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Monday, January 28, 2013

Choosing a Summer Camp

Tips from the American Camp Association

Posted By on Mon, Jan 28, 2013 at 5:32 PM

Campers at Camp Abnaki in North Hero

This post was written by Kids VT contributor Erik Esckilsen. Check out his related camp story, “Summer Sessions: The pros and cons of day versus sleepaway camp,” in the February issue.

If you're planning to send your son or daughter to camp this summer, now is the time to sign up for a session.

How do you make sure you’re choosing the right camp for your child? Lucy Jackson Norvell, director of public information with the New England chapter of the American Camp Association, offers some strategies.

It’s all called camp — a simple, short word — but what that looks like programmatically and geographically can be drastically different, she says. “It’s so interesting to see the variety, but it’s also daunting as a first-time parent looking at camp,” she explains.

To start, she advises making the camp question a joint decision between parent and child. While the “right” time to start attending camp varies from kid to kid, the would-be camper’s interest level is perhaps the best indicator of camp readiness.

Norvell suggests that parent and child each develop separate lists of what they want and need from a camp, trying to zero in those “deal-breaking parameters,” or each person’s “must haves” or “must-not-haves.” They should then compare the lists and see how many of the criteria from each can be met within the parents’ price range.

Acknowledging the widely held view in the camp industry that “it’s not uncommon for children to be ready to go to overnight camp before their parents are ready to let them,” Norvell recommends scouting out a camp relatively close to home that offers short sessions.

Finally, she recommends parents check out the “Find a Camp” tool on the ACA website. The application contains a database of “a few thousand camps,” Norvell estimates, among them approximately 400 New England camps that have received voluntary accreditations from the ACA in addition to their respective state accreditations. Norvell advises involving the camper in the search in some way.

Jon Kuypers, director of the YMCA-affiliated boy’s Camp Abnaki in North Hero, has one more suggestion: Take your child to visit the prospective camp. He urges people to establish a rapport with the camp and its personnel to help determine if it’s going to be a good fit.

After all, as Norvell notes, “Camps are very vibrant communities. It’s hard to represent that in a computer.”

Parents have an opportunity to talk face to face with staff from more than 50 local camps and schools at the 16th annual Kids VT Camp and School Fair on Saturday, February 2, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Burlington Hilton. Kids VT also lists camps in its online family resource guide. There are separate sections for day and residential camps.

Parents can also find a Vermont day camp or resident camp through the Vermont Camping Association: vermontcamps.org

Or use the “Find a Camp” tool to search for New England ACA resident camps: acanewengland.org/families-public/finding-your-camp

Find more information on evaluating camps and assessing your children's camp readiness at the American Camp Association websites, acacamps.org and acanewengland.org.

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