Although he’s a rather humble guy, Andy Pritikin is clearly a camp expert.
Pritikin, past president of the American Camp Association and owner/operator of Liberty Lake Day Camp in Bordentown, New Jersey, wants every child to experience the magic of Summer Camp.
As a spokesman and leader of the summer camp industry, before starting Liberty Lake Day Camp, Pritikin worked for 10 years with two of the most successful camp organizations in the country, learning from industry legends.
This summer, Liberty Lake will be host to more than 1,000 children and Pritikin will do everything he can to ensure they have a fun and productive summer.
While the number of camps and a myriad of choices continues to increase with numerous specialty offerings – from sports and STEM camps to cooking, museum, and theater arts’ camps – there is one aspect that has remained the same. Camps can range from a week or two, or an entire summer.
“Whether the camp is focused on learning math, or driving race cars, it is important to expect quality and customer service,” he explained.
“If you can, go to the camp and meet the person in charge. Like the head of a snake, the personality and philosophy of every camp, school, and business trickles down from the top, so find out about the camp owner/director.”
Pritikin says that it is important that children are outside, and since many parents complain that our children are “over-programmed” at school summer camp is the perfect opportunity for free play, allowing them to just be kids.
“Some of my favorite summer memories as a child took place in the backyards of my friends,” he fondly recalled. “Creativity in children comes during free play when they have to make decisions. Playtime today is organized, with karate and other classes, so this free play is just so important for their development.”
While it is a little late in the year to be looking for a camp, since the “earlier the better for planning purposes,” it is not too late to be making a decision.
While big, private traditional camps are still plentiful, he said that many summer programs, with a variety of offerings, call themselves day camps – including those run in zoos, museums, theaters, music venues, natural habitats and more.
“Do your research to find a place that is of high quality,” he said. “Every child is unique and it does take some research to find the right match.”
With children and teens being “so addicted to technology, and their social and communication skills suffering for it,” Pritikin said that “camp is so much more important now than ever before. We need to raise young people who can communicate with their senses, instead of just through their tablets.”
So what makes a great camp? What makes for a successful summer at camp?
“Camp is about relationships. So having a great summer means making great relationships with the other kids, counselors, and staff. It doesn’t take a country club setting, But, what it does need is time for team building, creating a culture of kindness and a set of expectations, and it is up to the adults in charge to maintain that structure or decorum.
Overall, picking a camp is a big decision for your family on a financial and emotional level, so take your time, do your homework, and trust your instinct. Then once school’s out, there will be no doubt that your child will enjoy a super summer that your entire family will remember for years to come.
8 Top Tips for Picking the Right Camp for Your Child This Summer
With summer just around the corner, families near and far will be putting away thoughts of school days and become focused on camp days.
More than 12 million children attend a variety of summer camps each year, that offer a return to outdoor fun, sports, swimming, and other activities, according to the American Camp Association.
These camps provide a much-needed respite from the technology-filled days of social media, video games, smartphones, tablets, the internet, and television.
So, how can parents, guardians, and caregivers make sure that they are selecting the best camp for their children?
According to Andy Pritikin, Past ACA President and owner/operator of Liberty Lake Day Camp in Bordentown, New Jersey, there are several surefire ways you can find the camp that is the right fit.
Ask About Accreditation. The American Camp Association gives its “stamp of approval” for high-quality supervision, program, and facility. Their accreditation program is designed to educate camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, most importantly program quality and the health and safety of campers and staffs. Parents can find accredited camps by zip code online at www.acacamps.org.
Ask to be taken through a typical day at camp. Does the camp provide an extensive menu of activities to fit the needs or interests of every child? Or is the camp more restrictive to cater to a certain skill set? Do the campers get to choose electives or is there a set schedule they must follow? Is there unstructured time for creative play? What about field trips, special events, and swim instruction? If you are investing in making this a memorable time for your child, you need to make sure your child will get the most of out of their experience.
Is this camp all fun and games? Going to camp is all about having fun, but is the camp providing more than just babysitting? What will your child take away from the experience? Does the camp incorporate youth development or character building into their programming? What is the philosophy of what children should get out of their camp experience? Does the camp promote social skills, team playing, positive self-esteem, long-lasting friendships? After all, enrolling a child in camp is a significant financial investment and you want to make sure that investment gives you long-lasting results.
Find out who is in charge. Who is directly interacting with your child? The best camps have teachers and college students running their programs with high schoolers assisting Ask about the age and experience of the counselors and how the camp staffs their leadership positions. You want to feel comfortable and confident that your child is not only happy but also protected and well cared for. You also need to know that throughout the summer, the staff will keep you informed and updated on everything that is going on.
Stop by for a visit or two, if possible. You should never choose a camp based solely on the website or brochure, if at all possible. Meet the director in person, for it is their personality and philosophy that trickles down to the rest of the camp. Walk around the camp and take a look at the bunks, the pools, the playing fields, and the assembly area. If your tour invokes excitement and happiness for your child, it’s a good barometer that you’ve made the right choice. Each camp has its own visitation policy, so find out what it is.
Calculate the costs. There are camps for every budget, but just like anything — you usually get what you pay for. Find out about discounts and the refund policy, and make sure you know all the costs before you sign on the dotted line, including busing, field trip fees, and extended care expenses.
Never Settle. You are spending your hard-earned money to give your child a super summer; don’t hesitate to inquire about concerns regarding bus transportation, dietary restrictions, allergies, or special needs. Remember without campers, there is no camp, so a quality camp will do its best to cater to your needs.
Ask Around. Speak to friends who attend the camps you are considering, or ask the camp if you can contact local families with like-aged children. “Word of mouth” is often more impactful than a snazzy website or marketing materials.