Summer camp is a time for new experiences and making memories. Choosing the right summer camp program is an important decision for parents, so pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw recommends considering your child’s personality and interests.

Make sure that your child is physically and emotionally ready. For example, are they prepared to go swimming, ride horses or participate in other camp activities that may be available?

“I think it’s important to try and figure out if the camp you are going to send your child to is appropriate for them,” she says. “Are they really ready for that camp? It’s all about helping the child know they are going to be OK and also letting the camp counselors know areas that may be a concern for your child.”

Asking the right questions

Doing your homework in advance and asking the right questions will help you identify the camp program that best fits your child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests these tips when choosing a summer camp:

  • Ask other parents about their children’s camp experiences.
  • Check out the camps in person with your child to see which one is the best fit.
  • Ask about the camp’s swimming requirements. Camps with a lake or pool will likely require your child to take a swim test.
  • Evaluate their policy on electronics, whether the camp is “off grid” or not, then discuss how to best reach your child in case of emergency.
  • Ask how health care is delivered at camp and how the staff deals with minor illnesses and injuries. Make sure they have protocols about taking appropriate precautions, such as applying sunblock to protect your child from burns.

Discuss health care needs

Be sure to talk with the camp’s staff about any special healthcare needs for your child, Dr. Bradshaw says.

“If, for example, your child has a chronic medical condition, like diabetes or asthma or food allergies, that’s something that you should take an emergency management note from your doctor,” she says. “It should list all the appropriate medications and education for the camp counselors so that they know what to do in an emergency.”

Day camp may be good first step

While you may have great memories of sleep-away camp, make sure your child is ready to be away from you overnight or for several days.

“Kids are really excited to try to go to camp and many parents are excited for them to try it out,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “Perhaps consider doing a day camp before you send your kid to an overnight or week-long camp. Do things that will set your child up for success.”