Bake Delicious Banana Bread

banana bread

Here is an easy, delicious and kid friendly recipe you can try with ripe bananas.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Carefully cream the sugar, butter, and eggs in a mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears. Lumps are good

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

Did you know?

More than 100 billion bananas are eaten every year in the world, making them the fourth most popular agricultural product.

 

Take at Hike at Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park!

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I love living in the South. It is the perfect mix of moderate weather, low cost of living, and great recreational activities. As a resident of Kennesaw, Georgia, I am also lucky to have Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park as an extension of my own back yard. According to the National Park Service, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is a 2,965 acre National Battlefield that preserves a Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign.  With the park only a few hundred feet from my home, we visit the park and hike the trails almost daily. My oldest daughter has her own walking stick and happily spends hours each weekend walking the 20+ miles of trails, examining rocks, and watching the birds with me.  Even at 2.5 years old, I notice that being out in nature has a profound effect on her. I hope to nourish that sense of wonder and love for recreation as we continue to travel to the various National Parks over the next several years.

For those that are interested in geology, Kennesaw  Mountain is located in the Upper Piedmont geological region, which is most commonly characterized by stratas of  igneous and  metamorphic igneous rock. This could also explain why these counties with were so rich in gold. Between 1830 and 1959, over 871 thousand ounces of gold were mined in North Georgia.  Although Georgia was a historically important gold producer (especially during the Civil War), the state does not presently produce any gold commercially. Gold is still panned from some of its streams. Try your luck! The neighboring city of Acworth was a booming gold-mining town in the mid-1800s. Ruins of gold mines and gold-related industries can still be seen along County Line Rd. in western Cobb County.

From a historical perspective, Cobb County was north of the old Cotton Line, which marked the northern limit of cotton species grown before the Civil War. There were few, if any, cotton plantations until the late 1870s when a new variety of cotton was developed which thrived in the river valleys of northwestern Georgia. As a result, relatively few slaves were owned in antebellum Cobb; at least as compared to the thousands in counties within central, west and southern Georgia.

Kennesaw once contained numerous mounds, stone cairns and Native American cemeteries. Most were destroyed in the 20th century by private land owners or county utility construction project. Those that remain are primarily in protected flood plains or on federally owned land in either the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park or the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

Did you know?

Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park is one of the most extensive preserved Civil War sites in the South. The park was authorized for protection by the War Department in 1917 and was transferred to the Department of the Interior as a unit of the National Park System in 1933.

Real Estate 101- Find the Right Real Estate Agent

real estate 101

I loved investing in real estate. It was fun, full of calculated risk, and financially rewarding. My wife and I have years of experience “flipping” homes and developing property in New Jersey and California. Although we both stepped away from the real estate business several years ago, we are always on the hunt for a good deal. Buying or selling a house is more than just a business transaction. It is about your family, your community, and your life. Although I may write about the specifics of investing in real estate at a later time, this post will outline some things to keep in mind before hiring a real estate agent to sell your home.

If you drive around your town, you can’t miss the dozens of homes for sale, idly sitting on the market for weeks or months. This type of pathetic marketing combined with lethargic real estate agents can result in financially devastating results where only one in five listed homes will sell.

Below are a few of the many possible reasons as to why your home hasn’t sold with a real estate agent.

You have a lousy agent

Believe it or not, they do exist! These are the agents that mislead by allowing sellers to overprice their home (“Here’s what I can get for you if you list with me!”), not market it properly, fail to screen for qualified buyers, be unresponsive to interest from other agents (if they sell their own listing, they don’t have to split the commission) and keep sellers totally in the dark throughout the process . What’s more, if the agent is abrasive, or has a reputation of being difficult to work with, other agents will not want the hassle of showing any of their listings to prospective buyers! Protect yourself – initially list with them for 30 days and if they can’t get the home sold and/or communicate poorly during that time, find a new agent!

You have an inexperienced agent

Take a class, pass a test. In many states, that’s all you need to become a real estate agent. As a rule of thumb, I don’t work with any agent that has less than 1 year of full time experience. Although many new agents have the best intentions, that lack of experience can cost you dearly. Everyone has a friend or relative that is also an agent – please proceed with caution. It might make Thanksgiving a little awkward if you don’t list with them, but that’s ok. You deserve to have the best real estate representation possible – without compromise.

Before I work with any agent, I ask them one basic question:

What is the difference between an American Colonial and Cape Cod?

