What are your kids doing this summer?

The tree is down and the holiday decorations are tucked away. That means it’s time to starting thinking about summer camp for your pre-school and school age kids. It may seem early in the year, but camps start filling up now.

The San Francisco Bay Area has hundreds of interesting, well-run camps to choose from. There’s a camp for every interest – for the child that wants to be a super-hero, architect, professional cook, princess, or just wants to get outside and get dirty. With all these choices available, how do you choose? We asked Jenny Silva,  the founder and CEO of Sign Up For Camp, for some tips on picking the right camp for your child. She shares her thoughts –

1. Find camps that fit your kids’ interests. For a great summer, it’s good to follow your kids’ interests, not what you wish they were interested in. It’s OK to have them stretch a little bit, but don’t stretch them too far. You don’t have to let your sports nut go to sports camp all summer. But don’t enroll her in painting camp if it’s not appealing.
2. Talk to your friends. But make sure your friends have similar values to you. Some parents rank camps according to how dirty and worn out their kids get running around. Others judge a camp by how much new-found knowledge comes home with the child. Make sure you understand the other parents’ perspective when getting advice.
3. Talk to kids. When your child has playdates, ask his or her friends what camps they went to the past year, what they liked and why. This obviously won’t work for preschoolers, but for older kids, you’ll learn a lot that you might not hear from the parents.

4. Talk to the Camp Director. Every Camp Director we’ve interviewed is happy (and proud) to talk to parents about their camps. The Camp Director sets the tone and the culture of the camp. You are entrusting your child to the camp’s care. If you’re not comfortable with the Camp Director, you shouldn’t send your kid to the camp.

5. Find a buddy. Coordinate with your child’s friends parents. Kids adjust easier and often enjoy the camp experience more if they have a friend in camp with them.

6. Don’t forget about logistics! Be sure to check the location, dates and times. You don’t want to be surprised to find out that the camp is a 30 minute drive from home and doesn’t meet on Monday the day before camp starts. If you’re working, look for camps with extended care options.
Jenny Silva is the founder and CEO of Sign Up For Camp, a website that makes summer planning easier by allowing parents to find great camps and share camp plans with other parents.