Create a Healthy Summer Camp Experience for Your Child
Summer camp is a great place for your child to make friends, learn new skills, and connect with the outdoors. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your child has a safe and healthy time at camp.
Prepare Your Child
Make sure your child is ready before you choose a camp. Think about your child's interests, abilities, and overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being before you choose a camp.
See Your Child’s Doctor
The camp will need a health history of your child. You can get this from the doctor's office. If your child has not seen the doctor recently, you may need to make an appointment. The health history should have details on any current or recent illnesses, allergies, surgeries, or injuries. Make sure your child is current with all recommended immunizations. If your child will be traveling out of the country, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information about particular immunizations or health concerns for the destination.
What If My Child Has Special Needs?
If your child has special needs, work with your child’s doctor and the camp to make a plan. The doctor can help you decide if your child is able to attend camp safely. If your child takes any medicine or needs treatments, work with the camp and your child’s doctor to make a plan for how these will be handled.
What If My Child Has Food Allergies?
If your child has a food allergy, you may worry about their food choices while at camp. Ask the camp about food storage, preparation, and cleaning. You may be able to send food with your child. If your child uses an epinephrine pen to deal with allergic reactions, make sure it will not expire while they are gone and teach your child on how to use it. Talk to the camp staff and be sure they know how to store and give it to your child if needed.
What If My Child Gets Homesick?
Homesickness can be a concern for campers and parents alike. Take these steps:
- Involve your child—A child chooses and prepares for camp may be more excited and face less homesickness.
- Be open—Talk about homesickness openly to help you and your child be realistic about what it will be like to be away from home.
- Be positive—Encourage your child. Share any happy memories you may have from camp from when you were a child.
- Practice—If your child is very worried about being away from home, plan a sleepover with relatives or friends to practice.
Do not pick-up plans with your child. These can lower their confidence and ability to have a good time at camp. If you are worried that your child will become homesick, ask the camp how they deal with it.
Choose a Camp That Is…
Accredited by the American Camp Association
Think about choosing a camp with American Camp Association (ACA) accreditation. This means your child’s camp has been reviewed by the ACA and meets up to 300 standards covering everything from staff training to emergency preparedness.
Prepared for Medical Emergencies
Be sure that the camp you choose can handle any medical emergencies. All camps should have policies and procedures to deal with them. Your child’s camp should have:
- Written health policies that have been approved by a pediatrician or family doctor
- Policies to deal with infectious outbreaks, such as scabies
- Knowledge about local health hazards, such as Lyme disease
- Staff that has been trained to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if there is one on campus
- Staff that is certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Camp records that have emergency contact information for every camper
Ready to Treat Common Camp Illnesses
All camps should know how to treat these common problems:
Eager to Answer All Your Questions
Here are some tips to find a camp that is right for you and your child:
- Visit the camp before you give them a deposit. Check out sleeping and bathing areas. Meet with staff.
- Ask about fees, such as for special activities. You should also ask whether your deposit is refundable.
- Ask whether the camp does background checks on all employees.
- Ask about the medical facilities, especially if your child has special needs.
- Ask about safety rules and how they are enforced.
- Ask for references from parents who have sent their children to the camp.
Keeping Your Child Healthy While at Camp
All camps should provide a balanced, healthful diet for campers. Campers should have access to plenty of water to drink during the day. Sugary drinks like sports drinks should be limited. Also, campers should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day—though most will get much more.
Camp can be a great experience for you and your child. Be sure to do your homework to make sure you are choosing one that is a good fit for you and your child. When you are confident that you have chosen the right camp and that your child is ready, you can send them off with peace of mind.
American Camp Association
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Canadian Camping Association
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
AAP helps young campers stay safe and healthy. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/AAP-Helps-Young-Campers-Stay-Safe-and-Healthy.aspx. Accessed July 7, 2021.
Camps for kids with special needs. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/finding-camp-special-needs.html?ref=search. Accessed July 7, 2021.
A partnership of caring—parents and camps join together. American Camp Association website. Available at: https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/parents/partnership-caring-parents-camps-join-together. Accessed July 7, 2021.
Summer camp with food allergies (video and resources). Kids With Food Allergies Foundation website. Available at: https://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/summer-camp-with-food-allergies-video-and-resources. Accessed July 7, 2021.
Why an ACA-accredited camp? American Camp Association website. Available at: https://www.acacamps.org/campers-families/planning-camp/preparing-camp/fun-safety-aca-accredited-camps-set-standard. Accessed July 7, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 7/7/2021