21 Questions Parents Should Ask When Choosing a Summer Camp

By the
Jan. 21, 2016

Your kids want to go to camp, and you know they should. But which one is right for them? Before choosing the camp their friends are going to, the whole family should review these questions.

School will be out before you know it. And then what? 

Summer camp can be such an extraordinary experience. Not only because it keeps kids from bouncing off the wall, but because it allows them to meet friends, grow interests and develop themselves through play and adventures. 

But which one? And how do you find the best camp that suits your child. It will take some research on your end. But once you found the ideal spot for your child, it’s likely you’ll go year after year.

Here are ten questions to ask yourself – and your child – before choosing a camp. And yes, it’s important to involve your child in the decision process. Look at websites, tour facilities, sample daily schedules, ask friends who have gone before. And ask what’s truly important. If hot lunch and swimming are must-haves, make sure they fit your findings. 

Below are 10 questions to consider when selecting an overnight camp and 11 questions when selecting a day camp: 

Questions for Choosing an Overnight/Resident Camp:

  1. What locale do I want to consider? (consider, mountains, oceanfront, distance from home)
  2. Do I want a traditional camp that gives my child a wide variety of experiences or do I want to select a specialty camp that focuses on a particular activity or set of skills?
  3. What size enrollment will make my child feel comfortable?
  4. How rustic do I want the camp to be?
  5. How structured do I want the program to be? Does my child like to have lots of choice in the activity schedule?
  6. Is my child ready to sleep away from home for an extended stay? This will help you to select either a resident or day camp setting.
  7. What session length will appeal to my child and to our family plans for the summer? (One week? Eight weeks?)
  8. How can I stay in touch with my child during camp? Does the camp allow mail, phone calls or e-mail? Does the camp have parent visitation days?
  9. How will the camp meet my child's special dietary or physical needs?
  10. What is my budget for camp tuition? Remember, many camps offer financial aid.

Get tips on preventing homesickness at camp

Day camps offer experiences that are unique from resident camps. Because of this, there are specific points to consider when choosing a day camp too.

Questions to Consider in Selecting a Day Camp:

  1. Does the American Camp Association accredit the camp? ACA has specific standards applicable only for day camps.
  2. What training does the staff receive on safety, supervision, counseling, problem solving and other issues unique to working with young children?
  3. Is the price all-inclusive or are there extra charges for transportation, swimming lessons, food, horseback riding, extended care, field trips, etc?
  4. If transportation is offered, where is the closest pick-up location?
  5. Does the camp have an "express bus" which transports children quickly?
  6. If before- and after-camp extended care is offered, who is with the children and what activities take place?
  7. Is lunch served or do campers bring their own sack lunch? Are snacks and drinks provided?
  8. If the camp offers swimming, are there swimming lessons or is it simply recreational swimming?
  9. Are campers in a group with a counselor all day? Or, are campers free to go from one activity to another with appropriate supervision? In this case, whom would you talk to if you had a question or concern about your child?
  10. Is an open house offered before camp starts where you can meet your child's counselor and van/bus driver?
  11. Are parents allowed to drop by for visits or is there a special parent visitation day?

Get tips on selecting a camp focused on special needs

Once you have answered these questions, visit ACA's Find A Camp service to locate a camp that’s just right for your child. Parents may call ACA National Headquarters 800-428-CAMP for further information about specific camps or for the ACA local office in their region.

About ACA
The American Camp Association® (ACA) is a national organization with more than 9,000 individual members and nearly 3,000 member camps.  ACA is committed to collaborating with those who believe in quality camp and outdoor experiences for children, youth, and adults.  ACA provides advocacy and evidence-based education and professional development, and is the only national accrediting body for the organized camp experience.  ACA accredits approximately 2,400 diverse camps nationally.  ACA-Accredited Camps meet up to 300 health and safety standards.  Accreditation provides public evidence of a camp’s commitment to the health, safety, and overall well-being of both campers and staff.  For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org.  

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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