By CASSIE ANDERSON

The school year has ended, or will be ending soon, for area students. It is time to start preparing for the summer season and, for many of us, that includes sending our youth off to a summer camp program.

Making a family decision on what camps or programs your youth will participate in this summer is an important one. There are a lot of choices out there, so finding the right camp opportunity can be challenging.

Sports camp, church camp, Scout camp, 4-H camp, YMCA camp, sleepaway camp, etc., are a few examples. Even within this variety, the camp might be specialized even more.

For this year, the “camp decision” has probably already been made. Now is the time to prepare you and your youth for the experience.

If the decision has been made, or you are still looking for the right opportunity, there are websites to assist in reviewing a camp before you send your child.

A great experience at a summer camp is created by a great program, staff and facility. The camp should have a well-developed layout of how this will be accomplished.

One way to research a camp is to start at the American Camping Association (ACA). They have a website at http://www.acacamps.org/.

On the site there is a search engine for different camps. It also will tell you if a camp facility is ACA accredited. This means the camp has volunteered to be reviewed by over 300 standards set by the ACA that address safety, programs and much more.

If you are sending your child to a camp held at a university, similar information should be available on the university’s website or from the camp that is being hosted there. If not, ask questions about their preparation. The ACA website is still a good guide.

As a parent, knowing the camp you are sending your child to has a background-checked staff that is well trained, a safe and fun facility, and a great program in place makes sending your child off for their camp experience away from home a little easier.

For many youth, going to a camp for the first, or even the second, time is exciting and a little scary. Helping your camper prepare for the experience can ease that tension.

Most camps will have a sample agenda or a guide of what to expect and what to pack. Reviewing the guide and answering questions can help prepare your youth.

Remember to follow the packing guidelines. There are specific reasons why camps want things done in a certain way. This also ensures your child will make an easy transition from home to camp.

With a first-year camper, it is easy for a parent to be leery about sending the youth to camp. Please do not tell your child about your fears: children can be very sensitive to parents’ feelings and become homesick in reaction.

Being positive and happy about the adventure your youth is going to embark on is a great way to help prepare them for the experience. This includes the letters you write to the child while they are at camp.

An opportunity to consider is the Hancock County 4-H camp from June 26 to 30 at Camp Ohio in Licking County. The camp is open to youth 8 to 14 years of age, even if they are not in 4-H. Information is available at http//hancock.osu.edu. The deadline to register is June 1.

Camp is a great place for youth to unplug and make lifelong friendships. Use the tools available to help make your child’s experience a great one.

Anderson is the Extension educator for 4-H youth development at the Ohio State University Extension for Hancock County.

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