You would be shocked to find out how little some agents actually know about real estate! If they stumble or can’t produce a answer immediately, it’s time to find a new agent. Although it is not necessary for real estate license, an agent should be familiar with the different styles of homes and the benefits/shortcomings of each. If an agent hasn’t taken the time to learn their craft, they do not deserve your money.

Ineffective Marketing

Gone are the days when an agent could simply place a listing with the local multiple listing service, hold a halfhearted open house and wait for another agent to bring forth a buyer. Today’s top performers launch a multilevel marketing plan that includes listing tours for area agents, newspaper and even TV ads, weekend open houses, listing fliers and placements in local real estate publications.

Your home doesn’t “show” well

Remember: Your home is competing against shiny new houses in those pristine subdivisions with their attractive prices, enticing incentives and community amenities.

Face it: Even the best old home needs a little makeover if it hopes to attract a qualified buyer.

The good news is most of the work will be cosmetic and relatively inexpensive: a new coat of paint, a few attractive window boxes, and thorough cleaning of floors and carpet might be all you need to attract the right buyer.

You’ve seen the shows and commercials’ telling you that it’s a “buyer’s market” and that the “golden time” for real estate is now! Don’t fall into this trap. Because everyone’s needs are different, it is important that your real estate agent spends adequate time to fully understand you needs and lifestyle with honest dialogue and thoughtful questions. Good Luck!

The truth about your pet Goldfish (and why they die so quickly)

She won her first goldfish!

She won her first goldfish!

Have you ever wondered why your child’s pet goldfish never lived more than a few weeks or months if you’re lucky?  The truth may surprise you.

Who doesn’t love goldfish? This spring, I took my daughter to her first carnival. Since she’s only two and a half, I knew that the excitement from this evening could make bedtime a breeze for us. I figured we’d eat some ice cream, see the circus animals, and by the time we took our second trip around the carnival festivities, she’d be ready for bed. My plan was on track and my daughter was exhausted as we concluded up our second lap.  As I picked her up and started to walk towards the exit, a bright light caught my eye. I  walked past a well lit carnival booth that offered the opportunity win a goldfish!  Suddenly, I was taken back to a time when I was a young child. I remembered going to the state fair with my parents and begging them for some money to play the same game with the prospect of winning a goldfish. I remember standing there, completely focused on the task at hand – landing my ping pong ball into the fishbowl. I was a winner every summer. In my mind, I felt like it was divine intervention. It was time for my daughter to win her own fish. Since we received twenty ping pong balls for $5, I was confident that she’d come home with at least one fish.

We went home with three fish that night.

As a child, my fish never lived more than a month or two. Despite my parent’s best efforts to keep the tank clean and the fish fed, I would eventually wake to find one or all of my fish floating upside down in the tank. With these new additions to the family, my wife and I were determined to create an environment that allowed our fish to live as long as possible. After hours of research and talking to  some experts in the field, we were shocked to learn that the way most families take care of goldfish borders on pure negligence!

A Quick History of the Goldfish

They are one of the earliest fish to be domesticated as pets and are the most common fish kept in an aquarium. Goldfish are a domesticated version of the carp that are native to eastern Asia. Carp can grow up up to 30 pounds!

During the Tang Dynasty (around 600 AD), it was popular to raise carp in ponds and water gardens. A naturally occurring genetic mutation produced the gold color of the fish. People started to intentionally breed the gold color rather than the normal silver and green colors. On special occasions, families would put their gold fish on display in small glass containers.

By the start of the Song Dynasty (1160 AD), the domesticated goldfish we fully established. By 1162 , the empress had ordered the construction of a pond specifically for collecting the red and gold colored fish. By this point in time, those that were outside of the imperial family were forbidden to have goldfish that were the gold color, as it was the imperial color and was protected. Historians believe that this is the reason why there are more of the orange goldfish in existence than any other color.

By the 1600’s goldfish were introduced into Japan and quickly made their way to , to Portugal and throughout Europe. In the 1620s, goldfish became highly sought after in most of southern Europe due to their metallic looking scales that symbolized good luck and fortune. It quickly became a tradition for newly married men to give their wife a goldfish as a gift at their one year wedding anniversary.  By the mid 1800’s, goldfish were seen as a display of wealth in the United States and are now a fixture in homes of all socioeconomic classes all over the world.

