How do you decide which summer camp is best for your child? It is all about finding the right fit for your child! Remember they are the ones going to camp, not you, so listen intently to what they are telling you. Here are helpful tips and resources to find a summer camp or program that meets the needs of your child, and the needs of your family.
1. Start Early!
Ideally, begin your camp search the summer before your child will attend camp. This provides the time to tour camps, see them in action, and meet camp directors and other staff. Even if you cannot attend an Open House or tour all camps being considered, there are plenty of ways to explore whether your child will thrive there. Attend local Camp Fairs and visit websites with your children to involve them in the selection process and make a decision as to which ones would be right for them.
2. Consider and List Camp Expectations.
Determine what type of summer camp you will need for your family's particular situation. Ask yourself, "what does the ideal camp experience include for me and for my child?":
- Unparalleled fun and learning?
- The opportunity for new experiences?
- To develop new skills?
- Family tradition?
- The need for child care?
List your expectations and the camper’s.Which are non-negotiable and which are preferences? For example, does a camp have to be single-sex, offer four week sessions, or be located in a particular area? Parents, guardians and children themselves are the experts in determining interests and educational goals that is a basis for finding the right summer camp for them. Relatives, coaches and counselors can often offer additional assistance and perspective.
A big mistake parents make is to send a child to a camp the parent wants them to experience, not the child. If your child doesn't enjoy computers, for example, you should not send them to computer camp just because you want them to learn more about computers. This can make for a miserable experience for both of you. Instead, involve your child in the selection process by discussing with them what types of summer camps would interest them as a basis for beginning your camp search.
3. What is your budget for camp tuition?
It is important that you determine in advance how much of a budget you are willing to allocate towards the summer camp experience for your child. Camp remains an affordable option for almost everyone, an for those families that do find it unaffordable many camps offer financial assistance. Financial aid procedures vary from camp to camp, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Read camps’ brochures and websites carefully for information and application instructions, too.
4. Determine if the program is American Camp Association New England (ACA) accredited or state licensed.
Camps are unique worlds unto themselves, created especially for children and full of fun and learning. Not all states require camps to be licensed. This is very important information to know about the summer camp you choose for your child as there are different standards that must be met in order to be state licensed or ACA accredited.
If the camp is ACA accredited, this means their program has undergone a thorough review and met up to 300 standards in terms of staff qualifications and training to emergency management. Furthermore, their standards exceed state licensing requirements. ACA accreditation is excellent evidence that a camp is committed to providing a safe and nurturing environment. Look for the ACA-accredited camp logo on a camp’s website, in their literature or displayed on a sign posted at camp; this is the most important logo a summer camp can show.
5. Use All the Resources Available
Ask for recommendations from friends or look for feedback or reviews on the web for the program your child is interested in. If you can find someone who has been to a particular summer camp that you fin interesting, it would be wise to try and get some feedback as to what their experience was to aid in making an informed decision with your child.
Many camp marketing materials are easy to review online; others are easily requested. Look carefully at the ways camps present themselves online and in print. Attend camp fairs and open houses to meet camp directors and staff face-to-face to learn what a camp has to offer. Ask trusted friends and family. Relatives, friends, coaches, and guidance counselors may have suggestions of camps that might work well for your child.
When reviewing recommendations, keep in mind that a camp experience is based not only on the what the camp provides, its also highly influenced by the individual having the camp experience, so try to consider the source of any recommendations.
Helpful Summer Camp websites to help you decide on a camp that is right for your family:
- North Shore Kid Camp Guide
- We have developed this searchable online camp guide as an easy to use, extensive resource for parents looking for camps and Summer Programs on the North Shore of Massachusetts, Cape Ann, Boston and beyond.