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Camp Kee Tov: Zach Landres-Schnur

May 7, 2010

From time to time, I conduct interviews with camp directors to collect advice for parents looking for unique experiences for their kids.  I recently exchanged emails with Zach Landres-Schnur of Camp Kee Tov in Berkeley.  J Weekly, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California,  voted Camp Kee Tov the best Jewish Day Camp in the area.

With so many camps to choose from, any tips on how to pick the right camp for your kids?

Good question! Being well-informed is very important. Whether it’s by word-of-mouth, going to camp fairs, checking camp websites or seeing ads in local publications, knowing what’s out there is a great first step. Then it’s important to decide what you’re looking for in a camp. If you want a sports, academic or general day camp, knowing your options really helps focus your search.

Once you have a few camps in mind, I always recommend parents make phone calls to the directors of the camps. Camp heads are very helpful and love to talk about their camps. They’ll be able to give specifics that you can’t find on the website or by talking to other parents, friends, etc.

Finally, plan early! It’s difficult to think about summer in the middle of winter when it’s 40 degrees outside and raining, but Camp Kee Tov, for example, began registration last December (2009) and some of our programs were filled by the time some other Bay Area camps even opened their registration. There seems to be no consensus on when camp registration begins, so parents should plan to start thinking early about when the various registrations open. Further, many camps have early-bird specials and others simply fill up quickly.

What questions should parents ask a camp director?

1. Who is your staff?
2. What are your counselor-to-camper ratios?
3. What makes your camp so great?
4. What sort of transportation does your camp provide?
5. What does a typical day look like? What are the hours? And do you offer before- and after-care?

Asking those core questions will get the dialogue flowing and will naturally lead to more specific questions.

How should parents prepare their kids for camp?

Help them get excited for summer in any way possible! (Though that shouldn’t be too tough!) Perhaps buying a new backpack, sending a child to camp with a close friend or playing some camp songs from the previous summer are all ways to get a child excited for an amazing summer!

The summer is long, and many kids attend six to 10 sessions of camp. Any tips on how to prevent camp burnout?

I’d recommend less variety and more continuity. Many of the parents I’ve spoken with say they — and their kids — are happier when they go to fewer camps for a longer duration rather than vice versa.

Camp Kee Tov is one of the few camps that has a four-week session. This is a big part of what makes Camp Kee Tov, Camp Kee Tov…we’ve used this successful model for more than 40 years and, while certain parents might be skeptical at first (because they want to send their kids to six to 10 different camps), they are grateful at the end of the four weeks when their kid has made many new friends and has built amazing relationships with both the campers and counselors.

Any last tips for parents?

Talk to your friends. Talk to parents with kids a year or two older than yours. Ask your kids what they want to do this summer. And get involved on Sign Up For Camp! It’s a great resource to start narrowing your search.

Lastly, please tell us what’s special about Camp Kee Tov?

Camp Kee Tov is the premier Jewish day camp in the Bay Area. We’ve been voted Best Jewish Day Camp the last two years and have been a staple in the community for more than 40 years.

Our staff’s enthusiasm, creativity and love for Kee Tov make this camp so special. Many of our staff members were longtime campers at Kee Tov and are now passing on what they learned as campers to a new wave of kids!

Between the amazing, talented staff and our four-week model (mentioned above), Camp Kee Tov campers make friendships that last a lifetime. It sounds cliché, but it’s dead-on. Being in such a welcoming, family-oriented environment and having all the fun in the world, campers know the feeling in the air at Camp Kee Tov can’t be replicated anywhere else or at any other time.

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