But why are my goldfish dying so quickly?

1. Your fish was already half dead when you bought them.

Most pet stores consider goldfish a “disposable fish”. They are sold as food for other fish so they only need to stay alive long enough to be taken home and put in for the other fish. They are the “sacrificial” first fish to help cycle a tank. Most of them are bred/raised in such cramped quarters that probably 90 % are dead, dying, or diseased when they get to the pet store. If you are going to buy fish from the pet store, watch the fish carefully for at least 10 minutes. If you win them from a carnival like we did, you can only hope for the best.

2.Your tank is WAY too small.

The minimal tank size for one goldfish is THIRTY gallons (Remember, they grow to about 10-12 inches, and sometimes more!) and you will need to add 10 gallons onto that for each additional goldfish. If you get a tank that is too small, the internal organs of the fish will continue to grow and over time, the fish will slowly suffocate. Even though goldfish have been consistently depicted in small bowls, it is part of the reason why with short life spans (ammonia builds up quickly in such a small space). In order to increase your goldfish’s and quality of life, it needs give it a properly sized aquarium. Plan to spend at least $100 dollars for a proper tank and supplies.

3. Where is your filter?

This is one the main reasons why most goldfish die so quickly. Although goldfish bowls are very popular, they are far from an ideal environment for goldfish. Goldfish are very easy to care for, but they still require cleaned and well-aerated water, which is hard to maintain in a goldfish bowl. You must change the water in a still fish tank every few days or at least every other week,with a filter. Why? The fish can get ammonia poisoning from the still water, their own waste, and the stress of being so active in an undersized tank. The stress and ammonia poisoning will limit their lung capacity and they’ll pass away. Sad, but true.

So far, two of the three goldfish my daughter won are still alive. With proper care, we are hopeful that they will live for many years to come!  In closing, I’ll leave you with a fun goldfish fact.

photo-3

Did you know?

Goldfish can grow accustomed to humans and this can make it possible to feed your goldfish by hand? My wife does it all the time.

Fishing with Discover Boating

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Disclosure: I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Dad Central Consulting for Discover Boating. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

It has been a summer full of travel and adventure for our family. Since we live less than 10 miles from Georgia’s Lake Allatoona, nearly every weekend is spent in or around the water. Lake Allatoona is situated on the Etowah River, a tributary of the Coosa River. The serene lake and peaceful surroundings offer a wonderful respite from the rush of city living.  This like is one of the most frequently visited Corps of Engineers lakes in the nation. Nearly 7 million visitors visit Lake Allatoona and each year enjoy the countless opportunities for camping, boating, and observing wildlife along the beautiful shoreline.

Even though my daughter is only two years old, she has learned the basics of fishing. I know it will only be a matter of time before she catches a fish on her own. Boating and fishing go together like….well, you know the rest!

Below are a few tips to that may help when you’re on the water with your kids:

Involve your kids from the beginning

Kids enjoy feeling included, and what better way to instill some responsibility in your children. Depending on their age, give them small things for which they are responsible, such as ensuring that everyone has a personal floatation device, or teaching them to coil a line.

Keep them busy

Kids like to stay active. Plan an outing on the boat that includes water activities such as snorkeling, tubing, looking for wildlife or learning how to fish. Introduce your child to fishing.

Teach them new skills that will last a lifetime

Being on the water provides an excellent opportunity to teach kids about their environment, and boating, fishing and safety skills. Try to incorporate these teachings into fun activities and gradually introduce your kids to new things as they are ready. For example, you might want to create a game that teaches nautical terminology such as port, starboard, stern, and bow. Once your kids master this terminology, help them learn how to safely drive the boat or cast a fishing line. Boating and fishing provide unlimited learning—learning that lasts a lifetime

Plan family outings and include others

Use this time to gather as a family and create lifelong memories. Plan short outings such as a picnic on the boat or let the kids find anew creek or lake on the chart and plan a picnic at that destination.This creates a sense of adventure and allows valuable family time together. You can let your kids invite a friend or relative along to share in the fun!

DiscoverBoating.com has great resources and educational tools for boaters of all levels! Please visit some of the links below for some great information!

o Boating Activities: http://bit.ly/10OwifM

o Spousal Conversion Kit: http://bit.ly/1aijnXT

o Youth Boating Programs: http://bit.ly/1lRerye

Discover Boating with Birthed Into Fatherhood!

