Choose the Summer Program That's Right for Your Child
Setting your priorities first will help you sort through the specialty programs and camps to find the best ones for your child.
American Camp Association tips for parents and a database to help parents choose ACA-accredited programs
Health Appraisal Guidelines for Day Camps and Resident Camps by the ACA and the American Academy of Pediatrics
Sleep-away Camps for Children on Medication by the Child Study Center at the New York University School of Medicine
Advice on Summer Camps for Kids with Learning and Attention Problems by Schwablearning.org, plus a database to search for specialized camps
By GreatSchools Staff
As any busy parent knows, summer isn't what it used to be. It often means replacing the routine of school and after-school care with a patchwork of camps, lessons, temporary child care arrangements and family vacations. It's also a chance for your child to learn and grow by sampling a new activity, developing her talents and becoming more independent.
Making the right choices for your child is a balancing act, says Dr. Judith Myers-Walls, a child development expert at Purdue University. "You have to balance your needs with your goals to give your child new experiences and your child's needs."
Camps Come in All Shapes and Sizes
In many communities, there is an abundance of choice. There are 12,000 camps in the U.S., according to the nonprofit American Camp Association, which accredits about a quarter of them. The programs are operated by private companies, local parks and recreation departments, and nonprofit community or religious organizations. They fall into these general types, although there are programs that combine a number of elements:
Special interest programs
These focus on a sport, the arts, science or technology. They can be half-day or full-day programs and are often called "camps" although they don't involve camping.
These can be a good, relatively low-cost introduction to camp for younger children. They typically include the hiking, swimming and crafts programs of a traditional camp without the overnight stay.
Ranging from very rustic to downright posh, these overnight camps typically offer a two- to eight-week-long outdoor experience for a range of ages that includes sports and arts and crafts. Many offer a one-week option for first-time campers. Some sleepaway camps focus on a particular activity, such as music.
Camps for children with special needs
The Americans for Disabilities Act requires that camps make accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps, for children with special needs. But there are also a number of camps especially tailored to children with learning or behavioral problems, chronic illness and developmental disabilities.
Here's how to get started finding out what's right for your child and family.