Firebird camp

After choosing to send a child to summer camp, parents face another decision – which type of camp.

This can make selecting the right camp difficult, according to Courtney Guzy, executive director of Hiram House Camp in Moreland Hills, and Joe Mendes, director of Camp Roosevelt Firebird in Bowerstown, about 35 miles south of Canton. To make the decision easier, parents should consider a few things.

“It all depends on the parents’ goals,” Mendes stated. “Of course, all camps are fun but there’s so much more to consider. Are parents looking for a camp that teaches specialized skills? A specific interest? A day camp? Art focused camp? Parents should think about what the child is ready for and what the child is interested in.”

In the camp search, Mendes said parents should consider overnight camp.

“Quality overnight camps (are a) benefit (to) a child’s personal growth,” he explained. “They foster a camper’s self-confidence, independence, communication skills, emotional well-being, resilience and much more. All of this happens as the child is away from home, and perhaps because of that fact.”

By considering a child’s specific interests, parents have a better chance of selecting the perfect experience. Guzy said the worst thing a parent can do is send their child to a camp that isn’t appropriate for them.

“Asking your child what they would like to experience and learn over the summer will make for an easier decision in selecting a summer camp,” she said. “Many times, summer camps have open houses. We suggest that you attend an open house with your child to make sure that it will be the right choice and fit.”

Guzy suggested parents sit down with their children and ask them questions about the experience they are looking to have. These questions include: Do you think you are ready to spend the summer away from home? Are there any camps your friends are attending that you would like to attend? Is there anything special you want to experience this summer?

After asking children their opinion of camp, parents should then do their own research, Mendes said. Many websites, including Northeast Ohio Family Fun, have lists of both day and overnight camps. Parents can then visit specific camp websites to find more information, he added.

“Good camps should have a clear mission,” Mendes noted. “You can ask about camper to counselor ratios, health and safety procedures, staff training and much more. Ask the camp for testimonials or parent references. Make sure the camp gives counselors 18 and over a background check.”

Mendes suggested parents call or email camp leadership and see how fast they respond to gauge how well the camp communicates.

“See how rapid a response you get, that will be highly instructive,” he said. “If a camp does not respond quickly, imagine how things will be in the summer with all those kids. I would pay the most attention to your interaction with the director. Gauge how much the director listens to you and learns about you as opposed to selling you on their camp.”

After whittling down the list, a trip to the site is a good last test, Guzy said. But, it’s also important to do a final check-in with your child, she added.

“If your child has decided to go to an overnight camp, make sure they are ready,” she stated. “Do they go for sleepovers at friend’s houses and not call home? Great. Then an overnight camp will work. If you are sending your child to a traditional outdoor camp, make certain they are comfortable in nature, camping outside and being around animals. But most importantly, make sure they will have fun.”

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