How to book a just-right camp – Orange County Register

Most camps give parents a list of suggested clothes and items to pack in advance. (Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto)

I was amazed when my oldest daughter reached camp age and other moms started talking about summer camp in February. I was still recovering from the holidays and here we were looking five months ahead when our children would have holidays again. Although most of us missed a summer or two of camp due to the pandemic, we are now back on the field and planning ahead again. Here are a few parent-to-parent pro tips for booking summer camp this year.

1. Reflect on your child’s needs.

My daughter, who will be in fifth grade this fall, has a very planned and busy school year full of a cappella rehearsals, piano and fencing lessons, and play dates. I learned my lesson last summer when she completed a four week highly structured summer camp. She came home after the first week and said, “This feels a lot like school.” So this year I’m going to help her focus on a few weeks of camp that are more fluid and fun. She has her eye on a week of craft camp and maybe a week of fun and games camp. The point is, think about your child and what type of camp will best meet their needs to facilitate a smoother, happier summer.

2. Try old and new while also thinking about academics and emotional needs.

For some children, summer is a great time for academic review and support. A neighbor of mine recently shared that her daughter was having a tough year in math class, so she was looking for a summer experience that included that academic component.

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On the other hand, if your child needs to unwind from academics, try a themed camp that focuses on a passion they have or something else entirely. Costa Mesa’s Mack brought her two daughters to Vanguard University basketball camp, though neither of them were basketball players. The girls had a great time, she said, and she was impressed by how well organized and trained it was. This year, she’s considering the new Emerald Cove Day Camp, which offers archery, tide pool time, hiking and more.

3. Ask about the approach or camp philosophy.

You know yourself and your child’s needs best, so do your research before signing up for camp. Most speak directly to their mission on their website, so make sure what you read aligns with what you want out of a camp. For example, Camp Izza in Irvine is all about relationships and creating a safe and engaging space in which to build them.

“We believe the most important thing is to relate to others and to understand and value yourself,” said Camp Izza founder Omar Ezzeldine. “The games and activities we play are less about what we do and more about who we become and how we accept ourselves and others. Programs like ours tend to attract shy campers or those who just need a space to be proud of who they are.”

4. Consider dormitory camps for the older children.

For children who are willing to exercise their independence from the family unit, consider a dormitory camp, either close to or further from home. After many screenings of the movie Parent Trap, my oldest child was determined to have a week-long sleep experience this year; We chose one in Fresno County, but there are many in or closer to Orange County itself, like Catalina Sea Camp, that are great for sea adventurers. The camp offers one-week programs for campers aged 8-13 and three-week programs for campers aged 12-17.

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