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How to Choose a Summer Camp For Your Child

Updated on January 27, 2009
Photo: NicsEvents, Flickr
Photo: NicsEvents, Flickr

Is your child ready for summer camp? Now comes the work of choosing a camp that's right for her. This article will help parents make a well-informed choice of camp. While there's no easy way to find the best camp for your child, some basic guidelines will definitely help.

Make sure you're choosing a camp based on your child's needs and desires, and not solely on your own preferences. Ask yourself some questions:

  1. What do you and your child want from camp? Skills, self confidence, independence?
  2. Does your child have any special interests?
  3. Are there any physical, intellectual, or social to consider?
  4. Is your child ready for a sleepaway experience?
  5. How long are the sessions?

The answers to these questions should give you a good idea of the specific characteristics to keep in mind as you choose a camp.

Boys & Girls

Most overnight camps can be coed, all boys, all girls, or brother/sister. In a coed camp, kids boy and girls are together, using common facilities such as waterfront and dining hall. Brother/sister camps may have some social interaction but offer mostly separate activities and facilities for boys and girls. They may be located adjacent to each other or may be miles apart.


Nonprofit camps, are less expensive than private sleepaway camps. Consider the costs of camp in comparison with the amount you'd spend on food, entertainment, and childcare if your child stays home for all or part of a summer. Make sure to estimate the extras involved in going to camp, such as a uniform, trip charges, transportation, the cost of you visiting the camp, and spending money for your child.


A camp can range anywhere from one week to an entire summer. According to the National Camp Association, Inc., prices ranges are as follows:

  • One-week: $400-$2,000
  • Two-week: $800-$4,000
  • Four-week: $1,500-6,000
  • Full Season (7-9 weeks): $3,000-$9,000


Activities are the meat of the camp. Some camps emphasize one activity while others offer a wide variety of programs. Here's a list of commonly offered camp activities:

  • Team Sports: Baseball, Basketball, Field Hockey, Football, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball, Roller Hockey, Ice Hockey.
  • Individual Sports: Archery, Fencing, Fishing, Golf, Gymnastics, Martial Arts, Wrestling, Track&Field, Biking, Minibikes, Go-karts, Weight Training, Riding, Riflery, Tennis, Figure Skating, Aerobics.
  • Watersports: Canoeing, Kayaking, Diving, Sailing, Scuba, Snorkeling, Swimming, Waterskiing, Jet-skiing, Windsurfing
  • Adventure: Rope Courses, Backpacking, Camp Crafts, Rafting, Rock Climbing, Outdoor Cooking, Overnights, Hiking
  • Creative Arts: Basketry, Drawing, Jewelry, Leatherwork, Metalwork, Crafts, Painting, Cooking, Writing, Photography, Sculpture, Weaving, Stained Glass, Woodwork, Film/Video, Sewing, Journalism, Ceramics
  • Performing Arts: Acting, Directing, Magic, Puppetry, Script Writing, Costuming, Lighting, Makeup, Set Construction, Broadcasting, Ballet, Rock Music, Jazz, Choreography, Folk Dance, Modern Dance, Instrumental, Voice, Circus Arts
  • Science: Geology, Gardening, Biology, Marine Biology, Farming, Nature, Astronomy, Rocketry, Ecology, Computing, Archaeology, Physics, Radio, Aviation
  • Education: Foreign Language, Remedial Tutoring, Academic Enrichment, English as a Second Language (ESL), SAT Prep
  • Travel: Teen Tours, Community Service, Biking, Wilderness

Ask camp coordinators the following questions to make sure your child gets the kind of experience you are both looking for:

  1. Does the program encourage the child to try new things?
  2. What is the philosophy regarding competition and competitiveness?
  3. Which activities are required?
  4. Is instruction given in each activity?
  5. How structured is the program?

Special Needs

Do you require a camp to accommodate for your child's special needs?

· Weight Loss

· Kosher Food

· Vegetarian

· Special Diet

· Learning Disabled

· Attention Deficit Disorder

· Non-English Speaking

· Physically Disabled

More Camp Resources:

American Camp Association

Camp Page - Summer Camps Guide


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Midwest Summer Camps 

    8 years ago

    Excellent post. This will surely help parents find the best summer camps for their kids. Moreover the first and the foremost thing that should be kept in mind is that you should always find a summer camp that provides a program that your child is willing to join. I mean your child's field of interest and how long your kid is willing to spend his/her summer time in that summer camp for that summer camp program should and must be keep in mind. Great work.

  • profile image

    Midwest Summer Camps 

    8 years ago

    Excellent post. This will surely help parents find the best summer camps for their kids. Moreover the first and the foremost thing that should be kept in mind is that you should always find a summer camp that provides a program that your child is willing to join. I mean your child's field of interest and how long your kid is willing to spend his/her summer time in that summer camp for that summer camp program should and must be keep in mind. Great work.

  • profile image

    Summer Camps 

    8 years ago

    The activities are actually the meat of a summer camp. Here is a list of activities that are commonly offered at summer camps: Sports, Adventure, Arts, Science, Education. So try to find a summer camp that has some of these activities that will excites your child.

  • profile image

    Summer Camps 

    8 years ago

    You really check with the ACA to ensure that the camp you choose is safe. The ACA has a set of guidelines to basically certify a camp. A child is your most precious gift. It is worth the investment to make sure that they are in good hands..

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Looking for a perfect Minnesota family vacation? Then look no further than Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.

