Get amped! There are affordable summer camp options

Did your summer camp look like this?

It's official. It's summertime, my friends. Time to read a good book, laze around at the beach, sleep in. You wish. If you're a working parent and you haven't figured out how to keep your kids occupied with some life-enriching, brain-expanding activity this summer -- you're late! Even picking a summer camp for your kid isn't simple anymore. Peg Smith knows all things summer camp. She's CEO of the American Camp Association.

"What you'll find today is a great diversification in today's camp community. It goes really from a really traditional camp where you may in fact have tents to very high-end camps and also specialty camps, and a blend of those in between. We say there's a camp for every interest, every child, and every budget," says Smith.

A week at a camp these days could cost you anywhere from $500-$2,000.

"When you're looking at costs, you have flexible sessions. You can look at discounts that are available, sliding-fee scales. I always say to people: don't be alarmed until you really do your homework," says Smith. "We tend to think that a quality camp is only demonstrated by the costs. I just want to caution that parents not judge the quality of the camp simply on the costs of the camp. Quality has to do with health and safety. Quality has to do with facility. Quality also has to do with the staff training, staff ratios, the kind of programming, whether they have trained their staff, etc. You do your homework. I always say one of the best things to do is to go to CampParents.org. It really gives parents the list of questions they need to ask and the things they should look for."

Smith says some camps give out a scholarship or offer a sliding fee. She says to be on the lookout for discounts on things like earlier registration or multiple enrollment. And she advises parents to talk to the camp director and ask what help is available.

"This experience is more important than it ever has been in history. It connects you to nature, it allows you to have authentic relationships, and it's also human powered," says Smith.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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