The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Sleepaway Summer Camp for Your Child

Summer camp can be a life-changing experience for a child. Spending a few weeks away from home, immersed in fun activities, and bonding with new friends can help build confidence, independence, and lifelong memories. However, with so many options for sleepaway summer camps, how do you choose the right one for your child?

Determine Your Child’s Interests and Needs

The first step is to determine what your child is interested in and what they hope to gain from the experience. Some things to consider include:

– Their hobbies and favorite activities: Sports? Arts and crafts? Adventure activities?

– Social development: Do they want to make new friends? Gain independence from parents?

– Skill building: Are they interested in learning a new skill like sailing, rock climbing, or horseback riding?

– Maturity level: Consider if your child will thrive more in a camp with kids their same age, or in a camp with a range of ages.

Discussing these topics with your child will help ensure you find a camp that aligns with their interests and needs. The camp experience will be much more meaningful and impactful if the activities and environment are well-suited to your child.

Research Available Sleepaway Summer Camp Options

Once you determine your child’s needs and interests, start researching camps that meet those criteria. Some things to consider in your search include:

– Activities offered: Look for camps that offer your child’s favorite activities, sports, arts, adventure, etc. Some camps specialize in certain areas.

– Location: Consider how far from home you’re willing to send your child. Some camps are close by while others are in more remote, natural settings.

– Ages served: Make sure the camp accepts children in your child’s age range. Some camps group kids by age while others have a wider range.

– Reviews and ratings: Check independent reviews from sites like,, or Yelp to determine quality and reputation. Look for highly-rated camps with positive reviews mentioning activities, staff, facilities, safety, and value.

– Cost: Sleepaway summer camp costs can range from $500 to $1500 per week or more, depending on the amenities and activities offered. Determine your budget before you start researching.

Visit the Top Contenders

Once you narrow down the options, visit the top few camps you’re most interested in. Many camps offer open houses, information sessions, and tours for prospective camp families. Visiting in person is the best way to get a feel for the overall vibe and experience of the camp. Some things to look for on your visit include:

– Engaged and enthusiastic staff: Staff should seem genuinely excited about the camp and activities. They’ll be responsible for your child, so their attitude and experience level matter.

– Well-maintained facilities: Check that cabins, recreational facilities, bathrooms, and communal areas are clean, safe, and in good working order.

– Happy campers: Strike up conversations with campers and their parents. Ask about their experience with the camp. Look for camps where kids seem to be having an absolute blast!

– Strong safety standards: Ensure the camp conducts background checks on all staff, has medical personnel on-site, and has procedures in place for emergencies. Your child’s safety should be the top priority.

– Flexibility: Look for a camp that will work with you on things like the number of weeks your child will attend or any special needs they may have. The camp should be willing to customize the experience for your child.

Make Your Final Decision

After visiting your top choices, discuss the options with your child to determine their favorite camp. Some final things to consider before making your final decision include:

– Activities: Does one camp offer significantly more activities that your child enjoys? The variety and quality of activities can make a big impact on their experience.

– Facilities and amenities: Compare factors like the quality of cabins, bathrooms, recreational equipment, dining options, and technology access at the different camps. Choose the camp with facilities that will add to your child’s enjoyment and comfort level.

– Cost: While cost shouldn’t be the only factor, determine which camp option will give you the most value for your budget. Look for ways to save on costs like choosing a camp with shorter session lengths or minimal add-on fees.

– Your child’s enthusiasm: Ultimately, this is your child’s experience. Choose the camp that sparks the most excitement and enthusiasm from them. Their passion will help motivate them to participate in activities, make new friends, and gain independence.

– References and reviews: Speaking with references from other camp families and reading online reviews may provide additional insight to help finalize your choice. Look for recurring themes around the quality of staff, activities, facilities, value, and safety.

Once you make your final decision, register your child for camp and start preparing them for this exciting new adventure! A memorable summer camp experience can lead to newfound confidence, independence, and friendships that last for years to come.

Prepare Your Child for Their Sleepaway Summer Camp Experience

To ensure your child has the best experience at sleepaway camp, it’s important to prepare them properly. Some things you can do to help them prepare include:

– Visit the camp beforehand: If possible, visit the camp with your child before their session starts. Let them explore the cabins, meet staff, and get familiar with the layout. This can help alleviate anxiety about going to an unfamiliar place.

– Practice separation: Gently encourage short separations from you in the weeks leading up to camp to help your child get used to being away from home. For example, have them stay with a friend or relative for a weekend.

