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Summer Camp Guide

Time passes so fast, the kids will be out of school before you know it.

Now is the time of year when parents should start thinking about summer camp. Some camps easily fit into a family's busy schedule and budget.

Of course, what kids want to do is have fun. But there are still many questions that need to be answered in order to make a good decision regarding the right camp.

First, it is important to know your child's physical, mental, and emotional needs, but that's only the beginning.

From there, begin by talking to the children. If they have been to camp before, they may already have a favorite.

If not, it's always best to focus on the child's interests, such as sports, cheerleading, horseback riding, and so on. If children help in the decision-making process, they will feel better about spending their days or nights away from home.

There are many camps from which to choose. They come in a wide variety of styles and formats.

Below are some examples:

Sports camps

Sports camps typically deal with a specific sport, i.e., baseball, basketball, football or soccer. Most sports camps have different levels.

Colleges, high schools, professional athletes, summer AAU teams, churches, organizations and local YMCAs often offer these types of camps.

Day Camps

Many day camps have a daycare atmosphere. Across the country, attendance at local day camps has grown by leaps and bounds.

Many offer a variety of programs for children ages 5 to 15. Each year, programs take on a different theme.

Activities are divided into age groups and are designed to increase each child's confidence and self-esteem.

Almost every daycare facility offers a day camp, as do public recreation programs. Some offer field trips, while others show movies.

These programs afford children the opportunity to have lots of fun. Parents need to visit different day camps before mentioning them to their children.

Always ask about staffing. It can be a problem.

School Camps

Most private schools offer a limited summer program. The summer staff may not always be certified teachers. Again it is best to make phone calls and visit these facilities.

Overnight or resident camps; Campers stay for extended periods of time, from several days to several weeks.

The children usually sleep in cabins, dorms, tents, tepees or other forms of shelter and participate in a variety of well organized activities.

If a child has never been away from home, it's always best to conduct a trial run.

Staying overnight at Grandma and Grandpa's house or with a friend is a good way to begin. They can also stay at a supervised church lock-in.

In an overnight or resident camp situation that is coed, it is important to have counselors of both genders on the premises, at all times. Always ask for a camp check list.

Educational camps

Colleges, private schools or independent-tutoring facilities sometimes offer educational camps.

They usually focus on academic subjects, such as computers, math, science or English. There are also music camps. The staff is usually made up of well-trained professionals.

Church Camps

Church camps, or faith based camps have always been a personal favorite of mine. I never worried a moment when my children attended a camp at our church.

These camps usually have a Christian theme and devote most of their activities toward the development of the child's spiritual well being. Church camps are very structured and typically target young people between the ages of 4 and 8.

Special Needs Camps

These camps are usually offered regionally and deal with children with disabilities. Special-needs camps have well-trained staff members at all times. The best source for recommendations for a special-needs camp is the child's pediatrician.

Professionals and psychologists highly recommend gathering as much information as possible making camp decisions.

Choosing the Right Summer Camp:

There are many websites regarding camp programs. A few of my favorite are and Try and find a local website which offers resources.

The American Camping Association also publishes the Guide to Accredited Camps which can be purchased online by clicking on the bookstore at

The American Camping Association can be reached by calling 1-800-428-2267.

Parents should be educated about the people who will be responsible for their children at camps.

Talk with camp directors, doctors and other parents. In addition, parents should read all materials available about the camps under consideration.

Compile a list of questions concerning the camp and make an appointment with the camp director.

If the camp is long-distance, a conference call can be scheduled.

After a selection has been made, parents should make every effort to schedule an appointment to visit with the specific an appointment to visit with the specific camp counselor who will be in charge of their child.

Questions to consider include location, size, gender, age, geographical representation (children from local area), duration, financial structure of the camp, staff, goals and values, programs, facilities, health/safety issues, and food service.

Most importantly, parents should use their intuition.

Choosing the right summer camp for your child is a labor of love.

The key to success is to start early.

Once a decision is made, make reservations immediately. Space is usually limited, and camps fill up fast.

Happy camp hunting, and until next month happy parenting!

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