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How to Choose a Summer Camp: A Dozen Tips for Parents

Updated on October 14, 2012

Camp Granada

Remember how comedian songwriter Allan Sherman brought the perils of summer camp to the attention of parents everywhere through his song ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh’? He managed to accurately capture the anguish of reluctant kids being sent off to summer camp with such humor it anchored the #2 spot in the Billboard Top 100 charts for three solid weeks. That was in 1963 and a year later the song won a Grammy for comedy.

Parents begin the summer camp search long before the end of school. By planning ahead they can get the jump on researching and reserving a camp that will match their child’s interest and aptitude. Going to camp gives your child three things: a chance to learn a new sport or skill; social opportunities; and a week of recreational activities to ward off boredom.

Camp Granada Song

How to choose a summer camp: A Dozen Tips

Here are a few tips on what to consider when selecting a camp that is right for your child:

1. Consider her interests-there hundreds of camp programs, such as sports, dance, music, arts, animals, etc. Do your homework right and she won’t complain about being away.

2. Check the accreditation of the camp. The American Camp Association has 300 health and safety standards that must be met before accreditation.

3. Meet the director and have a tour before registering.

4. Ask for testimonials from parents of campers.

5. Request to know staff to camper ratios. A 1:8 general ratio is recommended, while a ratio of 1:3 campers is highly recommended for the pool area.

6. Ask to review their accident log.

7. Find out the experience and training of camp counselors. Ask that your child be allowed to meet his counselor prior to day one.

8. Is the swim program one that is endorsed through the American Red Cross? If not, how well trained are the lifeguards.

9. Is there a full time medical staff?

10. Is there an air conditioned area for kids to step into if needed?

11. How does the staff effectively handle conflicts between campers?

12. Is your child allowed to learn at his own pace?

Of the thousands of camp programs available in the U.S., only 2400 are accredited through the ACA. Although this may not affect your decision when you make your final selection, your child’s ability to adjust to the camp will. That is why it is important to find a good match-something that fits into your budget, is safe and fun, and holds your child’s interest.

Fun Summer Activities


Parenting: How to handle camp resistance

Despite all of your pre-camp encouragement your child may still resist the idea of being away from you whether it is for a day or overnight. Consider ways to help ease this separation anxiety to make your kid, and yourself, feel more comfortable.

Tucking in a note or small treat in her bag to remind her she is thought of may help. Asking the counseling staff to allow for a phone call may be a boon as well, although there may be restrictions to this. If she is at a week-long camp, send her some mail. Or, in our age of computers, make it an email message.

What to expect at the end of camp

When your child comes back with stories of his adventures don’t be surprised to hear him say, “I want to go back next year.” Steel yourself for the inevitable aftermath of camp life-gross stories of what other kids did; funny or embarrassing things that happened to the staff; and a song or two that is sure to eventually annoy the heck out of you. Thank goodness back-to-school is right around the corner!

Popular Camp Songs

Remember these? A list of popular kids camp songs in no particular order:

1. Found a peanut

2. The wheels on the bus

3. The bear went over the mountain

4. The diarrhea song

5. 99 bottles of pop on the wall

6. Kumbaya

7. This old man

8. Row, row, row your boat

9. The bear song

10. Ants go marching

Summer Camp Movies

Before the big day arrives have some summer camp viewing adventures with the family. Here is a selection of 10 old and new ‘summer camp’ movies.

1. The Parent Trap (1961)

2. Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977)

3. Meatballs (1979)

4. Space Camp (1986)

5. Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)

6. Indian Summer (1993)

7. The Parent Trap Remake (1998)

8. Camp (2003)

9. Camp Rock (2008)

10. Camp Rock2 (2010)


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    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Richard, I didn't know that fact about Sherman, but can only imagine how funny it is. I loved the 'My son the nut' album we had in our home growing up. Thanks for your comment and I agree--sending a kid to overnight camp for a week IS a parent's down time. :)

    • rcrumple profile image


      7 years ago from Kentucky

      Denise - A great hub for a parent wanting a vacation! Oh, sorry. A great hub for a parent wanting to provide their child with a memorable and enjoyable summer! (Hope that's better) I went to a 4-H camp one year. Worst week of my life. Boring! Yet, I'll always remember it! lol Btw, did you know Allen Sherman, besides doing his song, wrote a book called, The Rape of the A.P.E. (American Puritanical Ethic)? I still have a copy that came out in the 60's. It's hilarious, but very on the point. Great job!

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Camp U.P. HA! That's a good one. Yes, it was like the meatballs movie-unsupervised camp, LOL Thanks for your comment.

    • cardelean profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      No, not 'thank goodness school is right around the corner!' We never went to summer camp either, unless of course you count camp U.P.! Great tips, nice job.

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks Simone-I think that summer camps have come a looonnngggg way from when I was a kid, LOL Thanks for reading.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Aaaargh! There are so many amazing summer camps out there... don't you wish you were a kid again so you could attend some? Reading your Hub sure made me wish for the old days :D

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Ruby-My youngest grandkids did the Bible camp this summer. Thanks for your comment.

      K9-Thanks, I appreciate the hugs, and back to you. Thanks-totally unexpected (the drawing) which makes for a pleasant surprise.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      8 years ago from Northern, California

      One of my best childhood memeories is going to summer camp. This hub brings many great ideas and pointers for choosing a camp for your kids! Another good-one DH!



      PS; Congrats on the drawing win!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Great info. Denise. I have Grandchildren who will be going to church camp soon. I remember going to church camps while growing up. It's a great edventure. Thank's

    • Denise Handlon profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Flora-you didn't miss much from not going to summer camp. I didn't care for it, although I loved and still love to camp. My preference is the Parent Trap original as well. One of my favves, although I also liked the remake. Poor Lindsey L. She sure took a downward spiral from innocence to wrecking her life. Thanks for you comments.

      Hi Annie-yeah, my dad brought home his album: My son the nut and it was hilarious! Thanks for the read and vote.

      Oh Froch-nice to meet you and how sweet that you would want to be a wonderful, consciencious father. Good for you. :) Thanks for your vote.

    • froch profile image


      8 years ago from Tychy

      It is very useful Hub I think. I will come back when I will be a father. Now I can tell: nice hub, vote up! ;-)

    • annmackiemiller profile image


      8 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      I loved that song! great hub - voted up and stuff

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      8 years ago

      I remember these songs, even though I was never a camp goer. My favourite movie you list is the first The Parent Trap. I enjoy classic films.


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