How to Find a Camp They'll Love

The search can be daunting. Here's how to narrow the list to find the perfect match.

Whether you’re looking for enrichment for your child, a way to keep the kids occupied and supervised while you work, or you need a short reprieve from parenting, there’s a summer camp that’s the right fit for your family.

Before you start your search, create a list of the criteria important to you.

Here are some things to consider.

  • What is your budget?
  • What is the purpose of sending your child to camp?

  • Do you want an overnight or day camp?
  • Are you looking for a short-term (week or two) or summer-long program?
  • Do you want a camp that’s very structured or one that provides your child with lots of freedom and choices?
  • What are your child’s passions, such as a particular sport, hobby or other interest?

Now you can begin your search. An excellent place to start is a local parenting magazine. Many summer camps advertise here and online. (You can go to to search our Camp Guide, which is sortable by location, type of camp, services provided, and activities offered.)

The American Camp Association (ACA) accredits summer camps. So this is another excellent place to look. The ACA educates camp owners and directors in health and safety for staff and campers as well as program quality. It then accredits camps that meet the ACA’s standards.

Once you’ve selected a few camps, share the choices with your child to see what excites her. Be sure to let her know upfront that you still need to thoroughly investigate the camps before making a final decision. When you and your child have narrowed the list to a manageable number, investigate the camps further.

There are several things to consider.

What are the staff’s qualifications?

Many summer camps use teens to staff the camps. Teens make excellent mentors and can bring liveliness to summer camp programs. However, the programs themselves should be developed by professionals and have professional oversight to ensure kids are getting the most from their camp experience.

How does the camp ensure your child’s safety?

Find out what kind of safety training the camp provides its staffers. Also, is there someone on hand at all times who knows CPR? What are the camp’s procedures if your child becomes ill, has an accident, or an emergency?

What is the daily schedule for campers?

Ask for a daily itinerary so you know your child will be getting everything you anticipate from the program.

What are the rules?

Each camp has its own set of rules. Find out whether your child is allowed to call you. If it’s a summer-long residential camp, can parents come and visit? Can kids bring along a cell phone or electronics? Also, how much money can they bring, and how is it managed?

Don’t sweat it

Though there are many great camps, no camp is likely to offer everything precisely the way you want it. Just choose the one that best fits your child and satisfies your most important criteria. Your child will have many summers to try new camp experiences.

Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer.

Categories: Camps & Classes