By Dawn Willard-Robinson, Director, Pine Tree Camp

Whether you’re looking at summer camps for the first time or trying to find a new camp that’s just the right fit for your child, one thing is certain: there is a camp out there for everyone. And, when you find the right one, it will feel like a home away from home.

There are many different types of summer camps. From day programs to overnight camps and everything in between. As you begin your search, the first thing to ask yourself is: what would your camper enjoy? Perhaps it’s the chance to make new friends. Or maybe it’s a sport like basketball. It could be drama, music, or the opportunity to spend time swimming and exploring nature. If your child has a disability, there are summer camp experiences designed specifically for their needs. Be sure to choose a camp that is fully accessible with no limits on the activities and experiences your camper can take part in.

As you consider your child’s age, interests, and personality, you might wonder if they are ready for overnight camp. Oftentimes, a child is more ready than you think. Overnight summer camp is an amazing opportunity for growth. The experiences your child has away from home this summer will foster a greater sense of confidence, independence, and social connectedness that they’ll carry with them long after the summer camp experience is over.

Once you narrow down your search, here are the key questions to ask the camp’s staff about their program:

What is your philosophy?

What type of programming do you offer?

Is your camp fully accessible and barrier-free?

What does a typical day look like?

How much training and experience do the staff have?

What is the staff-to-camper ratio?

What are the sleeping, bathing, and dining arrangements?

How do you handle food allergies?

What does your medical staff and facility look like?

How do you communicate information during the session?

Most importantly, go and tour the facility, talk with other families who have attended before, attend an informational session or take a virtual tour if you can’t get to the camp in person.

When considering camps, be sure to look for American Camp Association Accreditation. The American Camp Association (ACA) is not just any camp accrediting body: it is the only accrediting body in the United States. Its rigorous standards are not easy to meet and are evaluated each year.

The ACA has a comprehensive and easy-to-use tool where you can search camps by state, activity, and accessibility.

Remember: there is a camp out there for your child and, soon, it will be their new home away from home every summer.