With only 10 weeks left of school, it's that time of year for many parents: time to begin the often frustrating, overwhelming task of finding a summer camp for their kids.
Enter CampSloop.com, a free online service that takes the chore out of finding the perfect summer camp for kiddos and gives parents much needed camp tips and connections. The easily navigated website offers local parents a simple way to make informed decisions when choosing from more than 1,600 Austin-area day and overnight camps.
Camp Sloop co-founder Rebecca Cole was started the service after her own frustrating experience trying to find a summer camp that would excite her two children (of different ages, with different interests) and her own schedule. "It was time-consuming and frustrating," Cole says. "Camp sites were often cluttered with incomplete or outdated information, and I found myself constantly bookmarking and handwriting notes, then forgetting what I had done when I returned to search again."
Cole and fellow frustrated mom Rebecca D’Amico saw a need and immediately flew into action. "We wanted a site that lets you search by multiple criteria, download information for side-by-side comparisons, map your camps, pin camps onto your Pinterest account, and share information with your friends on Facebook or Twitter," adds D’Amico.
The site launched in 2012, and the duo has received tons of positive feedback from parents. To use the site, parents simply visit www.campsloop.com, then search for summer camps by a host of criteria. It's easy to view camps by cost, length, location, age and category. Those who register with the site receive special notices, discounts and activity information.
As for 2014 camps, Cole says "parents should now be planning for summer." "We urge parents to start by registering at CampSloop.com. now in order to be ready to finalize summer plans before the long lines begin to form."
In addition to using their service, Cole and D'Amico suggest the following tips for finding the perfect summer camp match.
- Decide your budget. The cost of camps can add up quickly with many camps at $250/week or more. Make sure you set a budget before promising your child they can attend a certain camp.
- Make sure the basics work. Understand the dates, location, costs and times. Is that week when you have family coming into town? Do you need a morning camp? These are all things you need to make sure you are checking.
- Consider your child’s personality, temperament and interests. Some children are fine attending camp on their own, while others need have at least one friend attend with them. Is summer the time for child to experience a new activity or stretch those brain muscles? Think about what your individual child needs to make the most out of summer.
- Call the camp and talk with them about their program. Do the camp directors call you back in a timely manner? Are they interested in your needs and matching your child to their camp? Are they patient when answering all of your questions? These things matter and give you a sense of how the directors view their campers and parents.
- Ask for a daily schedule of activities. Understand what types of activities they will be doing throughout the day, when they will be inside or outside, who is providing food/snacks, etc.
- Ask about camp counselors’ qualifications. Do they have experience with children and the camp theme? Are they background-checked and certified in CPR/first aid?
- Ask about staff to camper ratios. This can be important to control the chaos and ensure you child has a great experience.
You can read more tips from Camp Sloop at their website.