How to choose the perfect summer camp for your kids

Happy African girl holding stick with marshmallow treat during camping in the forest with other kids

The weather is getting warmer and before you know it, summer will be here. Choosing how your child will spend their summer can be exciting, but also a bit daunting with so many choices. We have narrowed down the top considerations to help guide you find the summer camp that is right for you and your child.




While the age of children that the program is designed for is an important factor, it can be flexible. Don’t rule out a great program because it says 8-12 years old and your child is only seven. Some age restrictions are based on laws and regulations, and those are obviously strictly enforced, but some are based on what the administrators think is developmentally appropriate and often there are children that fall outside of these recommended ages that would be a great fit for a given program.


Another important question to ask when it comes to the age of the campers is how the children will spend their time. If the camp is for 5-12 year olds, that is a large developmental range. Understanding how much of the day will be spent in their specific age group versus with the entire group is key. There is no right answer to this one. As the parent, consider what will benefit your child the most. Many children thrive on mixed age groupings. However, some children may do better with children closer to their own age.


Interest of child


What is the goal for your child in summer camp? Are you trying to expose them to new things or grow an existing talent or skill? There are many traditional summer camps that focus on outdoor play and activities, but there are also more niche programs that can nurture the artist, scientist, activist or academic side of your child. If you are having a hard time deciding what works best,  ask your child what they are interested in. Even the youngest camper will have strong opinions on how they want to spend their days. To that end, choosing a camp that your child has no interest in will probably end up being a waste of time and money for your family.


If you go for a camp that will focus on a particular talent or skill, ensuring that the camp has great credentials is a good starting point, but you also want to be sure that they keep the camps developmentally appropriate. Summer camps may teach children to master a skill, but they should ideally also create a fun environment for each camper to explore their own potential.




The location of the camp can have a large effect on your entire family’s enjoyment of this experience. Some of the more obvious considerations are the commute and the commitment to driving further away. However, there are other considerations for the location of the camp. A camp closer to your home may give your child the chance to learn a new skill in the comfort of friends they already have or to create friendships that can continue once the summer is over.  However, camps that are further away may allow your child the chance to develop social skills related to creating new friendships and may also expose them to a more diverse group experience.


Other considerations:


Flexibility – How easily can you change days or cancel?


Half Day versus Full Day – What option works best for your family and will the camp accommodate?


Pricing – Make sure you are comparing apples to apples here. A camp that may seem more expensive could include lunch or more materials than one that is priced lower.


Chicago is truly a vast land of camp opportunities! You can stick with one camp all summer or try several different camps throughout the season. Either way, use it as a fun time to let your child explore who they are and what excites them.


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