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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

How to Choose a Safe Camp for Your Kid

By Kimberly Blaker

Whether you’re looking for enrichment for your child, a way to keep your kids occupied while you work, or just a short reprieve from parenting, there’s a summer camp that’s right for your family. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many camps may be up and running, either offering alternative online programs or following safety protocols for in-person camping experiences.

The Benefits of Summer Camp Summer camp offers kids plenty of benefits, and many kids thrill at the idea of going away to one. Still, for some kids, particularly those who are introverted or homebodies, the thought of going away to a camp can cause considerable anxiety. When kids are adamantly opposed, forcing camp on them may not be in their best interest.

But for kids who are eager—or at least willing to give it a shot without much fuss—camp offers experiences they may not have elsewhere. Summer camp provides kids the opportunity to:

• foster independence

• develop new and lasting friendships

• develop new skills

• discover new interests and hobbies

• explore avenues for creative expression

• take a break from screens

• exercise daily

• build self-esteem

• learn to work with others

• feel part of a community

• prevent or reduce summer learning loss
Getting Started in Your Search Before you begin looking into summer camps, create a list of your top criteria. Here are some things you’ll want to consider:

• What is your budget?

• What is the purpose of sending your child to camp?

• Do you want a resident (overnight) or a day camp?

• Are you looking for a short-term or summer-long program?

• Do you want a camp that’s very structured or one that provides your child with lots of freedom and choices?

• What are your child’s passions, such as a particular sport, hobby, or other interest?
Once you’ve prioritized your criteria, you can begin your search. An excellent place to start is the Sonoma Family Life virtual camp fair. Look for it on our website: The website of the American Camp Association ( is another excellent place to look.

Your Next Steps Once you’ve selected a few camps, share the choices with your child to see what excites him or her. Be sure to let your child know upfront that you still need to thoroughly investigate the camp(s) before making a final decision. But do keep your child’s choices in mind to ensure your child gets the most out of camp.

As you further investigate camps, there are several things you’ll want to consider:

1. Is this camp a safe option for my child and family during the pandemic? Many summer camps offer virtual programs. A broad variety of counselor-led virtual activities of varying lengths and costs may be available.
Perhaps you’re considering sending your child to an in-person summer camp. If so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers several safety suggestions for camps, including requiring masking and hand-washing and promoting “cohorting,” i.e. keeping campers in the same small groups every day. Review the recommendations, found at, and then ask your chosen camp specific questions to find out how it plans to adhere to these protocols.

2. What are the staff’s qualifications? Many summer camps use teens to staff the camps. However, professionals should develop and oversee the programs.

3. How does the camp ensure your child’s safety? Find out what kind of safety training the camp provides its staffers. Are counselors trained in CPR? What are the camp’s procedures in the event your child becomes ill, has an accident, or experiences an emergency?

4. What is the daily schedule for campers? Ask for a daily itinerary, so you know your child will be getting everything she or he anticipates from the program.

5. What are the rules? Is your child allowed to call you? If it’s residential camp, can parents come and visit? Can kids bring along a cell phone or electronics? Also, how much money can they bring, and how will it be managed?

Don’t Sweat It

Keep in mind that no camp is likely to offer everything precisely the way you want it. Just choose the camp that satisfies your most important criteria. Remember, there are many summers ahead and your child will have plenty of exciting camp experiences. 

Kimberly Blaker is a freelance writer and the founder of KB Creative Digital Services,