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How to Find the Right Summer Camp

Looking for a great summer camp? Here's how to start.

Think it’s too soon to start thinking about summer camp? It’s not — summer may seem far off now, but winter is prime time for camp decisions. Whether your child is headed to camp for the first time, or just looking for something different this year, the number of options can be overwhelming. Here’s some advice about what to look for when making your choice. 

1. Do your kids want to go?

Talk to the kids about summer camp and gauge their responses. Include them in the decision-making process as much as possible. “Parents are collaborating with their children on what types of programs might be the best fit for them,” said Heather Murphy Monteith, general manager and site director for ESF Haverford. “Kids are now driving the choices parents make about which camp to choose — and why not? It’s summertime, school’s out, the weather is hot and there are nearly three magical months dedicated to JUST being a kid.”

2. Why, what, where?

Getting into the specifics of what you’re looking for will narrow your search. Are you looking for your forever camp? When thinking of location, do you picture a museum, outdoor fields, or a laboratory? Is your child comfortable being out of their comfort zone and trying new things or do you want them to spend time refining established talents? What is your budget? Are you signing up siblings? Do you want them interacting throughout the day? Answers to these questions will impact your decision.

3. Check out your options

Tours, camp fairs, and open houses are designed to give you a feel for the location. Have the kids join you, if possible. Ask about the medical facilities, swimming availability, and test-drive the commute. Do they offer half-days, full-days, or extended-day options? Ideally, you want a camp that best matches your parenting style, one way to find it is by seeing the program yourself.

4. Check in with friends

Where are your children’s friends going? Ask around:  your kids will be more enthusiastic about going to camp if they know their friends will be there (and knowing they have ready-made pals will be a load off your mind as well). It’s also a fantastic way to get insider information about a camp your child’s friend has attended.

5. Proof in the pudding

Once you’ve narrowed your search, you need to know which camps outperform others in the ways that count the most: their credentials. Be sure to check their licenses, permits, and insurance. Find the camper-to-staff ratio (the lower the better), the camper-return rate (an average of 50 percent is a good baseline), and the staff return rate (40 percent is a solid rate). Another key question to ask: What is their discipline policy? 


ESF Haverford offers a wide array of camps, so it’s easy to match your child with the perfect summer activity. ESF employs a highly-trained, all-adult staff that manages the care of all the campers. And with many camps to choose from — including sports, traditional day, tech, mini, tennis, and senior — children are given the flexibility to choose what works best for them. There’s even a camp for budding chefs! That variety is especially amazing for families with multiple kids. 


What makes ESF Haverford special? To keep camp programs up to date, relevant, exciting, and to keep children coming back summer after summer, the programming director researches and writes camp curriculum even after summer camp is over. This passion for solid programming is consistent throughout the entire staff. Tayler Fay, an ESF team member, said: “I love the energy and the people I work with. Everyone is so positive. It makes me love coming to work. Heather somehow each year, hires the hardest working people, which makes me push myself to do more.”


Team members truly make a difference, becoming leaders and instilling confidence in campers.


Parents love ESF Haverford counselors, the number of activities for their kids, and how happy their kids are at camp. Carolyn Vachani, a parent of an ESF camper, raved: “Having an all-adult staff makes a big difference in how the counselors are equipped to deal with the kids. They made my shy, nervous kid feel right at home from the first week. In addition, the swimming instructors were patient and committed to making instructional swim my son’s favorite part of the day; this after he wouldn’t get in the pool the first few days.”


Tradition flows through the fabric of what makes ESF stand apart from the rest, including the end of the season Family Fling, where you can see all the fun your children had all summer long.


If you’re looking for an amazing staff, a great location, sports, fun, and a flexible schedule, try ESF Haverford this summer. Register before December 31, 2016, for bonus holiday savings and the best prices for 2017! All early bird discounts end January 23, 2017, so sign up today.


Want to know more? Join ESF Haverford for an open house on January 15, 2017. Sessions run at 1, 2:15, and 3:30 pm. Go to ESF’s website anytime for more information.


Photographs courtesy of ESF Camps.

Education. Sports. Fun. The widest variety of award-winning day, sports and specialty camps. All designed to explore each camper's passions and potential. Rich in experiential learning and character building curriculum.


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