The Ultimate Guide to Kids' Summer Camps

Complete Answers to All of Your Summer Camp Questions

Selecting a summer camp can feel a lot like you're trying to pick a college for your child. Plan the perfect summer camp experience for kids with everything from your children's unique interests to the family budget in mind.

Choose the Right Type of Summer Camp

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Your first step in finding the right summer camp for your child is to investigate the many types of summer camp programs available. The budding artist in your house may enjoy art camp. But there are several branches of art camp that focus on a specific talent, such as art, music, theater, or writing. Gifted kid camps continue to challenge learners even when school is out. Special needs camp options help your kids experience the same summer camp memories as other kids in an adaptive environment tailored just for them.

Regardless of your child's interests or needs, there's a camp for them.

Look through 13 types of kids' summer camps to find the perfect one.

Decide Between a Day Camp and Overnight Camp

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Day camp versus overnight camp is an age-old internal battle parents face. Sending your child to day camp is a good way to get them used to going to camp while still being able to come home and sleep in their own bed at night. You'll be able to choose a program that lets them do everything from swim to create arts and crafts, and you may feel better knowing your child is only out of the house a few hours of the day.

Then there's overnight camp. Spending the night at camp is the ultimate summer camp memory. Being away from home gives kids a taste of freedom and independence while providing you with the comfort of knowing they are under the watchful eye of responsible adults. Overnight summer camp has many benefits that go beyond a break from mom and dad being around 24/7.

Ask Your Child's Summer Camp Important Questions


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You want your child to have a safe, happy camp experience. You also don't want to spend the entire time your kids are away at camp worrying about them. Ask the camp director at each camp you're evaluating some important questions before signing up. Questions you may want to ask include:

Is the camp American Camp Association accredited, meeting hundreds of standards the organization sets with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-focused organizations around the country? What are the training requirements of staff and what percentage of staffers is over the age of 18? What's the ratio of campers to staff? What type of on-site medical services are offered? What are the camp's discipline policies for campers? What is a typical day like at the camp? How often will your child be able to contact home?

Lower Summer Camp Costs

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Fees associated with summer camp can run anywhere from less than $100 to well over $10,000, depending on the type of camp you choose.

Regardless of the costs, there are often ways to reduce the price tag of most summer camp programs.

Try 12 ways to lower summer camp costs to keep some extra money in your piggy bank.

Find Free Summer Programs

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There are some programs that will give kids a summer camp experience at no cost to you. Kids can attend free sports clinics, specialized summer camps and week-long events absolutely free.

Find out about free summer programs for kids to see which ones your child will like the most. This is a great introduction to summer camps without having to fork over hundreds of dollars for fun.

Opt for Summer Camp at Home

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Not quite ready to send your child off to day or night camp? No problem. Run your own camp at home. Structure your day just as the professional camps do with summer activities and summer-themed arts and crafts. The only thing missing from your at-home summer camp will be the poison ivy.

Prevent Summer Camp Homesickness

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It never fails. The kids who are the most excited about going off to summer camp are usually the ones who get the most homesick when they're miles away from mom and dad. Before you get that middle-of-the-night phone call from your child begging to come home, take a few extra steps to prevent summer camp homesickness before she steps foot onto camp grounds.

Start by preparing your child for what to expect and be honest so she knows she won't see you every day. Work on a calendar together that shows when you will call, write or visit and make sure it aligns with the camp's policies so you don't let her down. Let her take something from home, like a stuffed animal, so she doesn't feel all alone. Show her you're excited about her opportunity to go to camp, even if you just want to curl up in a ball and cry. The little things you do now will help her stay focused on fun instead of missing you so badly that she misses out on all of the camp activities.

Prepare for Packing

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The big day is quickly approaching. Time to get out the suitcase and start packing. Summer camps typically provide a packing list but there are some packing guidelines to follow to make sure she has everything she needs while she is away from home.

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  1. American Camp Association. ACA Accreditation: Key Messages for Parents.