Tips for finding a summer spot in the outdoors for your child
By Justin Boles
When I was a kid, you went to camp where your parents wanted to send you, and their choices were somewhat limited. But these days, the camp consumer is much more discerning, and that shift has helped create many new breeds of camps.
There are so many different types of camp experiences, in fact, that selecting one can be a little overwhelming. What do you need to do to pick the right camp for your child so he or she doesn’t end up singing, “Kumbackhere” after the first night?
Ask Your Child
Some pertinent questions to discuss with your camper include: What do you hope to gain from going to camp? How rustic do you want your camp experience to be? What types of activities sound fun and interesting? Would you like to go with a church group? How long do you want to stay at camp?
Know Your Thoughts
Consider how far away you’re comfortable with your child staying. Does your child have special needs with which the camp should be familiar? Do you prefer that your child be able to interact with the opposite gender at camp? What’s your family’s budget for camp?
And to what perspectives, doctrines, and values do you want your child exposed? Even camps that identify themselves as Christian can vary widely in their teachings and practices.
Begin the Hunt
An excellent source to help you develop a list of candidates is Christian Camp and Conference Association’s (CCCA’s) online directory. This searchable directory contains information about hundreds of Christian camps that are members of CCCA, which means these organizations have access to ongoing training and other resources that can help them serve children better.
Also, check with your church leaders to see if they have recommendations. They may already be planning to take the youth group to camp. Other parents can often provide camp references, as well.
Below are some other ways you can glean additional information to help narrow your options.
During your visit, remember that the camp may not be having a session, or it may be hosting adult retreats. This may affect the atmosphere and even your perceptions of the camp, so be sure to ask questions to get the most accurate picture. For instance, ask to see the facilities where those activities that interest your child take place, and inquire about how the activities are supervised and by whom. Determine what the camp’s philosophies are. Is there an emphasis on competition? Is the program highly structured or freer flowing with more choices? Also ask how close medical facilities are, and what security measures are in place to help ensure the safety of your child.
Finally, you’ll certainly want to take a look at the sleeping quarters and dining facilities that your child would be using. Your camper will not likely require the comfort level you desire in accommodations or the class of food your palette prefers. However, you do want to make sure the facilities are clean, safe, and in good repair, and that your child would find adequate nutrition and pleasing meal choices.
Rate the Camps
Enjoy the Journey
Justin, who attended camp regularly as a kid, served at camps throughout college, and worked on two camp magazines, is the director of Brookhaven Retreat in Hawkins, Texas.