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Tips for choosing a summer camp (Released: 4/23/97)

by Renu Sehgal, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- Summertime approaches with the age-old question -- what are the kids going to do?

"Summer camp is a good opportunity for youths to make new friends and learn new skills," says Bari S. Dworken, a University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System educator in Bethel. "It can develop their sense of self, independence and responsibility while they have fun."

Selecting the right summer camp is important because each one has its own character and focus. Involve your child in the decision-making process, Dworken says. Find out as much information as possible on the camp to best match the camp to the child's needs.

The choice first depends on the child's maturity and interests. Is your child ready to go to a resident camp or would a day program close to home be more appropriate? Campers with special needs have specialized camps, but can also be mainstreamed effectively with other campers, Dworken says. Some camps offer a general program, while others concentrate on developing certain skills, such as soccer, dramatic arts or computers.

Dworken suggests that parents ask questions such as: What are the qualifications and training of the staff? What activities are offered? How does the camp address health and safety issues? What are all of the fees and expenses? Can we talk with parents of previous or returning campers?

All camps in Connecticut except those run by municipalities are licensed by the state health department. Many camps choose to be accredited by the American Camping Association and are evaluated every three years on more than 300 standards of good camping practices.

Child and youth development organizations such as 4-H, Campfire Boys and Girls, Scouts, the YMCA, Boys' and Girls' Clubs, religious groups and town recreation departments usually offer some type of summer experience. The Connecticut Camping Association publishes a directory that can be found in local libraries. The American Camping Association's New England section (800-446-4494) offers a free service to help parents choose the right camp for their child . Many camps offer payment plans or provide scholarships for those in need of assistance.