Yenra : Hiking : Boy Summer Camps - Girls, Boys, Kids Summer Camp : How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for Your Child Advice from an Expert.

Summer Camp

Sports camp, computer camp, traditional or other camp -- day or overnight; rugged or tenderfoot; all summer or short term -- what's best for your child?

According to Professor Matthew Pantera, Ed. D., chair of sports management and recreation studies at Springfield College (Mass.), "Fun is the bedrock, but, camp is also a place for physical, social and emotional growth. It's an ideal temporary safe environment away from home to test skills, attitudes and beliefs and to develop positive behaviors that are transferable toward life success.

"Choose a program that matches your child's interests and maturity and what you want him or her to get from it. The American Camping Association (ACA) publishes a list of accredited camps. Involve your child in the selection, and camp is more likely to be a positive experience.

"Learn all that you can about camps that interest you both. Utilize web sites, videos and open houses. Ideally, visit camps in session a year in advance. Interview the director or a local representative and campers' parents. If a camp doesn't give references, be wary," Pantera advises.

Pantera, whose Springfield College graduates run sports and recreation programs throughout the country, points out:

An ACA-accredited camp has satisfied standards for safety, programming, campers' health and well-being, staff qualifications, ratio of campers to staff, emergency procedures, and more.

A camp philosophy that values skill building, a secure environment, and a sense of belonging is vital. Ask how campers learn what their skills are and develop them. Do they learn to work for what is important and experience success, and to make good choices and see the results? Do campers practice respect for self, others, and the environment? Do they feel that they "fit", can play a role in their group, and have friends?

Camp directors and staff should posses technical expertise in camp activities, good interpersonal skills, and familiarity with stages of youth development. Ask about the director's employment history. Longevity with the camp usually shows success. A director should be at least 25 years old and key staff at least age 21.

A good ratio of counselors to campers is one to five for five and six year-olds, one to eight for seven and eight year-olds, and one to 10 for ages nine and above, but higher for some teen programs. Look for a high return rate for campers and staff. Forty to 60 percent is good.

To forestall homesickness, camps can provide parents advance information to give their children a sense of the camp experience: the daily schedule, living arrangements, the campus and camp community, and frequency of contact with parents by mail, e-mail, telephone or visitation. Plenty of activity is especially important in the first few days.

"The right camp can help your child master transferable skills for success in life and establish an active, healthy lifestyle while having a fun-filled summer," Pantera says.