How To Choose A Summer Camp

Choosing the right summer camp for your child is a major decision, not one to be taken lightly and certainly one that you’re going to want to consider and think about before you settle on one particular summer camp.

Maybe you went to a summer camp when you were younger and are thinking about sending your kids to the same camp, or maybe this is a brand-new experience that you and your children are going to be going through together at the same time.

choosing summer camp

No matter what there are going to be a handful of important things you’ll want to cover before you settle on a summer camp (and definitely before you send away a deposit or any dues), well highlight the most important details below!

Set Your Summer Camp Goals

Right out of the gate – and even before you start to look into different summer camp options – you are going to want to talk with your children about the kind of summer camp experience they’d like to have.

You want to get a feel for their interests and their goals, a feel for what they are most excited about doing this summer, and a better understanding of exactly where they are in their lives and what they want to accomplish after school ends and before the new year starts. 

On top of that, you are going to want to ask questions about what they’d like to spend more time doing this summer, or if they have any specific goals or adventures they were particularly looking forward to, and if they have anything on their “summertime bucket list” they want to knock out this year specifically.

As always, though, you want to use your parent intuition to figure out exactly what your children are telling you. 

You’ll know if they are eager and excited for a chance to meet new people and make new friends even if they aren’t saying that explicitly, and you’ll know whether or not they are open and excited about the idea of learning new skills, spending the summer outdoors, and building the kinds of memories they won’t realize are as near and dear to them as they’ll become throughout the rest of their lives just yet. 

Any Special Focus for Summer Camp? 

After you have done a better feel for how your child hopes to spend this summer, and have them excited about maybe checking out a summer camp to make that possible, it’s time to figure out if you want to send them out to a special focused summer camp or just more of a “general” and traditional summer camp kind of experience.

Some kids are really going to embrace something like a science camp or a space camp whereas other kids are going to fall head over heels in love with the opportunity to try new things every day and explore interests they weren’t even aware they had just yet. 

Different camps focus on different things (obviously) and there’s a world of difference between sending your children off to a summer camp that’s more of a traditional experience with outdoor adventures and water sports and something more laser-focused like a science camp, a space camp, or a band camp. 

Day Camp or Sleep Away?

Now that you have started to narrow down your options a little bit it’s time to start thinking about how much time your children are going to spend at camp and whether or not it’s going to be a day camp kind of program or a sleep-away kind of camp that they attend. 

Day camp experiences can be found pretty much anywhere and everywhere during the summer, giving kids an opportunity to spend the day away at camp before returning home each night and then rinsing and repeating the process (usually) five days a week. 

This works for a lot of parents that aren’t quite up to sending their children to a sleep-away camp for longer durations, works wonders for younger children, and works great for siblings that may not necessarily be super close in age but are still able to attend the same camp with one another. They also tend to be more affordable.

Sleep away camps are a little more traditional and offer a world of opportunity for children to really stretch and grow when they are attending, gaining a bit of extra independence and a lot of confidence but also having an opportunity to spend a bit of time doing things they wouldn’t have done if they were attending day camp or staying home for the summer. 

Sure, there’s a bit of an adjustment period that needs to be tackled when especially younger children are heading away for sleep away camp, but this adjustment usually happens a lot faster than most people expect – and before you know it your kids stop worrying about being away from home and are beginning to dread summer camp ending and having to return! 

At the end of the day it really all comes down to your comfort level and the reputation of the camp that you are thinking about, as finding a sleep away camp that your children will attend for a few weeks (or a few months) is never decision to be taken lightly. 

With Friends or Bold New Adventure?

Some parents really like the idea of sending their children off to summer camp with their best friends, helping to make sure that the experience is a little less jarring and a little less nerve-racking (for parents and children alike). Read our tips guide to help them prepare better. 

There’s a lot to be said about heading off to an adventure like this with someone you already know and someone that you already trust, and it can really help children that are a little nervous or a little on the fence about summer camp warm up to the idea in a hurry. 

On the flip side of things, there are a lot of benefits to sending children to summer camp as a brand-new and bold adventure, encouraging them to meet new people, to make new friends, and to build new relationships that they might not have pulled off if they went with already established friendships in tow.

If you’re sending children to a local summer camp the odds are pretty good they’ll be attending with at least a few kids they know, but perhaps not children that they are already particularly friendly with. This can be a perfect happy medium – encouraging them to step outside of their established social circle but not being thrown directly into the mix with kids they don’t know from all over the country (or the world, for that matter).

Dive Deep Into Summer Camp Reviews 

It’s obviously always a good idea to dig as deep as possible into summer camp reviews for all of the destinations that you are considering, not only reading the reviews left by parents but reading reviews left by children as well.

The internet is going to be your best friend in this department, providing you with a wealth of information and knowledge (real inside information) that you simply wouldn’t have had access to before.

Not only will you be able to find a lot of great reviews and testimonials directly on the summer camp website that you are considering, but you’ll also likely find information on summer camp review sites that focus on the industry in general and even video reviews and testimonials on platforms like YouTube and other social media platforms. 

Soak up as much information about summer camps as you can before you make your decision. There’s no such thing as being too informed about the camp you’re going to send your children to. 

Meet and Interview Camp Staff 

The last big piece of the puzzle you’ll want to knock out of the park before you choose one particular summer camp for your kids to attend is to meet and interview as many of the camp staffers as possible, but especially focusing on the leadership group.

It might not always be possible to meet all of the counselors that are going to be keeping an eye on your children, and it may not even be possible to meet all of the camp leadership, but at the very least you’ll want to interview – and ideally speak on the phone – with as many of these camp leaders as possible.

This will give you a real feel for the overall atmosphere of the camp, the personality and the leadership of the individuals in charge, and a chance to ask any questions or resolve any concerns you might have about picking this camp over any other.

You don’t necessarily have to spend hours and hours on the phone with these professionals but it’s not a bad idea to schedule a 30 to a 40 minute phone call with folks from the camp just to make sure that you feel totally at ease sending your kids there for the summer!