Brrr! It’s Time to Think about Camp

by Kara Beitzer

It might be the snow and Santa season, but thinking ahead to summer camp could benefit your family.

More and more summer camps and programs fill up by April or May. Registering early can ensure your child gets into his first-choice camp or choice of programs within a camp. Some camps give discounts to early registrants. Camps say early registrations significantly help them sharpen programs and selection of staff to run them.

More than half of the camps that responded to a MetroKids camp survey say they offer discounts for early registration — usually by April or May. Some camps give goodies such as T-shirts to early registrations. YMCA Camp Mason in Hardwick, NJ, even lets early registrants pay last year’s rates if they pay in full by Dec. 31.

Other camps, such as the Hun School of Princeton Summer Programs, offer sibling discounts. In addition to a $20 per week sibling discount, Hun also offers a discount for successfully recommending the camp to another family, says Donna O’Sullivan, director of auxiliary services. Some camps, such as Summer Adventures Camp in Hockessin, DE, give discounts to campers who enroll for the entire summer. Some camps give discounts for campers who attend for multiple weeks

To get these discounts, some camps require that you pay in full by a specified early bird date.
Ensure placement. “The other advantage to early registration, in addition to discount, is to assure that there will be space for the camper. We never know in advance if we will be full,” says Rodney Robb, president and director of Actors Center Summer Workshop in Philadelphia.

Some Programs Fill Up
In any given year, popular programs could close registration earlier than expected. In Wilmington, DE, A Tatnall Summer had several sessions and programs that closed as early as Jan. 31 last year.

Besides ensuring your child’s placement at her favorite camp, registering early guarantees she can enroll in the sessions she wants, with dates that work best for your family. Specialized camps and programs sometimes fill quickly because they have relatively few slots or high demand. The reading/language arts instruction program at Benchmark Summer Camp in Media, PA filled completely last year. By registering early, you “can ensure that you will receive a choice in the Language Arts session,” says Lynn Gonzalez, the camp’s director of development programs.

At Parsons Center for the Arts: Creative Express Summer Camps in Merchantville, NJ, the pottery and drama programs usually fill up quickly, and director Rossana Parsons recommends early registration. Hands-On History Camp at the Claymont, DE, Stone School takes only 10 participants each summer, usually repeat campers. “Registering early will guarantee a space here,” says Riva Brown, Education Director.

Another good reason to enroll early is that camps sometimes cancel specialized sessions if enrollment is too low by a certain date.

Planning Advantage
“Early registration gives families the best chance of choosing dates and groupings that best fit their schedules and their children’s academic needs,” says Tina Maida Masington, director of Education Service, Inc., which manages the E.S.I. Learning Camps in Wilmington and Middletown, DE.

“Parents can have peace of mind that their child’s favorite place to be in the summer has a spot reserved just for them,” says The Hun School of Princeton’s Donna O’Sullivan.
Give the camp a break. Registering early can help your child’s camp fine tune its summer programs. By gauging how many campers will be attending this summer, the camp can plan staff, age groups, schedules and facilities to match.

“Registering early allows camp directors to anticipate their staffing and supply needs better, ensuring the best camp experience,” says Laura Kelly, owner and president of Handwork Studio Day Camp in Narberth and Rosemont, PA.

“Early registration is very helpful in terms of organizing staff, special events and field trips,” says A Tatnall Summer’s Michele Jennings. “For example, when our numbers are high enough we are able to bring in professional performers to enrich the camp experience.”

When can I register? Many camps already are accepting registrations. Others open registration in January. Some early discounts end later this month. MetroKids’ Camp Directory 2008, the region’s leading directory of summer camp opportunities, begins in next month’s issue.

So snow and ski season might be the right time to focus on your child’s summer plans.

Kara Beitzer is an editorial assistant at MetroKids.