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How to Choose the Right Sleepaway Camp for Your Child

How to Choose the Right Sleepaway Camp for Your Child

Thursday, April 20, 2023

If you’ve decided to send your child to summer camp, pat yourself on the back: you’re making an excellent parenting decision that, if executed with a little care, can offer your child valuable opportunities to learn, grow, and become more independent and resilient. Now the question is: which camp?

In general, you have two main choices: day camp or overnight camp. Day camps may work well for very young children who aren’t ready to spend much time away from home. However, research suggests that for those who are ready, sleepaway camps offer superior benefits related to exercise, social and personal growth, learning, and even brain development – in part because of the immersion factor. If your child is at least in kindergarten and ready to reap these benefits, it’s time to start researching overnight camps. 

Just as you strive to make other thoughtful decisions in your child’s upbringing, so you should take the time to find the best sleepaway camp for your child, as an individual. Here are some key things to look for in any sleepaway camp you’re considering for your child this summer:

  • ACA Accreditation: As you begin going through websites and brochures, check to be sure that only American Camp Association (ACA) accredited camps make the list of options. This is important because the ACA is the only national accrediting body for camps of all descriptions, and camps that have this accreditation have met national  expert standards for camper and staff health and safety. Think of it as the “Better Business Bureau” of camps.
  • Safety: Find out what kinds of safety protocols the camps on your list have, particularly around swimming, hiking, archery, and other activities in which children may be at greater risk of injury without proper safeguards. Ask about camp staff qualifications, including whether all staff members have had a background check. Determine staff-to-camper ratios to find out how easily your child will be able to get advice or help if they need it, and how close an eye staff members will be able to keep on them.
  • Goals and activities: Most kids stand to gain plenty from traditional summer camps, but it’s always helpful to keep some goals for your child in mind. These could include things as broad as making new friends, getting some exercise, being immersed in nature, or trying new sports and recreational activities. If you’d like your child to get more exposure to particular cultural, religious, academic, or career influences, your list of camp contenders may become a bit more specific.
  • Dietary restrictions: If your child has any food allergies, sensitivities, or religious/ethical dietary restrictions (such as kosher or vegan), check to make sure that the camps you’re considering can easily accommodate your child’s needs at every meal. Include detailed information about any dietary restrictions on your application, and consider packing over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines with your child in case of accidental exposure to food allergens.
  • Scholarship opportunities: Many organizations offer camp scholarships or tuition assistance in order to ensure that the benefits of sleepaway camp are accessible to all children. Families may be able to pay income-based, sliding scale fees or receive other forms of financial assistance with camp tuition costs. For people with greater financial  resources, consider donating to a camp scholarship fund. You’ll be supporting healthy child development in your community.

Give Your Child Their Best Sleepaway Experience at Surprise Lake Camp


Surprise Lake Camp is a nonprofit organization that provides a home away from home for generations of young people. We believe in the value of community and friendship. Our Jewish values and identity shape our connection to nature. We’re dedicated to helping young people unplug, grow, and develop values, confidence, and skills to last a lifetime, adding to SLC’s storied history as the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp. Learn more about all the reasons to choose SLC for giving your child a high-quality summer camp experience.

SLC is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide beneficial camp experiences to as many children as possible. When you make a charitable gift, you give children life-changing opportunities. Partner with us to support camper confidence, growth, friendships, and Jewish identity. Learn more about how you can give the gift of summer camp experiences to more children and donate today!