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Choose Your Own Summer Adventure

What to consider when selecting the right camp experience

March 2014

Don't let the summer be wasted! Here is what awaits your child: experiential learning opportunities, caring adult role models, time spent in nature and being active, new friendships and fun.

Quality Camp experiences provide "all of the above" to over 10 million children annually. Each camp has its own unique way of delivering these experiences and things like session length, activities offered and cost vary from camp to camp. When you're looking for the right camp this summer, consider the following:

Your camper

The biggest factor to consider is your child. What are his or her interests? What does he or she want to get out of the camp experience? Make sure he or she is involved in the process of choosing the right camp – this is a family decision!

Day or resident camp

Both day and resident camps are great options! Consider your family's needs and schedule. The age and maturity level of your child also factor into this decision. Has your child had positive experiences being away from home in the past?

Ask questions

After finding camps that interest you, speak with the camp director. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions! The American Camp Association (ACA) recommends finding out the staff-to-camper ratio, how issues like discipline or homesickness are handled, etc. Visit the ACA web site for a list of questions to ask when choosing a camp.

First-time campers

Whatever camp you choose, make sure first-time campers feel confident about the experience before the first day. Involving your child in the camp selection process helps them own the decision. Let your child talk about their feelings. Stay positive and express your confidence in their ability to handle camp. And it doesn't hurt to send a card or note to your camper that will arrive on the first day!

A parent's top concern

Ask if the camp is accredited by ACA or not. If not, ask why. ACA accreditation is some of the best evidence that the camp is committed to your child's health and safety.

Choosing a summer adventure should be a fun and thoughtful process. ACA's parent and family web site, www.CampParents.org, offers guidance, resources and tips from the experts when it comes to choosing and preparing for the right camp. Happy searching, and have a safe and fun summer!

With nearly three decades of experience as a change agent in youth development and transformation, Peg L. Smith is the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association® (ACA). ACA is the champion of better tomorrows — providing resources, research, and support for developmentally appropriate camp experiences. Learn more at www.CampParents.org or www.ACAcamps.org.

Tags: Camp, In This Issue

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