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North Hills Monthly

Choosing the Right Summer Camp Means Asking Lots of Questions

Mar 01, 2017 08:27AM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

Camp Spirit of the Game

Although we still have a few more months before school ends and summer begins, now is definitely the time to start thinking about summer camps. Choosing the right camp for your child can be a daunting task. Today, there are camps to meet every interest, price range and schedule, so knowing your options, as well as your child’s personality, will help you identify programs that will benefit your child the most.

“Summer programs provide a perfect opportunity for kids of all ages to explore, build their curiosity, try something new, hone a skill, and socialize with old and new friends,” said Nataliya Di Domenico, director of summer programs at Sewickley Academy. “Finding an affordable, safe environment enhanced by skilled professionals becomes part of the decision-making process around where a child might fit.” 

When beginning the camp selection process your options are, most likely, limited to places close to home. But you'll still have a choice, which is why it’s smart to talk with camp directors before making any decisions. 

“Good camps should expect parents to have questions,” said Christie Lawry, executive director of Camp Spirit of the Game, Pittsburgh Ultimate’s summer camp for kids ages 7-14. “Questions should include retention rates, course times and duration, cancellation policy, fee proration, safety procedures, transportation, and meals, to just get started.” 

After logistical considerations (location, hours, before/after-camp care, etc.), the next step is to consider your child’s interests. The American Camp Association suggests that parents include their child in the decision-making process and Lawry agrees. 

“It’s important to know a child’s personality and identify what camp programs will benefit him or her most. With a variety of programs and activities, summer camp offers fun and meaningful adventures to match a child’s interests and maturity level,” she said. 

Together with your child, explore the camp options and examine the materials that the camps provide. “Most camps have websites which include photos, maps or even virtual tours of the facility, sample daily schedules and menus, and information about the directors and key staff,” Lawry said. As children become better acquainted with the camp experience and more involved in the decision-making process, they will have less anxiety about going to camp.

Good summer camps should be personalized to the individual child. “At Pittsburgh Ultimate, groups are assessed right away and campers are broken into groups based on size, age and experience,” said Lawry. “Coaches are assigned to the groups that they can best serve and the curriculum is adapted each day based on all of these factors. In addition, the coaches encourage the kids to be good competitors, teammates and people, so everyone feels accepted and a part of the team.” 

Sewickley Academy’s summer camp offers kids a variety of creative and challenging academic, art, and athletic programs to choose from, and all are taught by faculty members. “Whether your children want to build a skill, have fun with friends, expand their creativity, preview a course, or complete an academic course for credit, there is something for everyone,” said Di Domenico. “Our highly qualified instructors challenge every student to excel to his or her best ability.”

For North Hills’ pediatrician Dr. Kasia Sudol, summer camp is something her entire family looks forward to every year. “For the past six years, my kids have enjoyed Pittsburgh Ultimate’s camp. The structured games provide great exercise, and my children enjoy the time spent with their friends. I love the camp because it keeps the two disconnected from their electronics, and the fact that they’re learning while they’re playing.”

Open communication and safety are two other important components in the success of the relationships between camps and the families they serve. “With today’s technology, communication should never be an issue,” said Di Domenico. “Our teachers are easily accessible to the parents through email, phone or in-person as necessary.” 

As for physical security of the campers, Lawry shared that all coaches have background checks and child abuse clearances.

Top camps provide lifelong memories and skills. So whether you're thinking about sending your child to the little day camp down the street or an overnight camp a few states away, following these tips will help you plan a no-regrets summer for everyone.