Choosing Summer Camps

February 2, 2012

Matthew Hosler, MD

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By Matthew Hosler, MD

Mercy Clinic Pediatrician

Summer camps can have a positive effect on psychological development, self-esteem and independence, and be the highlight of your child’s summer experience. Here are some important factors to consider when choosing a camp:

Your Goals

It is a good idea to sit down with your child and discuss what he wants from his camp experience. In addition to being a fun environment, camps can sharpen skills and abilities in a wide array of areas, including sports, academics or foreign languages. Do you want your child to use the camp experience to learn new skills, improve an existing skill or to become more independent?

Knowing Your Child

Consider your child's interests. Is it science, a sport, outdoor activities, computers or art?

In what environment does your child thrive?  Does he excel in a very structured setting, or one in which the focus is on fostering creativity and imagination, letting the children dictate the direction of the activities?

Time Spent at Camp

Some camps may last one week; others can last the entire summer. Camps can be half-day camps, full-day camps or sleep-away camps. When considering what works best, consider the age and personality of your child as well as your family’s schedule.

Medical Care

Who is dedicated to medical care of children at the camp? What is that individual’s training?  How will daily or “rescue” medication be given? For example, is there someone dedicated to administering epinephrine with an Epipen for an allergic reaction, or albuterol for an asthma attack?  How close is the nearest hospital and Emergency Department?


Once you have narrowed down the type of camp experience you desire, the next step is to investigate potential camps. The first source of information is the camp director. Another source is parents and families who have prior experience with the camp. You can ask the camp director for references. You may want to ask the following questions:

  • What are the camp's goals and philosophy?
  • What is the director's age and background? How long has he run the camp?
  • What is the camper-counselor ratio? What kind of staff training is provided?
  • What kind of camper is most likely to have a good experience at this camp?
  • How many campers return each year?
  • Which activities are required? Do children have choices of activities?

Once you have thoroughly investigated the camp for your child, you can be comfortable with the choice you have made and enjoy your summer.

Matthew Hosler, MD, is a Mercy Clinic pediatrician with Mercy Children’s Hospital. For more information, or to find a doctor, please visit

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