Advice For Parents

10 things to consider when choosing a camp

Claudia Jin Soo Hoo
10 things to consider when choosing a camp

When we make decisions for our children the first thing we think about is safety, especially when choosing our child’s resident summer camp. This is because we are entrusting others to have the same instincts we have when it comes to our children. We consider the child’s physical safety, as well as their emotional safety. We ask questions about safety precautions, emergency procedures and more.

What else should we consider when we are selecting an overnight experience for our children? Below is a list of 10 things to keep in mind when making that all-important decision.

  1. Staff experience — Staff experience varies from camp to camp. Most camps have at least a week-long staff training prior to the campers arriving. Some camps have counselors who grew up going to resident camp, while others focus on hiring staff with a background in education. Think about what experiences and qualities are important to you
    and ask about the staff.
  2. Age — On average, overnight camps run from ages seven or eight to 15 or 16. We often get asked what age is the best age to send a child to overnight camp. The truth is there is no set age that works for every kid. For some, seven might be that age, but for others, waiting until middle school is more appropriate. Only you, as parents, know when your child is emotionally ready for camp.
  3. Activities — One of the most-asked questions of camp directors is what a typical day looks like. Every camp has different activities and it is important to find one that interests your child. 
  4. Facilities — Each camp has different facilities — from sleeping quarters to dining halls to activity areas. Some camps have basketball courts, ropes courses, and art centers. Some camps may feature tents and yurts, while others may have cabins with or without electricity. Facilities can be viewed on tours, as well as in pictures if tours are not feasible.
  5. Specialties — While every camp has unique aspects to it, there are also specialty camps for certain interests. There are football, basketball, and cheerleading camps. There are camps that are specifically geared for children with special needs, illnesses, or disabilities. Specialty camps are a perfect choice for those looking for something outside of the traditional camp experience.
  6. Food — I would not have put this on my top 10 list, until I had a child with a severe nut allergy. I believe that part of growing up is learning to manage a food allergy independently, so I do not feel as though I have to send my son to a nut-free camp. I do, however, want to know what the camp’s procedures are in handling food allergies. Many camps have the capacity to serve vegetarian, kosher, or gluten-free meals, and can also put you in contact with the camp nurses and the food service staff.
  7. Convenience — Are you looking for a camp that is local or are you willing to travel? Does the camp have pick-up options near your home? If my child has to take an airplane, is there a pick-up option? What are the drop-off and pick-up procedures? How long of an experience are you looking for and do you want an extended option?
  8. Price — Resident camps have a broad range in price depending on the type of camp (specialty, non-profit, for profit, association, independent, etc). Many camps also have a financial aid program that allows access for everyone regardless of ability to pay. 
  9. Word of mouth — Ask your friends and families about where they send their children to camp. If you do not know anyone who attends camp, you can also inquire about programs that match new parents with returning parents.
  10. Level of comfort — The most important thing when sending your child away to camp is that you are comfortable with the camp itself. How many times have you received the advice “go with your gut” when raising your children? Choosing a resident summer camp is no different. If you are comfortable, your child will be comfortable, increasing the likelihood of a successful experience.

Claudia J. Soo Hoo is Executive Director of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, which operates Camp Lawrence for boys and Camp Nokomis for girls, on Lake Winnipesaukee.

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