Let’s get this out of the way first. Before you figure out where to send your child to camp, the question is, should you? For an answer, we give you Michael Thompson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and celebrated author of Homesick and Happy. His answer? A resounding Yes. According to Thompson, “children develop in profound ways when they leave their parents’ house and join a camp community.” By getting out of their comfort zone and trying new things, children have the chance to become more independent, confident people.
Ok, so that’s settled. Now where to go? Choosing a summer camp can be as overwhelming as choosing a college. There are so many varieties, types, and regions to pick from – how are you even supposed to get started?
First up: geography. We know we’re biased, but we believe Maine camps are the gold standard of the summer camp industry, and we’re not the only ones. The parents of our campers consistently tell us Maine is “like no other destination,” a “special place,” “beautiful,” and “transformative.” A short plane ride or road trip away from several major metropolitan areas, Maine offers both campers and families the vacation opportunity of a lifetime. But wherever you choose, we’ve got a few helpful tips to find the absolute best camp for your child:
1. Camp Is An Extremely Personal Experience
- Match the environment to your child
- Don’t assume because a friend or relative went to a particular camp that it’s the right fit for your child
- Figure out how long a session you want – some camps are full-season only, generally 7 weeks in length. Other camps offer half sessions (3-4 weeks) or combinations (including a 2 week option)
- Understand what kind of programming the camp offers, and where your child will do best – in a structured environment? With electives? Or a combination of both?
2. Talk To The Camps
- Speak personally with the camp director about your child – you want to be able to trust that directors and staff will make similar decisions that you would with your child
- Speak with the directors about themselves – how long have they been there? How involved are they with all aspects of camp life?
- Ask for references, and try to speak with current families to get their take
- Inquire about how they pick their staff, staff backgrounds, and what kind of training they receive
- Review camper and staff retention
- What kind of programming opportunities will be available for your child, and how much choice they will have?
- Ask about health care facilities, and discuss medical and dietary needs with the directors ahead of time
3. Take a Tour
- Plan a trip to one or more of the camps you’re thinking of while they are in session the summer before – nothing replaces the firsthand experience of seeing a camp in action.
- Observe directors, staff, and campers to get a feel for what it would be like for your child. Get a sense of the camp’s culture.
- Check out the area around the camp and experience local things to do. Campers will be heading out for wonderful trips, and you’ll want to explore to make it a special time for the whole family
4. Listen To Your Child
- Involve your child in the process, and listen to what they want to get out of the experience
- Their participation helps make a successful transition to camp
5. Listen To Yourself
- Ultimately, select the camp that you – the parent – feels is the right fit for your child, and your family
There’s no question that attending a summer camp (and particularly a Maine summer camp!), is an experience that is sure to be life changing for the whole family. The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a camp is fit. Parents and children need to feel comfortable with the camp they choose, and confident that it is the perfect fit for both their summers away, and for a lifetime of memories. Because camp isn’t just about a few weeks in the summer. It’s about making forever friends, yearning to return to repeat traditions, building on newly learned skills, and the annual family ritual of returning to Maine long after camp is over.
Have more questions? Ask our Maine Camp Guide! She’s ready and waiting to help you find the right Maine camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.