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Some aspects of summer camp have been the same for generations, but new trends always emerge to keep camp life fresh and new. For parents and their children, the joys and learning and challenges of the camp experience are an important rite of childhood.

Sandi Boyer, executive director of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, said one hot new trend is sure to be a hit with campers.

“Some of the camps have puppies come in,” she said. “Those puppies are already adopted out before camp. They are socializing and teaching them training skills. The kids just can’t wait to get in there.”

Aside from furry new friends, adventure camps continue to be a hit, especially with older children and teens.

More: See the listings inside Upstate Parent's 2019 Camp Directory

“They do some really great trips – hiking and rock climbing,” Boyer said. “They give children the experience from start to finish.”

No matter what new and exciting activities and themes camps roll out, parents and children will always face some of the same challenges. Boyer was a brand new camp mom last year and she said families can help set the stage for success for kids.

“Know your child,” she said. “Can your child do several overnights without any issues? Make sure your child knows and understands basic personal care. They get guidance, but it’s a great amount of responsibility to give to kids. They thrive when they know the expectations.”

Parents need to do a bit of homework when choosing a camp, in addition to looking for activities and programs to suit their child’s interests. Boyer said parents should look for accreditation from the American Camp Association. If a camp is not accredited, it may still be a great option, but parents will need to ask more questions.

One of the biggest issues parents and campers have faced in recent years is dealing with communication. When both are used to being just a text away, families should understand how they will communicate. Some camps allow phone calls and emails. Others will want campers to write old fashioned letters home.

“Ultimately, a great camp experience allows a child to be technology free,” Boyer said. “If your camp allows your child to write letters, have them write to you.”

When choosing a camp, Boyer said families should consider distance from home.

“What are you comfortable with?” she said. “With kids, once they get to camp, they are so immersed in the experience that proximity doesn’t matter to them. It matters to the parents.”

Consider the staff to camper ratio, which should be higher for younger children.

“It’s important for parents to understand how their day unfolds, how they move from place to place and how the camp keeps track of them,” she said.

Choices for day camps and residential camps abound.

“You could literally find a camp for any kid in any terrain in the Southeast,” Boyers said.

And while costs vary as much as the activity options, Boyer said families can take some comfort in knowing that many camps are prepared to help ensure kids get the summer camp experience.

“Parents should not exclude any camps because of cost,” she said. “Many camps offer financial aid. Other organizations also offer scholarships and camps work hand-in-hand with them.”

Learn more about camp accreditation at www.acacamps.org.

The North Carolina Youth Camp Association provides professional development for camps in North and South Carolina. Learn more about how to choose a camp at www.nccamps.org.

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