By Michael Garcia

With a quick Google search, you can easily find over 40 camps in the greater Buffalo area. As a parent, how do you select the best choice for your family? There are many factors to consider when it comes to picking the right camp.

The first thing you should do is talk with your children about what they want to do over summer break. Including your child in the decision-making process helps refine your search. Here are a few ways to engage in the conversations.

• What was the best thing you did last summer, and why?
• When you think about summer break, what do you think of first?
When talking to your children, find out the type of camp experience that excites them. Is it a specialty camp that focuses on basketball or other sports, or STEM programming? Is it an outdoor camp, a sleepaway, or day camp?

As a parent, your expectations are just as important as your child’s. Take some time and reflect on what you expect from the summer program. Are you ready for them to sleep-away for two weeks, or do you want them at home every night? And, consider if your child is ready to go to camp.

The next step to consider is safety. Research if the summer program is licensed through the Department of Health. There are programs in the community that use the word camp, but are not licensed. A permit is issued only when the camp complies with the state’s health regulations. The next step to consider is whether the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). Assuring ACA accreditation means that it meets the highest standard for health and safety.

Finally, it is time to consider communication. Camp should offer the communication that best suits you and your family. Is the camp director accessible? Do they return calls and emails? Does the camp provide a clear message of support to help your child grow and become a better person? How will you be informed regarding events that are happening at camp?

Know that you can interview your camp just like you would a caretaker or prospective employee. Make sure you have the answers you are looking for. Shop around, try something new, and, above all, ask your children what they think. You may not want them to sleepover, but if they are ready, then it may be time to let them spread their wings. Summer camps are all about learning and growing — for you and your child!

Michael Garcia is the founder of Youth Development Pro ( and can be reached at 716-220-6070. He is also the current Director of Camp Centerland ( Michael welcomes anyone to sit down with him for a cup of coffee to learn more about various camp options.