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The Latest In Summer Camps

Summer is just around the corner, and both parents and kids are anxious to have fun-filled vacations.

For many families, the traditional biking, swimming, boating, arts and crafting are just fine, but for others it's "been there, done that."

So what can the child who's done everything do?

Miriam Arond, editor in chief of Child Magazine visits The Early Show on Monday to share several unique camp ideas for all ages from the "Ultimate Guide To Choosing A Camp," which will be featured in April's edition of the magazine.

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Here are some questions every parent should ask a camp before registering:

  1. Is the camp accredited by the American Camping Association?

    The American Camping Association has set criteria for health, safety and quality. It gives parents a baseline to judge the camp. If the camp is not accredited, Arond suggests asking the reason why. Some may be accredited by someone else, like camps that are organized by colleges, which already have accreditation for their programs. Accreditation also shows how established the camp is.

  2. What is the camp's philosophy and mission?

    This question is important to ask because some camps are competitive, some handle homesickness a certain way. Every child is different, so you want to find the right environment for each individual child.

  3. What is the camper/counselor ratio?

    There are different acceptable ratios for different age groups. If the child is younger, you want more counselors -- that's more supervision. It's different for older kids. Also, it's good to check how the counselors are hired and trained.

    A follow-up question concerns turnover. When you hear about counselors being fired in the summer, that might indicate a lot about how the administrators screen and hire their counselors. Of course, when you hear about people - counselor and children - coming back year after year, that's a good sign.

  4. What is a typical day like?

    By getting a daily routine, parent gets a sense of what kids are going to be doing. It also gives parents an idea of how kids interact, such as how much socialization the kids get. Some kids are more social than others. The answer to this question will also help prepare the child of what they can expect.

Although many camps offer the above information in brochures, their Web sites, or even videos, Arond encourages parents to also speak with an administrator or the director -- even if it's on the phone.

That gives you a good sense of how accessible the director is for other issues or problems that may come up later. If you can't speak with a real person when you call, that may be an indicator of how concerned they are about being accountable to parents.

Today, there is every kind of camp possible. For a long time, if your child wasn't athletic or outdoorsy, your kid was sunk. But now there are lots of options, not just in activities, but in the length of time the camp lasts.
There used to be little variety for sleep-away camps -- mostly 8-week programs. Now, kids can go for one week to eight weeks.

Here are some examples:

  • Tall Ships Guided Expeditions in California, a sailing adventures camp, 10 and up, teaches teamwork among other things. Timeframe: one week.
  • Rock Star Camp, also in California for ages 9-16. Professional songwriters and producers teach kids to dance, sing and make music, and they work in real studios. This camp is for amateurs and professionals. It has an elite group for kids with more training. Parents should ask about the expertise of the kids who usually attend. You wouldn't want a kid without much experience to show up and all the kids are pros.
  • Julian Krinsky/Canyon Ranch in Bryn Mawr, Pa., for ages 13-17. Spas are big for parents, and this camp allows parents to share that interest with their kids. It offers kids mountain biking, yoga, tai chi, kickboxing, journal writing, hiking, stress management, rock climbing, spa activities, and nutrition.
  • U.S. Performing Arts Camps for kids 12 and up. It offers hip-hop, film and TV production, and other performing arts for all ages and abilities. They have arts camps nationally at college campuses. The best part is the colleges already have fabulous facilities and real professors teach the kids.
  • iD/Tech Camps -- 36 universities nationwide carry them. These are computer camps where kids learn to make video games, digital movies, and design Web sites.

There are circus camps, ranch camps, so much out there that is really going to excite your kids. What's important is to make sure you have your child on board that your child wants to go.

All you need to do is some research. Child Magazine Web site features a Camp Finder tool and you may also click on the links above and visit the American Camping Association Web site.

It is really not too late. For the traditional sleep-away camps with a loyal following, it may be getting late. But not for these specialized camps. They are shorter and usually have several enrollment dates. And there are so many camps. If one is full, try another.

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