks, and training procedures. Ask questions, and make sure you get the answers you want. What are the camp’s procedures in case of an emergency? How will they handle physical safety in case someone is hurt or experiences an allergic reaction?
5. Get face-to-face. Meet the camp director, the counselors, and as much of the staff your child will be interacting with on a regular basis. What is your first impression? What are your instincts telling you? How does your child react to these individuals? What is your child’s impression?
6. Ask for referrals. Brochures and websites tell one side of the story. Ask your neighbors and the parents at your child’s school. Ask for the truth, their positive and negative experiences. (And remember, what they consider to be a “negative” may not be an issue for you and your family).
7. Look at the structure of the day. You know your child. Think about your child’s strengths and challenge areas. Will your child thrive in an environment that is very structured? Where each hour of the day is planned for him/her? Does your child need more free choice? The chance to move from activity to activity, to not do the same thing two days in a row? Make sure the camps you’re looking at fit the needs (social, academic, and emotional) of your child.
8. Identify your child’s goals and interests. Is your child a budding actor? Interested in finding out how things work? Does your child like to cook, paint, or play soccer? Does your child love to be outside? Find a camp that is aligned with who your child is and what will make your child feel engaged and eager to return to camp day after day.
9. Be realistic about your expectations. What is it that you hope your child will learn, achieve, and/or complete during summer camp? Do you want your child to improve his/her struggling Spanish language skills? Are you hoping your child becomes a more confident swimmer? Would you like your child to simply meet new people and have new experiences? Think about why you’re sending your child to camp and what you hope they get out of the experience.
10. Stay true to you and your family. After you’ve gathered all the information, you’re ready to make a decision. Trust your decision. Even if it’s not the “popular one.” Even if the other kids in your neighborhood all seem to be going to different camps. If this is the camp that you and your child feel best about, that appears to be the best fit for you and your family, then that’s the camp you need.
And don’t forget to check out our Summer Camp Guide with hundreds of camps with everything from STEM to Art to Outdoor Adventure to Sleep Away camp.