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Finding the Best Day Camp for Your Child

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Some of the most stressful times for working mothers can be summer, spring break and just about any time school isn't in session. That's when we must scramble for day camps that will occupy, stimulate and entertain our children while we're at work. For this reason, you need to scout out, obtain references and visit the best day camps in your area.

However, finding the right day camp isn't always easy. Try employing the following tactics and asking the following questions to day camp providers to choose the best day camps in your area.

Scouting Out Day Camps:

Ask your friends for recommendations. If you have friends with older children who have been enrolled in various day camps, seek recommendations for day camps they liked best. Ask your friends why they favor certain day camps over others. (Remember we all have different criteria for measuring the success of a day camp. One friend may have disliked the high cost of a particular day camp, but wasn't opposed to the programming.)

Look for advertisements in local parenting magazines. Your local parenting publication is usually a good source for day camps. Often, day camps will post advertisements well in advance of the summer, winter or spring breaks. Jot down phone numbers for camps, and call to make inquiries. If it's a year round program, ask to visit the day camp facilities. If the day camps are only in session when school isn't, ask to interview camp organizers over the phone or in person.

Inquire at your school, church, local YMCA or other community group. Day camps are commonly held in houses of worship, schools, and local recreational facilities, such as the YMCA, when school is on a break. If you're a member of your local YMCA and your child has attended programs there, he or she will feel comfortable in that environment for day camp. Similarly, your child’s school and your regular house of worship are trusted places to inquire about day camp.

Questions for Day Camp Providers:

What are your hours of operation? Are full-day camp sessions available? If you work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and want your child in camp during that time period, you'll need to know the day camp hours of operation, and if after care is available if needed.

Does the day camp offer on-going sessions? Many day camps have a seasonal schedule. Inquire about start and end dates of any day camp you're considering. Some local facilities will offer two or three week long day camps, which may suit your needs for only a short time. In this case, you may have to line up several different day camps to cover summer vacations and school breaks.

Is swimming involved? Day camp during the summer often involves pool activities if the facility you choose is equipped with one. Facilities with indoor pools may include swimming for winter break camps as well. If your child is not a confident swimmer, you'll want ask if swimming lessons are given. If you aren't comfortable with your child in the pool, or the level of pool-side supervision, you'll want to seek camp facilities without pools.

When is day camp registration? Day camps often have a cap per grade or age group on the number of children accepted. For this reason, be aware of registration dates to secure a spot for your child at the day camp of your choice.

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