It may only be February, but do you know yet where you're sending your child to summer camp?

Renee Flax, director of camper placement at the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey, said while parents have time to enroll their kids in summer camp, now is the time to do the research. She suggests attending camp fairs in your area to learn about programs, activities, costs and availability. Once you do your research, you can have a real sense of what's being offered.

Flax said when choosing a camp, think about your family members and their needs. If you're working parents and you know you need full-time care for your children over the summer, that's one thing. If you are somebody who wants camp for a couple of hours of day so your children remain entertained, that's another.

"Understanding who your child is, is probably the most important piece of this. What is your child going to need? Do you have an athletic child? Do you have a child who's artsy? Do you have a child who, in a new situation, just runs in and immediately absorbs everything that's going on or do you need a camp that's a little more quieter and more nurturing," Flax said.

It's also a good idea, she said, to research for summer 2020 and 2021. You don't want to keep switching summer camps for your children, so if you find something great now, you can secure it for future summers.

She said while traditional camps are still very popular, specialty camps are also trendy. Flax said STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) camps are becoming popular as well as soccer, gymnastics, dance and theater. But Flax said don't pigeon-hole your child.

"Just because they enjoy doing an activity once a week at home, that doesn't mean they're going to want to do it five days a week," said Flax.

Children can get bored, so Flax suggested that for younger children, you're better off picking an all-around program. Then when you get to a teen level, when your child is committed to either a sport or activity, you may want to think about a specialty camp.

Summer camp costs vary -- depending on whether you're attending a not-for-profit or private camp, or whether your child is attending a couple of days a week or more.

Not-for-profit camps cost less than private camps, but there are choices -- and camps can be customized to your schedule. Flax said to do a little digging to find what fits your budget.

While summer camp may be costly, Flax said it's important to remember that the summer camp experience has become an investment in your child's social education. This is one time when kids get off their devices. They're talking face-to-face instead of texting one another and they're gaining skills they may not get anywhere else.

To visit online camp directories for inspiration, learn about camp fairs and have all your questions answered about choosing the right summer camp, you can go on The American Camp Association's website.

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