There are thousands of camps! How do you find one that’s suited to your child’s age, personality, and interests, and manageable for your family’s schedule and budget? Here are sources and questions to get you started.
by Christina DiMartino
Choosing the first overnight camp for your child can be one of the most befuddling decisions of parenting children. There are so many camps!
You may have collected brochures, spoken to friends and family members who have sent their kids to camp, and sought advice from school counselors or other professionals. You want your child in a camp that is best suited to his personality and interests. It’s important that he is in an environment that not only provides comfort and safety, but will add to his character, skills, and healthy living, and leave him with fond memories.
Finding one camp that fits all those requirements might be daunting, but it is doable. Here are some steps to get you started.
Camp organizations offer guidance and referral
The American Camp Association (ACA) is a community of camp professionals who have joined together to share knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. Founded nearly 100 years ago, the ACA has a diverse membership of more than 7,000 camps.
The ACA’s website has a section specifically to help parents find the right camp out of these accredited camps. You can narrow down your search by choosing the types of activities, ages of campers, cost, location, length of session, and many other parameters.
The National Camp Association (NCA), an organization dedicated to helping parents find the right camp for their children, offers a public guidance and referral service to summer camps throughout the U.S. and abroad.
After checking out the sources we've listed above and asking around fellow parents, make a list of possible camps. Then interview the director, ideally in person, or if the camp is too far away, by phone.
Ask questions. In their article for the NCA, “Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Mo—To Which Camp Should My Child Go?” Jeffrey Solomon and Michele Klein offer useful advice to selecting an overnight camp. There's plenty to know about any given camp, and you should feel comfortable finding it out. So ask...
It’s worth the work
The NCA stresses that because an overnight camp experience may have a significant impact on your child’s life, it is important for you to learn how to make a well considered decision when choosing a camp.
And all that research is well worth it. As Peg L. Smith, the ACA’s chief executive officer, says, “Camp is a place where kids can practice growing up by stretching their social, emotional, physical and cognitive muscles outside the context of their immediate family. This is what childhood is supposed to provide.”
Christina DiMartino has been a freelance and assignment writer since 1985. She is a researcher, interviewer, writer, editor, and manuscript collaborator with a repertoire of clients from around the world.