Summer vacation is just around the corner and many parents and children are looking forward to the months when alarm clocks don't sound in the early morning, bed times are pushed back a bit in the evening, and schedules relax in between.

For many families, summer wouldn't be the same without summer camps. Many parents pursue full-day camp options to complement their work schedules, while other parents look to half-day summer camps as opportunities to keep kids engaged in fun activities. Town recreation departments, local schools, and churches are just some of the many places you can find a variety of activities to fit your child's interests.

Whether you're new to the summer camp scene or you and your kids are camp veterans, consider the following eight tips to help you make the most of your experience.

1. Use the summer to discover different interests.

If your child plays sports or does dance throughout the school year, why not explore other opportunities in the summer months? Maybe your son has a knack for science that he'd like to investigate beyond the classroom. Perhaps your daughter has an interest in nature she'd like to explore.

2. Put the buddy system into action.

Inquire if other parents (neighbors, parents of your child's friends) would be interested in having their child participate in the same camp. Having a friend take part in the camp can make the adjustment easier, and parents can work out a carpooling schedule.

3. Don't be surprised by additional fees.

Know the entire cost of the camp before signing up. In addition to registration fees, are there equipment fees, snack fees, or other expenses for which you'll be responsible?

4. Check the weather forecast.

When doing your camp research in May, an outdoor soccer clinic in August sounds great. Fast forward three months and possibly add 20 degrees to the temperature. Will your child enjoy running the soccer field under the hot August sun? Perhaps an indoor camp during the late summer months might work better.

5. Prepare for outdoor activities.

Apply sunscreen before camp begins. Provide your child with a large water bottle and a healthy snack (orange slices are great for replenishing fluids). If permitted, have your child wear a hat or sunglasses. Ask camp counselors or assistants how many breaks are permitted.

6. Be courteous of camp starting and ending times.

If a morning camp begins at 9 a.m., do your best to have your child there close to 9:00. Some camps begin drop off times 30 minutes prior to the start of camp, but don't assume this is true. Conversely, an ending time of 12 noon or 3 p.m. doesn't mean 12:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. unless specified. Counselors and staff have places to be, too, after the camp is done.

7. Arrive for an early pick up to observe.

Pick a day mid-week to arrive early or stay a few minutes late so you can see the camp in action. Doing so gives you hands-on observation as to how the camp is organized.

8. Show interest.

Don't view a day camp as simply a summer babysitting service. Ask your child about his or her day. Engage in conversation about what activities they did.

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