With summer camp deadlines looming in the month of March, it’s time to make a decision about where your child will be roasting marshmallows come July. Summer camp can have an incredible impact on the growth of young kids. CBSNewYork has tips from an expert on how to choose the best camp for your son or daughter. Also check out our picks by parents for the best camps in the area. By Renee Smith.

Begin With Your Child

Adam Weinstein, the executive director for American Camp Association (ACA), New York and New Jersey, says, “Start by thinking about your child.”

He advises parents to be careful not to choose a camp just because your neighbors or your friends send their children there. Instead, consider your own child. What are their interests? What social environment works best for them? What areas would you like to see them grow in?

A great resource at this stage is The Camp Wizard, where you can search for camps using criteria such as location, price and time frame to narrow down your choices. If you prefer to speak with a camp placement specialist, the ACA  provides this service for free! Just call (800)777-CAMP (2267) x 12 to talk with someone whose sole job it is to help you find the best camp for your child.

Or visit a camp fair. You can visit Blackboard Camps for the most up-to-date schedule in New York.

What’s Important To You?

There are going to be some non-negotiable criterion in choosing the perfect summer camp for your child. It may be basics like price or location.  The ACA advises parents to consider the philosophy and program emphasis of the camp and be sure that it matches your own. Some great questions to ask in determining this:

o What type of learning approach is used in the camp?
o How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?
o How are campers’ adjustment issues addressed?
o How is communication between the camp and the parents handled?
o What is the camper to staff ratio per cabin (for sleepaway camps) and per activity?
o How are emergencies handled?

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask about the education and background of the camp director and the staff. The ACA recommends that the camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision. Camp directors should have a bachelor’s degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years and have at least sixteen weeks of camp administrative experience before assuming the responsibilities of director.

Make A Choice

Once you have narrowed your choices down to the final contenders, it is time to involve your child in the final decision. Weinstein notes that this starts the process of independent thinking and decision making for your children – which is what so much of the camp experience is about. Show them the camp websites, talk them through the highlights of each choice and take them on a tour of the camp. On another note, if you are planning ahead for 2012, take the opportunity to visit camps that you are interested in this summer. As Adam Weinstein says, “It’s always great to see a camp in action!”

For more on the latest NYC activities and events in NYC, follow us on Twitter!

Renee Smith writes for Me and George Bailey.