Deciding to send your child to summer camp is easy. Hundreds are available. Scattered throughout California, the United States and all over the world, there's a camp to fit almost every interest. It's selecting the right one that can be confusing, frustrating and time consuming.
Since popular camps are often booked by April 1, you'll want to make arrangements immediately. Before you even look at a camp brochure, consider the following points. They will help you choose the best program for an unforgettable summer for your child:
--Expectations. What does your youngster anticipate? Does he want to play soccer in Russia or climb Mt. Fuji? Study language and stay with an Italian family? Explore caves in Virginia? Backpack in the High Sierra? Improve study habits? Lose weight? Earn college credit?
--Interests. What does your child like to do? A youngster who rides a bike every spare moment will likely enjoy a different program than one who spends the same amount of time watching TV. Sending any child into a radically different program just to give him a new experience is courting disaster.
--Experience. A preteen or first-time camper will undoubtedly feel more comfortable close to home. All-around camps offer the widest range of activities. If he or she is older or an experienced camper, both of you may decide that a camp that emphasizes water activities or horseback riding, off-site trips, tours or foreign travel is preferable.
--Limitations. Be aware of your child's ability to keep up with his peers. Pay special attention to medical problems such as asthma and allergies, for example.
--Emotions. If your child has never been away from home, or is afraid of new situations, reassurance and discussion are fundamental. If he adapts readily to changing conditions, he'll be a better candidate for an outward-bound program or a 6-week teen tour than other children.
--Your camping experience. Be certain that what you plan will be fun. If you always wanted to be a circus juggler or go white-water rafting, make sure it's your child's dream too.
--Information. Question neighbors, friends and relatives about their children's camping experiences. The American Camping Assn., Southern California Section, (213) 498-5781, will provide you with information about day camps and resident camps in Southern California and Hawaii. The Western Assn. of Independent Camps, (213) 494-8070, can advise you about camps in eight Western states. Peterson's Guides, Inc., (800) 225-0261, lists 1,300 summer opportunities worldwide.
Other sources are Sandra Rudnick, camp broker and representative of Tips on Trips, (213) 859-4738; Katherine Kendall of Kendall & Associates, (213) 274-6262, and Anne Kogen and Marion Tepper of American College Placement Service, (818) 784-6206.