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“I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Dad Central for Discover Boating. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”

I am so happy to be an ambassador for Discover Boating! Summer is here and that means it’s time to get the whole family excited about getting on the water.  Discover Boating is the U.S. recreational boating industry’s nonprofit awareness program to help people get on the water to experience the fun of boating. For those looking to get their feet wet, DiscoverBoating.com is an unbiased online resource to explore the enjoyment and accessibility of the boating lifestyle. Packed with easy, interactive features to familiarize people with all aspects of life on the water, DiscoverBoating.com offers a boat selector guide, cost comparison tool, renting options, favorite boating destinations, links to education courses – even nautical lingo and how-to videos. Plus, DiscoverBoating.com offers tools and information for experienced boaters looking to learn more.

When you are a part of the Discover Boating family, you’ll also learn value of a relaxing day out on the water.  You will soon realize that the many health benefits of boating extend beyond the mental break from the daily grind. Depending on the water and the size of your boat, just keeping upright in a boat can be one heck of a core abdominal workout!  For a little more excitement, you can also throw in some fun activities like fishing, tubing, or wakeboarding.

A day in the sun also allows for our bodies to soak up a safe amount of Vitamin D. Data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 9% of children across the USA were vitamin D deficient, while another 61 percent were vitamin D insufficient. Spending at least 15 minutes with skin exposed to the sun dramatically decreases these numbers and give our bodies exactly what they need.

So ditch the gym membership and  spend more time on the water this summer!

 

Did you know?

Seventy-one percent of U.S. boat owners have an annual household income less than $100,000?

 

“The Calling”- A Wine Review

The-Calling-Pinot-Noir

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Dad Central Consulting for The Calling Wines. I received a product sample and promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Jim Nantz, a three-time Emmy Award-winner and five-time National Sportscaster of the Year, has covered virtually every sport for the CBS Television Network since joining it in 1985.   In 2007, Nantz became the first commentator in history to complete the rare broadcasting three-feat – calling the Super Bowl, the NCAA Men’s Final Four and the Masters all in a span of 63 days. In 2010, Nantz repeated the rare broadcasting trifecta beginning with his call of the most-watched program in television history (at the time of its airing), the Super Bowl between the New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts.

Peter Deutsch, has acquired more than 27 years of leadership experience building brands and directing corporate strategy for W. J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd, a leading wine & spirits company in the US. Founded in 1981 by his father Bill Deutsch, Peter joined the family wine company in 1985. Over the years, Peter held various positions in sales and senior management before eventually being appointed CEO in 2007.

Several years ago, Nantz was dining with a family friend and lawyer in Greenwich, discussing how to bring his dream of venturing into the wine business into fruition when Deutsch, who happened to be dining at the same restaurant, spotted Nantz and approached him to compliment his latest novel on his father – a work Deutsch described as “inspirational.” Deutsch said in an interview, “Here I am talking about this dream to break into the wine industry when Peter approaches the table,” said Nantz, “Little did I know, Babe Ruth walked up to the table and I had a tryout with the Yankees the next day.” As their conversations continued to develop, they both discovered that the success they found in life was greatly influenced by two factors- the role their fathers had in their life and their willingness to search for and find a calling in life. in life. For Jim, that calling was to unlock the voice that  was deep within him,  which led to an unparalleled career in sports broadcasting. For Peter, it was transforming a small family business into one of the most prestigious wine companies in the world. Inspired by their mentor fathers and guided by their common values, the two found a new calling: a partnership to produce hand-crafted wines that bear the standard of excellence and style that are the hallmarks of these two men.

As a father who is quickly coming on on celebrating my second Father’s Day. I cannot help but think of the many values and confidence my own father instilled in me. This a fact0- Fathers play an important role in a child’s development from birth through adulthood. In fact, numerous studies have reached the same conclusion: Children with involved fathers have an advantage — socially and academically — over children with distant or no relationships with their dads.  “We found that fathers who are involved with their children have children with fewer problems,” says Maureen Black, PhD, a researcher and professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “That added involvement from a father helps children tremendously.” Specifically, her research found better language skills and fewer behavioral problems in children with an actively involved father.

