How can I find a good summer camp, and when do I need to start looking?
You have many options for finding a good summer camp. The first step is to know your child, to know what his or her interests are, as well as where his or her strengths and weaknesses are. With this information, you can choose an appropriate program that will best suited to your child.
Speak to friends and neighbors about where their children go. Then take that information and do your own research on each of those options.
Pick up a local guide of summer camps, or check out the American Camp Association's Web site.
Speak with your child's teachers and coaches to see where they feel your child might find a good fit. Perhaps he or she excels in one area but needs help in another and there is a camp that will fit those needs perfectly.
Check out programs offered through your town's department of recreation, through your religious group or see what kind of summer programs your child's school offers.
It's never too early to start looking. It is always best to see a summer camp in action, so if possible plan a visit the summer before to see what it's actually like when the kids are there and to hear what they have to say for themselves. If that's not possible, request catalogs, DVDs and other information from your potential choices in the early fall. This way, you have time to seek out many opinions before you make your decision.
Always ask what the deadlines for applications are and find out what kind of refund (if any) is offered, should your child change his or her mind after you've put down a deposit. Get the applications in early so you don't get closed out of the camp you want. Also, keep in mind that many camps offer a discount for early enrollment. Remember, the early bird gets the worm!