Checkout Lane: How to pick the best summer camp for your child

Shaunna Gately

Going to summer camp is a great way for a child to stay active, but choosing the right camp isn't always easy.

“Parents have to do their homework - they know their child better than anybody,'' said Ruth Bramson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, which runs the Wind in the Pines Girl Scout Center in Plymouth, Mass.

Bramson said the decision should be based on what the camp offers, not on price. She said there is a big difference between keeping children busy and giving them developmental skills that they can use once they leave.

It's also important to consider the quality of the counselors who will be spending time with your child.

All counselors who work with children should be required to have background checks, including Criminal Offender Record Information checks. In addition, counselors who have professional training for working with children can make a big difference.

There are several accreditations that camps can acquire from organizations such as the American Camp Association. These groups conduct rigorous inspections of the camps that include food, buildings and staffing. Bramson said that while accreditation does not offer any guarantees, it certainly does provide evidence of a camp's commitment.

Jim Kelly, owner and director of the Meadowcroft Day Camp in Norwell, Mass., said a camp's philosophy should also be a major consideration in any decision.

“I would look at who's operating the camp,'' he said. “What do they believe in dealing with children? Are they involved with the kids or are they just back in some classroom as an administrator?''

Kelly said you should ask questions pertinent to your child's needs. If the child has health or behavioral problems, ask how the camp would handle them.

Kelly also said visiting the camp in advance can be important. Consider what is included for the cost. Some camps provide transportation and food while others do not.

Kelly recommends spending some time talking with your child about which camp, of your top choices, he or she might want to attend.

Shaunna Gately may be reached at