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Katie Bugbee

Katie Bugbee. Katie is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Katie is a busy working mother of two, she's an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.

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6 Tips for Picking the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

If you went to summer camp, you have a million amazing memories. Where else can you make friendship bracelets and lifelong friends? But with so many options these days, which one is the best for your child?

Is it day camp or sleepover? With friends or without? And which interests should you focus on?

boy campHere are the six factors you should focus on when choosing the best camp for your child.

1) Talk about Expectations 
Before you even start your research, discuss the idea of camp with your child. What does he want to do this summer? Who would he want to go with? What new things would she like to accomplish? This will help you start a nice search. However, always factor in your Dad-intuition: if you know he could use a chance to meet new friends, or focus on her swimming skills as well as her love of animals, don't rule things out just because your child has a strong opinion. Balance will be key to challenging kids while giving them the summer of their lives.

2) Decide on Day or Overnight 
Day camp is a great way to keep kids active and social all summer long while staying local. And you have more insight into what is going on each day. And it's great if your child is just warming up to camp.

Overnight camp typically starts at age 7. For kids who have outgrown the local camp experience and are looking for a new adventure, this could be an easy choice. If your child does well at sleepovers, follows directions at school and isn't afraid to be independent in new activities, they are good candidates. The only question is - are you ready for them to be away for a week or more?

3) Choose with Friends or Without? 
Clearly, the more local, the more people they'll know. So, if one of your goals for camp is for your child to meet new people and challenge her own social strengths, look outside your town. On the flip side, you'll want to factor in the commute. If the camp doesn't bus kids, you might want to rely on those BFF's parents to create a carpool.

4) Consider the Camp's Focus 
General camps offer a variety of activities, including swimming, archery, team sports, arts and crafts, ropes courses, music and team building activities. So kids experience new interests. But if your child wants to focus on certain skill-building and meet like-minded people, consider a specialty camp. Just remember that three weeks of back-to-back art classes could curb interest in the activity. Adding a week or two at specialty camp after a general camp might be your best way to create balance.

Once you know the style of camp you want, decide if it needs to be gender-specific. Most day camps are unisex, so narrowing your list to a specialty and gender will leave you with fewer options (perhaps making this even easier!).

5) Do Research 
Now you're ready to look into reviews and prices. If going local and interested in joining friends, send an email to certain parents asking what their summer plans are. They might have favorite camps they rave about, to make your decision easy. Once you have a few choices, call the staff and ask some of these relevant questions:

  • How is staff hired, screened and trained?
  • What is the camper to counselor ratio?
  • What is your return rate?
  • How old are the counselors?
  • How do you handle conflicts between campers, or discipline?
  • What type of child best succeeds at this camp?
  • What is a sample daily schedule?
  • What happens if my child takes medication?
  • How do you handle separation anxiety?
  • What are your safety and medical procedures?

Extra questions for Overnight Camps:

  • How do you do laundry?
  • What is a sample menu?
  • Can I send my child care packages?
  • Do kids keep their cell phones?
  • Should I send my child with money?
  • If my child needs to talk to a parent, is that allowed?

6) Meet the Camp Family 
Get to know the people who run the show. Introduce yourself and your child to the director and counselors on the first day. It will let them know you're committed to the camp, and in turn, they will be committed to your child's happiness. Make sure the counselors are aware of any of your child's needs or concerns. This will help you all feel like you're part of a team focused on giving your kid the best camp experience.

Question: What factors go in to you picking a camp for your child? 

This post is from Katie Bugbee. Katie is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.comKatie is a busy working mother of two, she's an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines.

23 Family-Fun Ideas for Entertaining the Kids During the Holidays

The holidays are a time for family – but with all the shopping, wrapping, cooking and cleaning, it's hard to remember to sit down. Playing with the kids – isn't that what grandparents are for this time of year? Well, not really. Or yes, exactly!

christmas family pic

No matter who plays with the little ones, this is really a time to create long-lasting memories with them. Which is clearly why you're working so hard. So here are a few fun ideas to do together – to create and teach about all the holidays – and create some playful moments throughout the chaos.

  1. Say hello to Salvation Army Santas that you pass.
  2. Decorate a faux wreath -- buy from crafts store and have kids accessorize.
  3. Turn your guest room into a Winter Wonderland with handmade paper snowflakes.
  4. Have a holiday movie marathon – each night one person in the family shares a favorite flick.
  5. Have a dinner picnic under the Christmas tree.
  6. Host a Hot Chocolate Taste Test. Try peppermint, eggnog and dark chocolate recipes and have people choose their favorites.
  7. Make reindeer sugar cookies adding chocolate-covered pretzel antlers, and brown and red M&Ms for eyes and nose.
  8. "Elf" friends by leaving bags of cookies and treats on their doorstep – ringing the doorbell and running away.
  9. Create homemade wrapping paper out of brown paper bags, stamps and markers.
  10. Make your own Christmas village out of paper houses and crafting supplies.
  11. Give each child a "treasure hunt" in which they have to each find one present using a number of clues found in wrapped boxes.
  12. Make a special holiday treat for your animals. Verify they can eat the ingredients with the vet.
  13. Make yummy reindeer treats with mini pretzel rods or candy canes.
  14. Send special "thank you for your service" holiday cards to the troops.
  15. Create a photo collage or calendar of the past year. Let kids pick out their favorite pictures.
  16. Make noisemakers out of empty water bottles and rocks for New Years Eve.
  17. On New Year's Eve, stream London's festivities and celebrate the new year early so kids don't miss their bedtime.
  18. Create New Year's hats out of construction paper and streamers.
  19. Go through photo albums and talk about how each child has changed and grown each year. Ask what they want to accomplish this next year.
  20. Create a 2013 Family Time Capsule.
  21. Make a New Years Resolution Tree where each person writes a goal (or two) for 2014 – for all to see.
  22. Host a kid-friendly NYE party with a countdown to noon.
  23. Place 20-30 balloons in a tarp (or unopened garbage bag) and tack to the ceiling. During your NYE countdown, release the balloons, blow streamers and throw confetti.

This post is from Katie Bugbee. Katie is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert at A busy working mother of two, she's an expert on many parenting deliemmas, from apeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter. Interested in blogging for us? Read our guest blog guidelines. 

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