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How to choose a summer camp By Jon Marcus
The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine
With thousands of camps in New England alone, finding the one that's right for your child can seem daunting. Here's some practical advice.
Having trouble picking out a camp for your kid this summer? Can't make up your mind from among the thousands of camps, the dozens of types, the glossy catalogs, the high-production videos? Racing to narrow down these myriad choices sometime before the bell rings on the final day of school in June?
"There are so many more choices for parents," says Judy Levine, who helps families select summer camps through her Framingham-based referral service Summer Camp and Trip Resources. "Do they want single-sex? Coed? What geographic location? Structured or free choice? What length of time?"
"Don't send your child to camp with a friend," Levine says. "That defeats the purpose. Let him learn to be independent without having a friend tag along." Attending camp together can strain a friendship, she says, and just because one child likes a particular camp doesn't always mean a friend will.
Most camps allow in-season visits. But experienced veterans say parents should do more than take a ride around the campus in a golf cart. First, they say, show up on a weekday. So many parents visit on the weekends that the tours are short and rushed. Second, narrow down your finalists to three contenders at the most. "The kid is going to love the first camp he sees, because there's no point of reference," says Levine, who, with her team, drops in on 50 camps a summer.
Levine likes to visit summer camps on rainy days. "It's important for us to know the kids are still busy even though it's raining," she says. "Are the counselors actually engaged with the campers? One of the things that troubles us is if there are kids sitting on the sidelines, not participating. Why isn't the staff getting these kids involved?" She also watches for "the wanderers," Levine says