Yeah, summer’s six months away, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until spring to figure out what your children will be doing and where they’ll be going. If a residential summer camp is in the cards for your kids, NOW is the time to start looking at the options and making decisions.     

The American Camp Association (ACA) says most children are ready for an away-from-home camp experience by the time they are 7 or 8 years old. When you’re selecting a camp, keep in mind your child’s interests and personality. When you start gathering info, include your child by showing him pictures, brochures and online videos from each camp. Ask for his input as much as possible — after all, it’s going to be his camp experience.     

The ACA recommends asking the following questions when considering a residential camp:

• Do you want a traditional camp offering a variety of experience or a specialized camp focusing on only one area of interest?

• How long do you want your child to remain at camp? One week or the entire summer?

• How near or far do you prefer the camp to be from home?

• Single gender or co-ed?

• Does your child have any special needs to consider?

• How can you stay in touch with your child? Are phone calls, mail and e-mail permitted?

• How much does the camp cost?

VISIT & ASK, ASK, ASK

Once you narrow down your search, the ACA suggests opening a conversation with the directors of each camp you’re considering. Get to know the director through phone calls, correspondence and most ideally, a personal visit. Here are key things to ask:

• What is the camp’s philosophy and program emphasis?

• What is the camp director’s background?

• What training do counselors receive?

• What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?

• What are the ages of the counselors?

• What are desired qualities in camp staff?

• What percentage of the counselors returned from last year?

• How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?

How does the camp handle homesickness?

• What about references?     

Be sure to get the references from the camps you’re considering. Talking to families who have first-hand experience is the best way to learn the true colors of the cam