– Discuss expectations: Talk about what they can expect at camp each day. Discuss the activities, cabins, meals, rest periods, and rules. The more they know about what to expect, the less uncertain they will feel.

– Practice self-care: Make sure your child knows how to do basic things like showering, brushing teeth, and laundry. Send extras of necessities like socks, towels, and toiletries in case anything gets lost or dirty.

– Get excited together: Share in your child’s excitement for camp. Look through the camp’s website and photos together. Talk about all the fun they will have. Your positive attitude will help them feel enthusiastic rather than anxious.

– Pack comfort items: Have your child pack favorite toys, books, games, and snacks to make their cabin feel cozy. A touch of home can help combat homesickness.

– Write letters ahead of time: Have your child write letters to you before they leave for camp. This gives them an activity to look forward to each day and ensures you’ll hear from them right away. Send letters in return to keep communication open.

With the proper preparation and encouragement, you can ensure your child’s first sleepaway camp experience is positive, and memorable and helps build their independence. The rewards of overcoming challenges and thriving at camp will stay with them for years to come.

Saying Goodbye and Helping Your Child Adjust

When it’s time for your child to head off to camp, emotions may run high. To help make the transition as smooth as possible:

– Stay positive: Remain upbeat and encouraging. Your positive attitude will help keep your child’s spirits high. Smile, give hugs, and express confidence in them.

– Keep goodbyes brief: Avoid long, emotional goodbyes that may make your child feel anxious. Give hugs, say “I love you” and “Have fun!”, then leave cheerfully. Your child will adjust more easily if you seem confident in them.

– Don’t linger: Don’t hang around the camp after saying your goodbyes. Lingering can make your child worry you don’t think they can handle it. Give a final wave and smile, then head home.

– Send a letter right away: Mail a letter or care package for your child as soon as you return home. Let them know you’re thinking of them and are excited to hear all about their adventures at camp. Receiving mail from home will lift their spirits.

– Give camp time: Don’t call or visit your child at camp unless absolutely necessary. Give them time to adjust to their new surroundings and gain independence. If you do call, keep conversations light and positive.

– Prepare for some homesickness: Some level of homesickness is normal and to be expected. The camp staff are experienced in helping children overcome homesickness. Have confidence your child will adjust, but also prepare for the possibility of receiving a tearful phone call or letter. Offer your support and encouragement, then trust the camp staff to help lift their spirits.

With your love and support, your child will gain independence and confidence at camp. Though it’s hard to say goodbye, keep in mind the rewards of this experience and how much your child will grow. Their stories of adventures with new friends will bring you together again at the end of camp, closer than ever before.

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Sleepaway Summer Camp for Your Child

Summer camp can be a life-changing experience for a child. Spending a few weeks away from home, immersed in fun activities, and bonding with new friends can help build confidence, independence, and lifelong memories. However, with so many options for sleepaway summer camps, how do you choose the right one for your child?

You may also like: How to find the best after-school activities for your kids.


Sending your child off to sleepaway summer camp for the first time can be challenging, but with the right preparation and support, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for them. By determining your child’s interests and needs, researching camp options, visiting top contenders, and preparing them thoroughly for the experience, you’ll find a camp where they will thrive. Though saying goodbye may be hard, have confidence in the independence and memories they will gain. The stories they share upon returning home will reassure you that the rewards of overcoming homesickness and adjusting to camp life will stay with them forever. With your love and encouragement, your child can have an unforgettable summer adventure at sleepaway camp.

Dr. Rand Certain’s Van Alstyne Music Academy: Unleashing Musical Potential

Van Alstyne, Texas is home to a vibrant historic downtown, beautiful city parks, and unique shops and businesses—but until recently, the town did not have a school of music.

When Dr. Rand Certain, Owner of Plano-based Certain Music, moved to Van Alstyne in 2020, he decided to open a second location in the town, teaching students from his home studio. Certain Music also hired an assistant piano and violin teacher, Gabby Aguirre, and a  viola viola and assistant piano teacher, Dr. Steven Beall, to help with the Plano Studio, and began offering virtual lessons. After teaching private violin and piano lessons to North Texas students for more than 27 years, Dr. Certain is excited to bring his growing music school to the Van Alstyne community.


“Music is a universal language, and the spirit of learning music helps any individual grow exponentially—emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually,” says Dr. Certain. “I am always proud to see the progress a student makes on their instrument, and in their confidence.”

