Camp Counsel

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seven questions to ask before sending your child to camp

by renee flax

so many factors go into choosing a summer camp that it's often difficult even to know where to begin. here, the seven most crucial camp questions parents should ask.

how do i prepare my child for overnight camp?

if you can, take your child to the camp ahead of time so that he or she can meet the people there and become familiar with the surroundings. once you take away that feeling of it being a foreign experience, it makes the child feel a whole lot better.

should my child go to a co-ed camp or a single-sex camp?

each offers things that the other one does not. with a co-ed camp, if you have a boy and a girl in your family, you can send them to the same camp. and kids become good friends with people of the opposite sex at co-ed camps; it's not like school, where there's a far more rigid environment. co-ed camps are also pretty "rah-rah" kinds of places-there's a lot of spirit in a co-ed camp.

what's the difference between a structured camp and a non-structured camp? which type of camp is a better fit for my child?

a structured camp has a bunk with generally two counselors, and those two counselors are with the same kids all day long; they're taking them from activity to activity.

the non-structured, or "elective," camp, where the child chooses his or her daily activities, is terrific for the older child and for the child who is very independent and knows what he or she wants to do.

should my child go to camp with a friend?

if you can convince your child to go by himself or herself, it is the greatest gift you will give your child. when you go with a friend, you're bringing all the baggage from home when you get off that bus.

should i tour the camp before sending my child there?

absolutely, if you can. a lot of day camps have open houses in the spring, which gives you an opportunity to meet them, meet some of their staff, meet some of the other kids that are going there.

what is the camp's philosophy and program emphasis?

in order for a camp to be a successful fit, you need to be on the same page with the camp on what you believe is a good experience.

how can i be sure the camp is safe?

a camp being accredited by the american camp association (aca) is a parent's best evidence of a camp's commitment to safety.


renee flax is program services director for the american camp association-new york. for more information or to speak with renee, call 1-800-777-2267 or visit

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