The story of Nantz and Deutsch’s inspirational fathers seemed  great, but the skeptic in me questioned if the wine was truly deserving of the $30 price tag and the accolades. As a person who has spent considerable time traveling around the Sonoma Valley, I was excited to sample this particular Pinot Noir made with grapes sourced from Dutton Ranch Vineyard. As soon as I opened the bottle, I knew I was in for a special treat. The Pinot Noir I sampled was  beautiful medium bodied wine that presented subtle notes of cherry, with complex elements of wild berry,plum, and a hint of spice.

I won’t bore my non wine enthusiasts reader with my full assessment of this wine, but I will tell you that this is one damn good wine and well worth the price. For those that are wine neophytes, I have 3 tips that will help you assess your next bottle of wine:

Smell

The sense of smell is the key to enjoying wine, because it allows us to perceive both aroma and many subtleties of flavor. When you smell a glass of wine, is much more than your nose at work! In fact, your olfactory membrane (which is found at the top of the nose) convert the wine molecules into signals which are transmitted to the olfactory bulb located at the base of the skull. In short, this organ enables the brain to perceive not only odors inhaled through the nostrils but also conveyed to it from the palate by way of the nasal passage at the back of the mouth. Science is fierce!

Terroir

The complex influences that result in a wine’s unique traits are embodied in the concept of “terroir,” a term that attempts to capture the myriad of environmental and cultural influences in growing grapes and making wine. Terroir is derived from the Latin “terre” or “territoire,” and its first modern definition appears as “a stretch of land limited by its agricultural capacity.” Make a note this term. If you drink or buy wine from a reputable store, you will hear this term.

Here’s a quick history lesson- The use of terroir as a defining aspect of landscapes grew out of the traditions of the Cistercian monks in Burgundy, France, but the term was also broadly embraced by the French as an agricultural production concept tied to specific regions and numerous other crops or food products. Burgundians also used the concept to market their wine, promote tourism, affirm regional traditions and obtain a comparative advantage over other regions, leading some to see it as a centuries-old economic protection mechanism.

Complexity 

Arguably, the single greatest standard used in assessing the quality of a wine is complexity. The more times you can return to a glass of wine and find something different in it, (like the bouquet, taste, etc.) the more complex the wine. The very greatest wines are not so much overpowering in flavor, but offer the drinker a seemingly limitless combination of  elements that will continue to surprise your mouth, without  fatigue.

To order your own case of wine or to learn more about this great wine, please visit http://www.thecallingwine.com/ 

 

 

Bath Time with AVEENO

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I am the proud father of two beautiful girls, both under the age of three. As an administrator in college Athletics & Recreation at a top tier university, the days are long, stress is high, and deadlines are always tight. When I transition into running summer camps, my days can get even longer, with 14 hour days often the norm for weeks on end. I oversee one of the oldest and most established summer sports camps in the entire Southeast. Celebrities, politicians, and many elite families trust their children with my talented staff. When I am in the midst of running summer camp, I struggle to find time for anything else. The responsibility of 175+ weekly campers and 30 full time staff members is a responsibility that I take seriously, especially as a parent of two young children. In our ever pursuing quest for excellence, I get so consumed with camp that I’ll often forget to eat, hydrate, and even use the restroom! At the end of the day, I am completely exhausted. My eyes hurt from emails and my head is spinning from the endless phone calls, reports, and lesson plans that need my approval.

As I drive home, my worries from the day slowly melt away. I know that in 30 minutes or less, I will have the opportunity to spend some quality time with loving wife and two daughters. Shortly after we eat dinner, I prepare the water for bath time with my Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo at my side. We’ve tried other “sensitive skin” washes and shampoos over the last two years, but the strong perfumes hurt my daughter’s eyes and often irritated her sensitive skin. We’ve never had a problem with irritation while using Aveeno products. Did you know that Aveeno products have been pediatrician recommended for over 60 years? The proof is in the er…oat extract!?

From a historical and health perspective, taking a bath is one of the best things you could do for a child. No other substance on Earth can match the healing properties and restorative powers of water. For untold generations, people have recognized water as a natural medicine, one that can ease the body and calm the spirit. When bath time also includes Aveeno Baby Wash & Shampoo (with natural oat extract), it provides the gentle cleansing, and fresh fragrance that helps to make bath time turn into bed time!

Here is a short clip of my attempt to show my daughter the proper way to moisturize:

To learn more, please visit, http://www.aveeno.com/category/our+products/baby-skin-care.do

So Long, Maya Angelou

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”My life has been one great big joke,
A dance that’s walked
A song that’s spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke
When I think about myself.”