 By providing virtual classes, Certain Music offers its students a safe, contactless way to learn a new instrument. Through one-on-one video instruction with a live instructor, students can enjoy a personalized learning experience that is very similar to an in-person private lesson.

“In the midst of the pandemic, I was looking for something different and interesting to do—and since we had a piano at home, I thought I would give learning it a try,” says Ketan Ambani, a new Certain Music student. “At the age of 47, and without a single ‘musical bone’ in my body, I wasn’t sure where this would go—but I am so glad I decided to do it. We are doing sessions by video, and yet Dr. Certain has an uncanny ability to understand how I am feeling and adjust his teaching style accordingly. I have been very happy with the lessons, and have learned a lot under his tutelage.”

Although many students are choosing virtual lessons, private face-to-face classes are still available. Certain Music offers one-on-one classes, which can reduce potential exposure compared to group classes. The music school teaches students as young as three, up to age 93, and many families have multiple students enrolled.

“We have been with Certain Music for almost 14 years now, and our three children play both the piano and the violin interchangeably,” says Gabriella Aguirre. “It has been such a delight to see them growing with music as their friend under Dr. Certain’s guidance and teaching.”

Prior to the pandemic, Certain Music held annual student recitals at Plano Courtyard Theater in Plano—and for 13 years in a row, students played at the Plano Starbucks on Coit Road each December. In 2020, formal recitals were suspended, but students still took advantage of opportunities to perform, while following COVID-19 safety protocols. St. Paul Lutheran Church in Plano invited the school’s violin students to play for their congregation in September. Students prepared and practiced the music individually, and spread out to practice and perform, wearing masks and practicing proper social distancing. In December, 14 violin students from Certain Music played at the outdoor Christmas tree lighting in downtown Van Alstyne. The large stage provided plenty of space for students and their teachers to stand safely spaced apart, and all Certain Music participants wore masks.

For Madelyn Wheat, a new Certain Music student from Van Alstyne, the performance was an opportunity to challenge herself. “A public performance wasn’t really something I’d have thought I’d do when I set out to learn, but it was a great experience and I look forward to doing it again,” she said.

Wheat had originally been a brass player in her school band but wanted to learn violin because she enjoyed Celtic / folk fiddle music. “At first, a delicate stringed instrument terrified me and I had no idea where to begin. In just six months, I have come a long way in learning to play. Dr. Certain is kind and patient with me, and has gone out of his way to make sure I have access to Irish/Celtic tunes, knowing they are what and why I want to play.”

Certain Music proves a traditional style of music education, offering private lessons in Violin, Piano, Music Theory, and Conducting. For younger students, the studio provides family-style teaching, including the parent or parents, who can participate in learning the instrument along with their children. This may mean re-introducing an instrument to a parent who has previously played or studied the violin, and giving them the opportunity to accompany their child. Lessons balance music theory and technical skills with music playing.

“It has been more than three months since Dr. Certain began mentoring my son, Arjun, in piano, and I already see great progress in his technical abilities and musicality as a whole,” says Sriram Guruswamy. “Arjun has started to love piano and never misses his practice time, thanks to Dr. Certain’s frequent encouragement.”

Dr. Certain himself began learning violin at age two, during a lesson with the famed Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the international Suzuki method of music education. He went on to train under many of the world’s most respected teachers, including Franklin and Dorothy Washburn, Laura Crawford, Samuel Applebaum, Yehudi Menuhin, and Ivan Galamian. Dr. Certain holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in Violin Performance from Centenary College’s Hurley School of Music, as well as a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of North Texas.

Dr. Certain has performed with the Dallas Symphony, Richardson Symphony, East Texas Symphony, Marshall Symphony, and Shreveport Symphony. He has shared the stage with Violinists Itzhak Perlman, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, and Eugene Fodor, as well as Pianist Dave Brubeck, Fiddlin’ Frenchie Burk, Chubby Wise, and Randy Travis. He is a member of the Grayson County Music Teachers Association, Plano Music Teachers Association, National Music Teachers Association, American String Teachers Association, and the National Association of Schools of Music.

Dr. Certain is also an ordained minister and is grateful to God for the gift of music. “Whether I’m teaching Violin, Piano, or the Bible, God has given me the ability to connect with individuals, sense what they are feeling, and have a down-to-earth conversation with them,” Dr. Certain says. “I will be loving, caring, and respectful, and will listen to them and help them learn. First, trust is created. Then, there is a connection of gently teaching that student. When you are in an environment that is caring, loving and respectful, you will feel at ease and able to learn. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to share the joy of music with others.”

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