    Wolf Ridge is a nationally respected and accredited K-12 school and residential learning center located in Finland, Minnesota. It's convenient location makes the center accessible to children, teachers, and parents in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

    Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader in environmental education, the center offers educational activities to immerse participants in nature exploration, cultural history, outdoor skills, team-building, and personal growth. In addition to K-12 school programs, Wolf Ridge offers summer

    Wolf Ridge offers several outdoor activities and classes including environmental science, cultural history, contemporary environmental issues, personal growth, team building and outdoor recreation. The outdoor atmosphere is a place where minds open to the joy and wonder of discovery of our natural world. The center seeks to stimulate a love and understanding of nature by involving children and adults in direct observation of and participation on the outdoors and promote self-awareness and leadership development in the process.

    Located on a ridge overlooking Lake Superior, Wolf Ridge’s 2,000 acre campus is bordered by the Baptism River and features creeks, two lakes, two high peaks, 18-miles of trail and a mixed forest of maple, birch ad spruce. Wildlife is abundant and includes pine marten, eagles, moose, black bear, whitetail deer, fox, wolves, beaver, peregrine falcons and loons. Facilities include three classroom buildings, two dormitories, a dining hall, a raptor aviary, a library, two auditoriums, two rock-climbing walls, two outdoor ropes courses and an administration building.

    Wolf Ridge's staff includes classroom teachers, university professors, corporate executives, nonprofit leaders, doctors, lawyers and architects. Volunteers are also on hand to help with the many projects and events offered by the center.

    This Minnesota family trip is exactly what your family needs to stay busy and have fun this summer. To find out more, please contact Wolf Ridge at 800-523-2733 (in Minnesota, Wisconsin or North Dakota), 218-353-7414 (all other states) or visit their website at

    camps, summer family vacations, wilderness trips, graduate naturalist training, and live education animal programs.

  • profile image

    Camp Buckskin 

    9 years ago

    Our Program focuses on helping youth with social skill or academic difficulties (AD/HD, LD, Asperger's and similar) to experience greater success. Our camper's become more successful as they gain knowledge and improve key skills or abilities. This growth is directly related to changes in the mindset/attitude and the associated habits or behavior that have hindered their performance.

    Camp provides a structured mix of traditional camp and some academic activities each day, in addition to a comprehensive Personal Growth program which addresses social skill development. In this program we work to help our campers learn to build and maintain positive peer relations, to become more self reliant, to take increase responsibility for self actions, and to develop better problems solving/coping skills. As a result of this growth and changes, our campers return home with greater self confidence and strengthened self concept.

    Summer 2010 will be our 52nd summer helping youth to learn and grow. We invite you to consider how our program can help your child/student/client to change now which will benefit them for many years to come!

    We invite you to visit our website for more information or to conact us!

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Teens wilderness summer camps provide activities and therapy programs for the teen girls and boys for their personal development. These wilderness camps have certified and trained teaching staffs. The administrators of these camps provide all facilities to the campers according to their needs. These camps programs are like therapy, yoga, meditation, physical fitness, learning programs, adventures and other events. These programs develop campers self confidence and responsibility.

  • Lela Davidson profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela Davidson 

    10 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Thanks for all the wonderful resources. I predict a lot of kids will be going to camp this year who haven't been before!

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Camp Shining Stars, a non-profit co-educational weight-loss camp for youth whose motto is "Where Success Soars!"

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Camp Shining Stars, "Where Success Soars!" is the first non profit co-educational weight loss camp for ages 10-18 years old. Exclusively located on the campus of Barton College. Distingushed Medical Advisory Board. Fantastic Parent References!!!

  • profile image

    Jen Mayor 

    10 years ago

    Hello, I have just read your article. Fantastic and relevant information here. Thank you for taking the time to write. I thought I'd throw in my two cents; there is a way for people to save money at camps now with a camp coupon website. Camp is so expensive these days so now you can get a free coupon! :-)

  • profile image

    Eric Naftulin 

    10 years ago

    Hi Lela,

    Great info here. I own my own surf camp for kids called Aloha Beach Camp - - and am also a volunteer for the American Camp Association. One thing I'd also recommend when looking for a camp is to include your child in the decision making process. When kids are activive participants in the camps of their choice, statistics show they will have a much more positive experience. Keep up the good work!

  • Ardie profile image


    10 years ago from Neverland

    Great information! I had a difficult time finding a summer camp for my oldest (7) this past summer. I will save this information for next summer to help me make my decision. Thank you.

  • profile image

    Teen camps 

    10 years ago

    You wrote good information about summer camp program for troubled teenagers. Thanks for this <A href= for parents </A> because this is very difficult for parents of troubled teens to find out the right summer camp for their teens. Great job and keep it up.

  • Lela Davidson profile imageAUTHOR

    Lela Davidson 

    11 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Great advice, Stacie! Thanks.

  • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

    Stacie Naczelnik 

    11 years ago from Seattle

    You should definitely visit the camp as well. The camp I worked at offered tours for families for the next summer, providing the parents and children the opportunity to see the activities in action.

  • Jason Stanley profile image

    Jason Stanley 

    11 years ago

    Thanks for the good overview and well thought out points to consider. I'm forwarding this to my kids to help them with their decisions about camp for their kids this coming summer. That way I can help, without being too much in their business. It is a fine line we grand parents walk between being helpful and nosy and your hub will help me do the right thing.


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