You are considering a summer camp, but how to choose? There’s a camp that is ideally suited for every child, providing a summer of growth and fun. With help from the camp professionals at the American Camp Association, here’s some advice that helps parents sort through the choices.

How to Decide When Your Child is Ready for Camp

Children are ready for new experiences at different stages. Parents know their children best and these questions can help gauge whether this is the summer your child will start camp.

What is your child’s age, and what is his or her readiness level?

Does your child talk about camp on a sustained basis? How much persuasion is necessary from you?

Has your child had positive overnight experiences away from home? Were these separations easy or difficult?

What does your child expect to do at camp? Learning about the camp experience ahead of time allows you to create positive expectations.

Near or Far?

Where do you want your child to go to camp? Locally or far away? This is an opportunity for families to assess what they value for their campers.

Benefits of Camp Nearby

Easier to evaluate and visit; Minimal travel costs; Likely contact with classmates or children from same region.

Benefits of Camp Far Away

More choices; Different experiences, different geography; Promotes independence; Diversity of campers; Chance for family to visit and vacation close to camp

Session Length Offers Another Choice

Benefits of Short Sessions (one-three weeks)

First-time or younger campers have a chance to learn new skills; Great exposure to camp experience with less expense; Minimizes homesickness

Benefits of Longer Sessions (four-twelve weeks)

Strong sense of belonging to camp community; Development of specialized skills; Multiple opportunities for learning and enrichment; Lifelong friendships

Boys Only, Girls Only, or Co-ed?

Now may be the opportunity to explore the choices and benefits of all boys, all girls, or co-ed camps.

Benefits of Single Sex Camps

Breaking gender stereotypes—girls interact with women in position of authority and boys interact with men who act as nurturers; More opportunities to “be yourself” without impressing or competing with the opposite sex

Benefits of Co-ed Camps

Prepares campers for everyday living in a co-ed world; Allows families with a boy and a girl to attend the same camp; Offers diverse points of view; Breaks through rigid divisions set up in school when campers participate in equal footing.

A Camp for Every Child—Traditional, Specialty, and Special Needs

Benefits of Traditional Camps

Wide variety of activities; Chance for campers to try new activities; Exposure to more campers and staff at varying activities.

Benefits of Specialty Camps

One or two specialized activities (often combined with traditional offerings); Expectation for increased proficiency during camping session; Deepens knowledge and skill in particular area of interest or ability.

Benefits of Special Needs Camps

Activities geared to campers’ abilities; Knowledgeable staff with expertise to understand campers’ strengths and challenges; Supportive and fun atmosphere to share with others.

The Value of Camp for Every Child

What happens when you make the decision to choose camp? You open up a world of discovery and learning for your child, a world that values children for who they are and who they will become. Camp gives each child a world of good.

For nearly one hundred years, the American Camp Association has been serving the camp community and families considering camp. For more information about child development and the camp experience, please visit our family-dedicated website, or call our toll-free number, 1-800-428-CAMP (2267).

Originally printed in CAMP Magazine, reprinted by permission of the American Camp Association© 2005 American Camping Association, Inc.

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