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5 Tips for Choosing a Teen Camp

Kayla Mossien
Feb. 25, 2014

Sending your teenager off to summer camp? Here are things to keep in mind when picking the right camp.

The school year will be over before you know it and the lazy days of summer will be here. If you don't want your teenager spending the summer hanging out on the couch, start thinking about summer plans. Should they get a job, volunteer or go to camp?

Camp isn't just for younger kids. It can be a great opportunity for teens grow, become more independent and broaden their horizons -- all things that are important as they transition into high school and beyond.

But with so many to choose from, how do you know what to look for in the right summer program? Here are five expert tips on how to choose a summer camp that best suits your teen.

  1. Look for Teen Camps
    While you can search online for camps in your area (or other areas), it's trickier to find one that specializes in and appeals to teen campers. So where to start? Search for camps through Care.com, the American Camp Association and the Better Business Bureau. Learn about the different camps' history, programs, staff and expertise. Summer programs should be structured around a teen’s maturity level, offering both autonomous and team-oriented activities.

    “Teens need and desire some unstructured time for socializing,” says Laura Hall, a Maryland-based camp director.

    Jill Tipograph, a summer expert and author of “Your Everything Summer Guide & Planner,” recommends researching the following questions:

    • Will your teen have ownership over his/her schedule?
    • Are the activities appropriate for an older age group?
    • How much supervision vs. independence will there be?
    • What are the communications/behavior/technology policies? For what might they be sent home?
  2. Include Your Teen in the Process
    Choosing a camp should be a team decision. Involving your teenagers opens up lines of communication and ensures that they are happy with the final decision. Plus, most teen programs have the teen campers sign a camp contract, so make sure the camp is something your child is interested in.

    “The more they’re involved, the more they buy in -- and commit,” adds Tipograph. “Brainstorm and set goals together and make sure you’re on the same page.”

  3. Attend a Camp Fair
    Camp fairs provide a great forum in which to check out a variety of summer programs in one location all at once. Typically, they're open to the public and offered on weekends from November to March. Search for a camp fair near you through the American Camp Association.

  4. Think Carefully About Your Teen’s Interests
    Should you send your teens to a traditional camp or a more specialized summer program? Would your kids excel at travel camp? Are they in need of an academic enrichment summer program? Would they benefit most from college prep camp? Would a community service-oriented camp open them up to a better understanding of the world?

    “Use the summer to deepen an area of interest that builds on school involvement, or to expose the teen to possible college majors or careers,” shares Tipograph.

    Learn more about how to pick a summer camp based on your child's personality and interests.

  5. Visit the Campgrounds and Facilities
    “Meet staff during open houses and other events to get a feel for the culture of the camp,” suggests Hall. Meeting the camp staff is essential, as they are the professionals who can help your family to have a positive summer camp experience. Is the camp set up with activities that are interesting for teenagers? Are teens mixed in with younger kids or off to themselves?

The camp experience offers your teens the chance to make friends, find themselves, learn invaluable life skills and take away lifelong memories. Helping them find the right fit is an important process, akin to helping them choose the right college -- a decision that will be coming up sooner than you think! Give yourself enough time to explore all of your options. Then you can take comfort in knowing that your teens are headed to an exciting, explorative summer experience.

Kayla Mossien is a writer for prominent blogs and websites and is the former editor-in-chief of PARENTGUIDE News. Learn more about her work here.

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