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Selecting the Right Summer Camp

If you're new to the whole summer camp idea, finding the right camp can seem like a tedious and never-ending task. If you search the Internet, you will be bombarded with thousands of listings of camps that seem to offer top amenities and learning centers for your child. Before you start typing in that search box, you and your child need to discuss and determine some basic "must-haves" for the right summer camp.

Determining Summer Camp Qualifications

Discuss with your pre-teen or teenager what experience he's like to get out of a summer camp. Is he looking to go to a summer camp that gives him a little bit of everything or does he have his heart set on volleyball camp? You'll also need to decide if an overnight camp or a day camp is the right choice for your child as well as the possibility of a co-ed camp. Narrowing your search will allow you to come up with options that fit your requirements, and your child's.

Here are a list of different types of camps to help you decide what's best for your child:

  • Residential camps. Residential camps typically operate near a body of water or the wilderness. Usually, these camps will be farther away from home, so that's something to keep in mind. Residential camps give your teen a pre-college experience because they are often set up in "dorm like" facilities and are expected to eat in mess halls. Your child will get to experience the outdoors, work on arts and crafts, go swimming, put on plays, etc.
  • Adventure camps. Adventure camps usually involve wilderness journeys where campers are expected to sleep in tents and explore the environment. You'll probably need to buy special equipment and prepare your child for the lack of technology he's about to encounter. All in all, adventure camps teach valuable survival skills.
  • Combination camps. Combination camps combine the residential camp and adventure camp experiences. It's a nice mix that gives your child a chance to be independent and learn survival skills, while still being a kid.
  • Specialty camps. There are thousands upon thousands of specialty camps. They cater to sports, academics, hobbies, and more. If your child is looking to expand on a specific skill set, this might be the right type of camp to explore.
  • Special needs camps. Special needs camps are for children with medical conditions and/or disabilities. These camps encourage kids to connect with people who are going through the same thing. However, if you don't want to separate your child from other groups, some general and specialty camps enroll children with special needs as well. For example, some programs encourage children with ADD, learning disabilities, autism, etc. to join in on adventures.

When it comes down to final decision time, make sure you and your child have explored all avenues and answered any questions or concerns either of you might have. You'll both need to be comfortable with the final decision in order to experience a worthwhile adventure.