CBS Marketwatch - March 22, 2001

Happy Campers

Web helps parents locate, price summer camps for kids
By Cecily Fraser, CBS.MarketWatch.com
Last Update: 1:00 AM ET Mar 22, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) - Summer camp may be an American tradition dating back to the early 1900s, but it's evolved into a vast assortment of destinations.

Where once they provided primarily a pastoral escape and a chance to make new friends, many camps now offer kids the opportunity to develop and sharpen skills, whether its playing music, sports, chess or Shakespeare.

A host of Web sites offer parents tools for locating camps nationwide with information on cost, staff and quality of activities and programs.

Vast choices
There are about 10,000 camps across the United States. While most offer time-honored activities such swimming, hiking or macaroni necklace making, many focus on specific disciplines like gymnastics, soccer, computers, foreign languages, performing arts or science. There also are camps for children with special needs such as learning disabilities, diabetes, cancer and weight loss.

A learning experience
A camp experience is likely to have significant impact in developing a child's self-esteem, character and creativity, experts say. That's why it's important for parents to make informed decisions when choosing a camp, evaluating specific needs and interests.

Here's a look at what the Web has to offer.

Kidscamps.com has a directory more than 12,000 sport, academic, special needs, military and family camps. The company recently launched Payforcamp, a site that helps parents with financing for summer camp tuition. Parents can apply online for loan with a credit line of up to $25,000 and rates as low as 12.99 percent, said Nancy Diamond, Kidscamps.com president and co-founder.

Loans and financing "open up the camp experience to people who might be able to afford the monthly payments, but not the large deposits that could be owed at various times of the year," Diamond said.

For parents who develop camp envy after searching Web databases on behalf of their children, they can check out Kidscamps.com's sister site, Grownupcamps.com for information on adult programs.