If you attended summer camp as a child, you may have treasured memories of songs around the campfire and learning outdoor activities with new friends. Today, there are so many choices that it can be hard to choose what sort of camp you should schedule for your child. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing a summer camp:

Is the camp age-appropriate for my child?   A child that is pre-k or kindergarten age would probably enjoy starting out at a half-day camp. This will help her get used to being away from home. Day camp is a good in-between transition step for kids ages 6 to 10 years. Signing them up for a week-long day camp will get them familiar with spending time away from home in an unfamiliar environment. Depending on the child, you’ll find around ages 10-12 that kids are matured enough to defeat the initial homesickness and enjoy overnight camp.

Prepare your child before sending them to an overnight camp. If your child has never spent the night far away from home and seems anxious about it, let your child practice spending the night at someplace familiar but a good distance away, like grandma’s house, to help prepare them. If they still seem anxious, it might be best to choose an overnight camp that is close to home as a first step.

Does the summer camp match your child’s interests? These days, there are both day camps and overnight camps to match almost any special area of interest, such as sports or performing arts. Consider your child’s personality when you are selecting a summer camp. For an adventurous child, an outdoor summer camp with plenty of outdoor activities would be perfect. A child that loves science may enjoy a technology (also referred to as STEM) summer camp. If your child likes being challenged to learn new skills, a less specialized summer camp that covers many different skills, from crafting to canoeing, may be right for him.

Is the camp accredited and the staff well-trained? Look on the American Camp Association website to see if the summer camp you are interested in meets all the standards required for certification by this organization. Check to ensure the counselors receive adequate training and that the counselor-to-camper ratio is appropriate for the age range of the campers. Also, find out how long the summer camp has been operating, as longevity usually indicates a quality program.

How do I find the right camp for my special needs child?   There are summer camps specifically for special needs children, but if your child wants to attend a mainstream camp with his friends, that may be possible too. According to the experts, if your special needs child is able to attend a mainstream school, most summer camps should be able to make the necessary accommodations. With any camp, interview the director to find out their special needs experience, qualifications of the medical staff and how medications are handled.

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