While summer may seem a long way off, now is the time to enroll your child in day camp. But don’t panic—with the right mindset and some targeted research, choosing a summer camp for your child doesn’t have to be stressful. We spoke to Christopher Bruno, Director of the Staten Island Academy Day Camp about how to choose a summer camp for your child this summer.
Research the best camps near you.
There are many ways to learn about camps: Attend a local camp fair, browse websites, take a tour of the camp facilities, call the camp to speak to the director. Ask around and see where friends have sent their kids to camp. After parents narrow down their options, Bruno suggests they research the following issues.
Find out if the activities meet your family’s needs.
Bruno urges parents to research the camp’s program and get a sense of whether it will work for their family. Maybe your little one really wants to learn how to draw, or she has a passion for tennis. Do you want to invest in a specialty camp or one that is more multi-faceted? Is location important? What about bussing?
While no camp can fulfill every expectation, many can come close. Staten Island Academy Day Camp’s 12-acre campus, which features athletic fields, two outdoor pools, and air-conditioned classrooms (for dance, science, arts and crafts, and computers), offers such a wide range of activities that it’s likely that one or more of these will fulfill your kids’ fantasies. Staten Island Academy Day Camp also offers a talented and gifted program, a Lego program, and private tutoring. “I call it a combination camp of both indoor and outdoor, so it meets both worlds that families are looking for,” Bruno says.
Parents should also ask about how a camp’s programming caters to each age group. For example, Staten Island Academy Day Camp offers off–campus trips for older kids. “Fifth and sixth graders go on local trips like bowling, while seventh and eighth graders go on longer day trips to Great Adventure or laser tag. There’s always something different to do and something unique at campus, while also keeping the foundation of the weekly theme days,” Bruno adds.
Figure out if the camp will work with your schedule.
According to Bruno, parents should be especially conscientious about scheduling and enrollment options when choosing a summer camp. Is there a minimum day/week requirement and can you add on to that if summer doesn’t go exactly as planned? Staten Island Academy Day Camp’s system is ideal for working parents. “We do not close out families or make families register on a weekly basis,” Bruno says. “Each week’s schedule can be different as long as they tell me when they register. But even then, if for some reason you get called into work, you can call up and add a day.” The camp also offers extended hours before and after camp, including one-on-one swim instruction.
Visit the camp and get a feel for the campus and staff.
“It’s important to know where your child is going to be. What is the classroom space like? Where are they changing from swim back into their regular clothes?” Bruno recommends attending an open house and “understanding that if a camp is trying to pressure you into registering and they’re not allowing the program to sell itself, then the program isn’t as strong as they’re making it out to be.” Many camps like Staten Island Academy Day Camp offer open houses throughout the winter and spring so check their websites or social media to find out how to sign up.
Ensure that the camp is professional and credible.
Bruno recommends parents find out how long the camp has been open and ask out about the director’s background. For example, Bruno, who has been at Staten Island Academy Day Camp for 17 years, says his camp has been open since the 1950’s so they have had plenty of time to work out any kinks. Another advantage of Staten Island Academy Day Camp is that they have an experienced staff (many of whom are teachers or advisors at the school). “We’re always consulting with our administration,” Bruno adds.
Find out if the camp is safe—especially during COVID.
Most camps will have a story to tell about the past two summers. Were they open? What COVID precautions did they take? What was their success rate? Bruno says that Staten Island Academy Day Camp, which was closed in 2020, had no issues with COVID in 2021. This year they will implement the same protocol—limiting indoor groups, using masks indoors, cleaning equipment after every use, and grouping campers in consistent pods—and they will also require vaccinations or negative PCR tests for the staff. Plus, campers who are feeling sick can skip the camp day at no cost. “We will refund their money at the end of the summer for the days missed because we want to keep everyone safe and protect all families from spreading COVID,” Bruno explains. “It’s important that families know it’s not about the money. It’s about safety first.”
While it can feel like a lot of work to choose a summer camp for your child, the research is worth the effort. And if all the boxes are checked, go ahead and sign up. It will give your little one something fun to look forward to during this chaotic time.
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