How to Start Your Summer Camp Search

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How to Start Your Summer Camps Search

Thinking about summer camps for your kids but don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips to help you find the best camp for your child.  

Think of What You Want Out of the Experience

Take the time to really think about what you would like your child to gain from the camp experience.  Are you looking for your child to gain independence, build confidence and make new friends or are you looking for that along with excelling at a specific sport? Are you considering day camp as a working family and need full day care?   Is there a specific “must have” activity or feature you need the camp to have? Write down a list of things you want your child to get out of the experience and what the “must have” things are to help you narrow down the options. 

Consider Who Your Child Is 

Being able to describe who your child is will help you find the right camp for them.  Is your child introverted or outgoing?  Does your child have any special considerations?  Do they thrive in large groups, or would a smaller camp be a better fit?  Does your child enjoy participating in sports or do they prefer theater and art?  Being able to answer these questions about your child will help you look for a camp that checks the boxes of what your child needs to thrive at camp.

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Researching summer camps

There are many different ways to go about searching for a camp:  

Word of mouth – It’s good to talk to friends and neighbors about where their children go to camp and to learn about their child’s camp experience, however, you want to make sure to do their own research when it comes to choosing a camp.  While one camp might be a perfect fit for one child, it might not be for another.   Each family and child are different, as is each camp, so finding the one that is the best fit for your child may be different than someone else. 

Talk to the Camp Director – Whether this is in person or by zoom/phone , one of the most important parts of your camp research is to talk to the camp director or a member of the leadership team at a camp you are interested in. When you choose a camp, you are forming a partnership with the director and you want to make sure you feel comfortable with them.  Clicking with the camp director and feeling that you can be open and honest with them is imperative when choosing a day or overnight camp. 

Search online – Checking out a camp’s website and social media channels is a great place to start.  See what type of activities are offered, if the session lengths match what you are looking for, and what the camp’s philosophy is.  

Touring – One of the best ways to get a feel for a camp is to tour a camp you are interested in.  Day camps offer tours all year long and overnight camps tour during the summer into the fall.  Touring allows you to see the facilities and ask questions about the camp while in the camp environment.  Touring during the summer allows you to see the camp in action, which can give you a good feel about how what the camp is like. 

If you are considering an overnight camp for 2024, set up a few tours at camps you are interested in. It’s helpful to have an initial conversation with the camp director before scheduling a tour to be sure the camp is potentially a good fit for your child before traveling to see a camp. 

Summer Camps Fairs – At fairs for summer camps, families can walk from table to table to find out about all the different summer camp options. The fairs allow families to talk to multiple camp directors all in one day to compare various camps and gather information. Find out about New York Family’s camp fairs taking place this winter in NYC, Long Island and Westchester at newyorkfamily.com/camp-fairs. 

Summer Camps Open Houses – Many summer camps – day camps and overnight – offer open houses in the spring and fall so families can have a chance to visit the camp.  During the open house, the camp will offer activities and provide families with a chance to walk around camp.  These days are fun ways to visit the camp and give you the opportunity to talk to the camp director and leadership team in the camp environment. 

Call the American Camp Association, NY and NJ – The ACA, NY and NJ offers parents free, one-on-one advice in finding a camp.  Whether you are looking for a day, overnight or specialty program, the American Camp Association, NY and NJ can help in your search! Contact Renee Flax at 212-391-5208 or [email protected] 

While the process of searching for camps can often be overwhelming for parents, once you sit down and focus on who your child is and the type of camp experience you want, the choices begin to narrow, leaving you with a few camps to consider.   Spending the time now to find the right camp will pay off when your child has the summer of their life at camp!