“When I Think About Myself,” Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie (1971).

Maya Angelou (1928-2014 )

I won’t diminish her passing by regurgitating the countless “Maya Angelo Fun Facts” that have overwhelmed Facebook and Twitter today.  Dr. Angelou inspired me to explore my deepest insecurities, fears, and emotions in a stereoscopic perspective that has and will continue to inspire me as a writer, father, and husband.

How to Pick the Perfect Summer Camp (Confessions of a Camp Director)

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I have been involved with summer camps and the recreation field for over 15 years.  I started off as a volunteer counselor at the age of 14 when I felt I was too old to attend summer camp. I am currently the Director of the Emory University Sports Fitness Camp (Georgia’s oldest multi sports camp- proudly celebrating 50 years!) and am the Co-Founder of Oak Tree Camps, the premier creative arts and adventure camp in Atlanta.

Throughout the United States, summer camps are BIG business. To put this in a better perspective, the summer camp business is currently a $15 billion dollar industry with more than 20,000 active camps and 11 million children attending camp each summer! With over 1.5 million staff members hired annually, it also offers a huge impact for local economies each summer.

Options are seemingly endless for summer day camps and sport specific camps. With camp registrations underway and deadlines quickly approaching, it’s tempting to jump at the first camp you come across to make sure you secure a spot. By doing a little homework and asking the right questions, you can select a great summer camp for your child with little stress. You want to give them a summer camp experience that they’ll never forget, not one they can’t remember!

As a Camp Director and parent, I have five areas that all  parents should consider before selecting  a summer camp:

1. Cost of Camp

As parents, we all know that kids aren’t cheap, but who knew that summer camps could be so damn expensive!? Families will need to set a budget for camp and plan to pay for camp as soon as registration opens. Many camps offer “early bird” pricing for the first few weeks of camp registration. If you can take advantage of this, you can easily save 10-25% on camp tuition.

If you contact the Camp Director when registration opens, you may be allowed to make several partial payments over a period of time if you are paying for multiple weeks of camp or for multiple children. Many Camp Directors are also parents, so they fully understand the immense financial burden a summer camp can put on a tight family budget. For larger and more established camps, scholarships are often available to offset the cost of camp. It never hurts to ask!

Also, look at your health insurance benefits during open enrollment. Many companies allow their employees to open a dependent care flexible spending account (up to $5,000) that can be used for qualifying day care expenses (this includes summer camp). Since these funds are non taxable, you can save hundreds of dollars each year.

2. Professional Staffing

For me, my two daughters are the most important things in my life. When looking at camps, you need to ask yourself ,”Who is directly interacting with my child?” If it’s primarily middle-school and high school students, you need to find another camp. In general, the best summer camps have teachers and college students running their programs with high school students assisting on a very limited basis.  Here is an important piece of the puzzle- Meet the Director and speak with him/her in person, for it is their personality and philosophy that trickles down to the rest of the camp staff. You are entrusting these people to take care of your children, and you need to be comfortable with them doing so. . The staff should also be background-checked, with references, an interview, and a full criminal-records search. This is also a good time to inquire about the campers to staffers ratio. A good number for a campers-to-staffers ratio is around 10 to 1 for kids ages 8 to 14.

3. Program Philosophy and Curriculum

By visiting the website or looking at the brochure, can you fully understand the camp’s program and philosophy? The best summer camps also place an emphasis on creating an inclusive community. Camp Directors at these camp care deeply about how they place kids together to create the most positive experience for campers and their families. Also, summer camp programs should offer an element of choice. Your child will feel more independent if he can choose or have some influence over some activities during the day.

4. Parent Communication

Summer camps should have a communications plan for letting parents know about upcoming events, and for notifying them if a child becomes sick or injured. They also have a consistent policy on parental notifications. And remember, the best summer camps will return calls/emails before, during, and after camp.

5. References

Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask for references. A camp director should be able to easily provide names and contact information for at least a few parents that have sent children to the camp.  This is generally one of the best ways to check a camp’s reputation and service record. Don’t simply believe the online reviews-they can be altered. And when you talk to those parents, ask them about their child’s experiences, the communications from the camp, and their overall impressions.

It’s hard to put a price tag on your children’s learning and growth during the summer, but with a little work, parents can find a great camp program that can fit nearly every budget. I wish you a wonderful summer and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about camp!