Tips for Choosing A Great Residential Summer Camp Experience in NY 

If you’re considering a residential summer camp for your child in New York state, you might feel overwhelmed by the options. If your child will be going to an overnight camp for the very first time, you want to scout out camps carefully so that both you and your child can relax and enjoy the time the child is away at camp. 

Our tips for choosing a great residential summer camp experience include… 

  • Setting an intention for your child’s camp experience
  • Researching camps of interest to you and your child
  • Asking clear and specific questions about the camp experience

For each of these tips, we provide an overview of things to think about as you look at different camps. We also provide links to vetted resources to help you further explore options for your camper. If you feel stuck we invite you to contact our camp leadership to help you confidently choose the summer camp experience that is the best match for your child.

Set an Intention for Your Child’s Summer Camp Experience?

When setting the intention (purpose) for your child’s first overnight summer camp experience, consider the following:

What are the values that you want your child’s summer camp to be aligned with?
By values we mean anything that you feel is important to instill in your child as they are developing from elementary through middle school. Camp values (sometimes called tenets or principles)  may include: cooperation, communication, compassion, empathy, athleticism, self-reliance, perseverance, education, interpersonal relationships, arts, spiritual or religious affiliation.

Most camps will align with a broad range of values including those we listed. If you have special needs or are uncertain about a camp’s values, request a call with the camp director to ask questions such as:

  • What are the values your camp upholds and expects to see in camper behavior? 
  • How do counselors instill/teach these values?
  • What are the outcomes you can expect for your child after their time at camp?

Your values will guide the intention you have in mind for your child’s camp experience. If your child is very young, you probably will consider the intention without their input. However, if your child is in upper elementary or middle school, you could have a conversation with them about what is important to them while they are attending camp.

Sample Intention for Sending a Child to Summer Camp:  

My child/camper is attending camp in order to experience unique outdoor recreational experiences, make new friends, and develop their capacity for empathy, compassion, and resilience.

Research Residential Summer Camps

You might be lucky to have exceptional reviews and first-hand experiences gleaned from personal friends and family who have sent children to a specific camp. If not, you are going to need to do your own research. 

Summer camp research might include receiving word-of-mouth information, seeking referrals from your child’s school, attending a camp expo, and checking out a camp’s website (which you should always do). When logistically possible, visit camps of interest to you when they host a pre-season open house. Keep in mind: most camp deposits are due in February and March prior to summer enrollment and long before the Spring open house. Start your research early.

When you are researching or visiting a camp, be on the lookout for things that are important for your child to have a successful summer camp experience:

  • High-interest, engaging activities that your child would not encounter at home
  • Varied programming with opportunities for personal, educational, and cultural enrichment, not just sports and physical activity
  • Positive interaction between kids and caring adults 
  • A safe, clean environment (facilities, grounds, cafeteria, sleeping areas)
  • Low student-to-staff ratios so your child can have a sense of belonging
  • Bilingual staff, if needed 

Questions to Ask Before Registering for Summer Camp

The types of questions you ask about a summer camp can help to discern the quality of the camp program and its appropriateness for your child’s needs and interests:

  • What is the camp mission? How does it inform the camp’s offerings and expectations of each camper?
  • What will a typical daily camp schedule look like for your child? 
  • Does my child have an opportunity to customize some of their camp activities?
  • What are the opportunities for cultural, educational, and social-emotional enrichment?
  • Does the camp use an evidenced-based curriculum?
  • How are skills learned in school (math, science, language arts) integrated in the camp curriculum? 
  • How does the program assess or track a child’s progress? What outcomes does the program have to show from past camper experiences?
  • How does the program promote positive interactions and a sense of belonging for each camper?
  • What credentials and experience are required of camp leaderships and counselors?
  • What does the program do to ensure a safe and healthy environment?
  • What type of communication can families expect?
  • What types of meals are provided? How are food allergies addressed?
  • How does the camp accommodate children with special needs (learning or physical differences or disabilities)?
  • Are scholarships or financial aid available? How do I learn more?

The Best NY Summer Camp Program for Your Child

The best programs focus on and embrace the needs of the whole child — intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. Curriculum is integrated to address the needs and interests that a child has now and to inspire the child to consider new interests and activities as they grow and develop. 

At Camp Tuku, our mission is to provide a mindfulness approach to the traditional summer camp experience for kids. With our newest location at Camp Huguenot in New York state, we are able to bring our unique curriculum to more children. We provide kids with mindfulness practices and skills that will help them develop self-awareness, foster compassion and empathy for self and others, and strengthen inner resilience so that every child can effectively cope with the inevitable challenges of life.



American Camp Association: Complete Guide to Preparing for Summer Camp

National Institutes of Health: Summer Camp Resources

Kids Guide:  12 Tips for Choosing the Right Summer Camp for Your Child