How to choose a summer camp?

If you went to summer camp, you probably have the most amazing memories. At camp you can make friendships which are more meaningful and lifelong, than anywhere else in the world.  But with so many options these days, which one is the best for your child?



Arts, sports, theater, computers, adventure travel, community service, teen tours, language learning? 1, 2, 3 weeks, more? With friends or without? And which interests should you focus on?


Parents may need to let go of the idea that what was good for them as children is good for their kids. What was good for you as a child may traumatize a sensitive child or a child with special needs. A common mistake parents can make when choosing a camp is confusing their child's needs with their own needs. If you want your child to be happy at camp, focus on who he or she is rather than on who you were as a camper.


Here are 8 factors to focus on when choosing the best camp for your child.


1. Is your child ready for camp?


If your child is super excited to leave home for an adventure of a lifetime, then you’re journey to find the right camp has begun. But don't force camp on a child who is terrified of the idea. Feel free to plant the seed in your children's minds from an early age that when they are ready for camp it will be a fun, life-enhancing adventure.

If older siblings or friends of the family have gone to camp and enjoyed the experience, younger siblings may be eager to go. But if your child is not enthusiastic, feel free to wait until your child feels brave enough to make the leap.


2. Homesickness sucks!


“I can’t even think about sending my kid to camp, because she gets homesick during sleepovers”. If this resonates with you, you’re not alone. Try sleepovers in stages which can gently acclimate & encourage your camper-to-be, into the experience of being away from home. First time sleepovers at your home are fantastic as a starter – great idea and easy peasy. Step two might be doing a sleepover at a relative’s house WITH the same friend. Stage three often means your child does the next sleep over at that friend’s house. And a great progression from here, is to sleep over at a different friend’s house. Try it once a month or every second month.


Normalizing homesickness is essential to help children understand that we expect them to miss home at some point, and that everyone does at some point. For some campers and event staff, it may take a few days to shake the feeling of missing home. Let your child know it is expected and not to worry, because it will pass, and what happens afterwards is TRULY magical.


3. Have a chat about camps.


Prior to the research phase, have a chat with your child about camp, so he/she becomes part of the process, and understands what to expect. “What would YOU like to do at summer camp?”. “What new things would you love to try?”. If you don’t already know it by now, your child will tell you what they want to do/try, however you also need to focus on YOUR goals for them. If you know they could use some social interaction to help develop life learning skills and confidence, part of your role is to guide them towards that idea. And just because your child has a strong opinion about an activity, doesn’t mean the experience will be right for them. The environment and cabin community is more important than the actual activities they will participate in.


The first question to ask yourself is, which types of camp are best suited to your child's physical, emotional, and mental needs? To give your child the summer of their lives, you’ll have to find the right balance of activity AND living environment, which will be nurturing and supportive enough, to help today’s youth learn to live in a cooperative setting.


4. Decide on Duration


Campers begin attending Overnight camps, typically at age 6 or 7. For some kids this is an easy transition from day camp. If your child does well at sleepovers, follows directions at school and isn't afraid to be independent in new activities, they are good candidates. The only question is - are you ready for them to be away for one week, two, or more? The sooner you encourage them to go, the easier it will be for them to build much needed social and inter-personal skills, confidence, and resilience, which kids these days lack, due to the use of technology as communication tools.


5. With or Without Friends?


If you choose close to home, the likelihood is you will know more people. If part of your goal setting, is for your child to meet new people, then it’s time to consider looking outside your home town, city, Province/State. The farther away you go, the more likely your child will make new friends, from different school systems, backgrounds, and communities. This kind of exposure is paramount in social growth for children of all ages.


6. What’s the camp’s Focus


At camp, kids experience all sorts of activities and new interests, including swimming, archery, team sports, arts and crafts, ropes courses, music and team building activities. But if your camper wants to focus on specific skill-building, such as Tennis, Soccer, computer sciences, culinary, yoga, veterinary sciences, STEM, or drone racing, consider a specialty camp.

Once you have chosen the type of camp you prefer, decide if you feel it needs to be gender-specific. Most programs / camps are unisex, however if you feel your child will thrive in an all-girls/boys environment, this will make the process even easier.


7. Meet with Directors


Speak with and meet the directors of camps/programs you would like to consider. Make sure the owner/director knows what concerns you have for your daughter/son coming to camp for their first time, especially if they have any health or dietary issues. And be forthcoming about your child. The more the directors know about them, the easier it will be to ensure a safe, fun, and truly meaningful summer experience.


8. Do Research


Now you're ready to learn how to do the research for the perfect camp. Instead of random keyword searches, you can try our free service specifically designed to help parents choose the best possible experiential programs across the globe. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, ConnectU has the search for camps, down to a science….literally. An on-line tool is used, to assess your child’s personality in 4 key areas of personal growth. We analyze your child's answers into a behavioral assessment, that directly impacts our program recommendations for your child. Then we match him/her to the most exciting character-building experience.


At ConnectU, we visits the camps, meets with camp directors, talks with the campers and staff, takes tours of the facilities (including bathrooms and showers), and even try the food. With this type of in-depth discovery, we learn:


  • What safety and medical procedures are in place.
  • How staff are hired, screened and trained.
  • What the camper to counselor ratio is.
  • What return rates look like.
  • How old the counselors are.
  • How they handle conflicts between campers, or discipline.
  • What type of child best succeeds at each camp/program.
  • About a sample daily schedule.
  • What happens if your child takes medication.
  • How the directors handle separation anxiety and homesickness.
  • How communities are impacted as a result of their service.
  • Why their campers are the greatest sales reps for their camp/program.


We ask better questions – to get better answers.

Call us for your free child’s free behavioral assessment and find out how easy it is to find the perfect camp/program for your camper.


Dov (Bear) Shapiro