1. Make sure it's a fit. Is your child passionate about the camp's area of focus? When you're considering a camp, review last year's program to make sure it will sustain your camper's interest. Your aspiring astronaut may benefit more from a few visits to the local planetarium than an entire summer studying the stars.
2. Start off right. Discuss your child's skill level, interests, and goals with the counselors early on. That way, whenever possible, they can tailor projects to their needs (within reason; don't expect a customized program unless you shell out for a one-on-one tutor).
3. Let them bring a friend. Stave off loneliness by inviting a pal to sign up for the same camp. Having a friend around will take the edge off if this is your child's first time away from home.
4. Trust the counselors. It's only natural to worry about your child when she goes away, whether it's for a day, a week, or a month. But being hands-off will help them become more independent — one of the great rewards of summer camp.
5. Illuminate the possibilities. Help your child see that even skills they doesn't enjoy practicing can further their goals. For example, your child will need to learn how to write before they becomes the marine biologist that they want to be, for example. So if your child will be attending a writing camp, suggest that they draft stories about ocean exploration.
6. Join in the fun. If your child attends an arts camp, create something together when they're at home. It's a subtle way to reinforce (and observe) what they're learning — and it gives your child's self-esteem a big boost when they show off their stuff.
7. Note your child's progress. If you notice that your child isn't getting enough out of the experience, talk to their counselor. The counselor may be able to shed some light — and help come up with a plan to turn things around.
8. Make room for fun! Remember, this is a time for your child to rejuvenate themself. When they comes home after a long week at math camp, ask what they want to do over the weekend; allow for plenty of downtime during the course of the summer.