How to choose a camp your kids will love

Summer is here. With it comes the most sought after month for my kids–July. July is that month which starts out with the 4th of July parade and fireworks and ends with camp. Yes, summer camp. Each year since the oldest was in third grade, the kids have eagerly longed for their turn to go to camp. In fact, there have been some years where they snuck in two weeks of camp as campers! As they turned fourteen, each and every one of the five have volunteered in the kitchen at camp or as junior counselors as the years progressed. How do you find a summer camp that works for your children? I’d love to invite you all to Camp Fircroft to spend a week “up the mountain”, but it might be a bit difficult for some of you to find your way to the Southern Oregon Coast. So, instead, I’ll tell you what makes a summer camp good.

1. Make sure it fits your child.

Whether it’s basketball, swimming, paintball, or fiddling, your children have something that they enjoy doing. Make sure that camp has that activity available for them. There are numerous sports camps each summer that your kids could attend. One year, we even considered sending our daughter out of state to a fiddle camp where she could expand her violin and piano abilities.

<img="kids hiking at camp">We learned the hard way though that if camp doesn’t fit your children, then they won’t stick it out or enjoy it. As a counselor I had seen the crying kids who were away from home for the first time, but it wasn’t until our twenty-two year old was in third grade, did I send a kid to camp who didn’t belong there. Our son had enjoyed his week up at Camp Fircroft with all the people from our church and even his aunt in the kitchen cooking. So, when we heard about another camp up at Fircroft, we signed him up. We didn’t look into it. It was designed for the city kids to get a glimpse of country life and share the Bible at the same time. However, there was no one up at camp that our son knew! The place was the same, but the way it was run and the people were different. This made all the difference in the world. By Wednesday, we had the call to go up the mountain and pick him up. Several years later, he was able to return to that same camp and enjoy it, but he had two other siblings with him and knew what to expect.

2. Make sure it fits your beliefs.

Camp Fircroft crossCamps are a great place to have kids start to think about life goals and decisions. They are in an isolated, controlled environment with people who care about them. At Camp Fircroft, it’s literally a mountain top experience. It was while at a family camp in Iowa, that my parents made the decision to leave their job and go to Bible College. Just this last week, Mom was reminiscing about that summer camp forty-two years ago! Camps have a huge impact on the lives of people both kids and adults. Knowing ahead of time the philosophy of the camp is a wise idea.

One camp we sent the kids to had a baptism at the end of the week for kids who had made decisions for Christ! That flabbergasted us. We couldn’t imagine how something so important could be done without parents around.

3. Make sure it fits your budget.

The number of summer camps available for you to choose from is astronomical. You could have your kid in camp all summer vacation long! However, it would ruin your pocket book and you’d not have any time with him or her. So, make sure the camp fits with your personal budget. I know when we had four kids at once attending camp, it was expensive despite the multi-child discount offered. Yet, it was worth our money to see how the kids came back excited and having gained new friends. Each year as they head up to camp, they look forward to making new friends.

4. Make sure it fits your family.

Camp should be for the camper, but that means it should fit your family’s values and likes and dislikes. One thing that our kids have loved about Camp Fircroft is the fact that it’s designed for country kids. The cabins just until the last few years were log structures where creatures often ran across the rafters. Kids loved it! They also loved the structured activities of archery and target practice (BBs for the younger camp and .22 for older camps). They looked forward to junior high camp with much anticipation as they then could join in on paintball. All of these activities are ones that our family enjoys.

Camp Fircroft fire dancingFitting the family could also mean that the camp enables your family to be a part of it. For the last seven years or so, someone from our family has gone up to high school or junior high camp on Thursday night. We may get to see the skits, but then as a family, we perform a fire show! It has become a highlight of camp and much talked about afterward. When a camper sees our sons step out on the cement basketball court and begin to handle fire, respect suddenly blooms where it may or may not have been before. Our youngest felt that this last week at camp. Suddenly, his status was raised as he twirled the fire staff and handled the fire sword.

So whether your kids love basketball or dancing, make sure you take advantage of a summer camp near you. Do you have a special memory of summer camp? I’d love to hear it.

What's your take?