With more than 8,000 overnight camps across the nation to choose from, how do you know which one is right for your child?

Here are some guidelines to help you make the right choice and to get your child ready to have the time of his young life.

5 research tools

  • Go to a camp expo. You’ll fi nd lots of camp information under one roof. You can talk with representatives of the camps you’re interested in and gather brochures. (Click here for info on Atlanta Parent’s expos.)
  • Research online. Most camps have extensive information and photos to give you a picture of what camp life is like.
  • Ask your family, friends and neighbors. Many of them were campers themselves or can tell you about their child’s experience at camp.
  • Visit the finalists. if you’re unsure which camp is best, take your child and go for a tour. Some camps have open houses, and you’ll get a good sense of how your kid will spend his week or weeks  at camp. Considerstarting your search a year in advance and visiting a summer camp in progress to see what goes on.
  • Get the names of former campers. Camps you’re interested in should be able to help you contact former campers who can tell you what your child can expect.

10 questions to ask

  • What is the main focus of the camp? is it accredited?
  • Who owns and manages the camp? What are his qualifications and how long has he been in charge? Ask for references and call them.
  • What is the cost of camp per week or month? is financial assistance available?
  • How are the staff screened and chosen? is there a medical person on staff?
  • What is the staff-to-camper ratio? A 1:6 ratio is recommended for children ages 7-8; 1:8 for ages 9-14; 1:10 for ages 15-18. Many activities, such as swimming, need ratios of 1:5.
  • How many campers are in each session?
  • How are discipline problems handled?
  • What is a typical day at camp like? Do campers follow a set schedule, or get to choose activities?
  • What percentage of campers are return campers?
  • How is homesickness handled? How do parents stay in touch with their children?

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