Summer Camp for Kids: How to Choose a Summer Day Camp

Gone are the days when kids spent their summer days splashing in the backyard kiddie-pool. With so many parents now working full time, many children spend much of their summer months in summer camps and day camps.

Sleep Away Camp or Day Camp?

Generally speaking, there are two types of summer camps for children: overnight or “sleep away” camps and day camps. Sleep away camps are best suited for older children but can afford wonderful opportunities to fully immerse in the camp experience. They are also considerably more expensive.

Day camps, on the other hand, offer many of the same advantages as sleep away camps, but give families the chance to come back together at the end of the day.

What Type of Day Camp is Best?

The most important consideration when looking at summer camp is what interests the potential young camper. Is the child into the outdoors? Does he or she love sports? Has the child shown promise in drama or music? Is he or she an animal fan? To coin the phrase from the popular phone commercials, “There’s a camp for that”.

Although organizations like the YMCA still offer day camps that provide a little bit of everything, there are many more interest-specific options now than ever before. A well-chosen camp can not only combat boredom, but can even give a child a leg up in his or her chosen sport or field of interest by the time the new school year starts.


Where to Find Quality Day Camps

The school district is often a good place to start when looking for a list of quality area day camps. Many camps provide information to the schools for this purpose.

Other places to search include:

  • Local colleges and universities
  • Local music schools, dance schools, karate schools
  • State parks and recreation departments
  • City parks departments
  • YMCA and YWCA
  • Area sports teams
  • Athletic clubs
  • Churches
  • Museums, planetariums, aquariums, etc.
  • Public libraries
  • Word of mouth!

Friends, neighbors, and searchable databases like and can also be great resources.

What to Consider When Evaluating a Day Camp

Once a camp has been selected, the real work begins. Even a day camp whose description looks great, may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Parents should ask plenty of questions and the camps should be ready and willing to answer them.

Depending on the personality of the child and whether or not he has spent time in camps, after school care, or day care, he may or may not be enthusiastic about the idea. Don’t give up! Camps with well-trained staff are well equipped to deal with reticent campers and can usually help ease the transition for even the most resistant child.

Questions to Ask of a Summer Day Camp

In addition to the background and training of the staff, parents should know:

  • How long has the camp been in operation?
  • What is the counselor to camper ratio?
  • What is the setting like? Is it clean, well organized, etc?
  • Will campers be transported anywhere during the day and how?
  • What procedures are in place for emergencies?
  • What is the daily schedule?
  • Are there additional costs involved, besides the registration fee?

Some camps may also provide the names of past campers for reference.

By doing some digging and asking a few questions ahead of time, parents can help ensure not only a great camp experience for the kids, but a less stressful summer for the whole family.