There are so many different summer camp options available to today’s families. How do you sort through them all and find the one that is the right fit for you? Jill Makkay, Chief Operating Officer at the Hamilton Area YMCA and co-chair of the New Jersey YMCA Day Camp Network, has more than 25 years to experience with all kinds of camp. Here are her tips:

It’s important to know what “kind” of camp you are signing up for! Is it an elite sports camp designed to start your child’s path to the pros? Is it an academic camp for kids with Ivy League aspirations? Or is it focused on summer fun and friendship? All camps should have a well-conceived curriculum designed to achieve certain outcomes. Here at the Hamilton Area YMCA, imagination, creativity, initiative, and leadership are the cornerstones of our camp curriculum. At the end of their camp experience, your child will build their skills and self-confidence and formed friendships that will last a lifetime.

Know what your child wants to do all day! Does he want to be in an intense training environment? Or would she prefer to a more relaxed environment? Does he like to swim? Or would she rather be indoors? At the Hamilton Y, we’re all about active play! We have fields for all kinds of sports; a rock wall and a challenge course; a full playground and rope climb; a human foosball court; lots of shady pavilions for arts and crafts; an air-conditioned indoor gymnasium; and, of course, the pool! With its 100-foot spiral waterslide, our pool plays an important part in every camper’s day.

Make sure the schedule fits into your plans! Nothing is worse than booking a block of camp weeks, and then realizing you’ll be on vacation for part of that time. Make sure the camp has a flexible schedule, so you aren’t paying for weeks you aren’t using. At the Y, you can book 10 weeks or just one!

Camp should be easy to get to. You don’t want to add stress to your summer by choosing a camp that adds lots of time to your commute. Find a camp that has convenient transportation options like busing from a central location.

Be sure your child will be safe. Every camp should be prepared for the occasional bump, bruise or skinned knee, so make sure the staff at your camp is trained in First Aid and CPR. Even better, make sure they have a full-time nurse on the premises!

Match the camps values to your family’s values. Your child will be spending a lot of time with their camp counselors during the summer. Will they be teaching them values that are consistent with yours? At the Y, we’re all about fair play, friendship, and positive encouragement. We teach our campers respect, responsibility, and how to be an engaged member of our community … all while having fun!

Hamilton Area YMCA — Rich Clayton, 609-581-9622 x21105 or

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