Summer camp is a part of many children's lives, and the options for where to go and what to do continue to expand. It's wonderful to have so many choices, but parents often find they need to choose between sending their child to one camp for the entire summer or to several that will fill those warm-weather months with fun and learning.

Summer camp is a part of many children's lives, and the options for where to go and what to do continue to expand. It's wonderful to have so many choices, but parents often find they need to choose between sending their child to one camp for the entire summer or to several that will fill those warm-weather months with fun and learning.

ONE CAMP ALL SUMMER

When Jenny Slate Grischkan decided to send her son to summer day camp, she wanted a place her preschooler knew well.

She registered Noah for camp at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus, where he attended day care as a baby. The now 7-year-old will return there this summer.

Grischkan, a Bexley resident and longtime member of the JCC, said her son likes going to the same location week after week and interacting with the same counselors.

Location should be a consideration when choosing a camp because it will impact campers and their parents, local and national camp experts said. When choosing a camp, parents need to look at what their needs are, the personality of their children and what they are hoping their children will achieve through the experience, experts said.

Whether you are using camp as summer day care or as an enrichment opportunity for your child will likely play a role in the decision, said Marci Hasty, executive director of the North Branch YMCA of Central Ohio and co-chair of the local YMCA's camp committee.Parents who rely on camp as child care may find it beneficial to select one venue for the entire summer, she said.

"The camp staff is going to develop a relationship with the family - not just the camper but siblings and the parent who is picking them up," Hasty said.

Developing those relationships can create a level of comfort for children and their parents while they are separated for the day, Hasty said.

There's also a convenience factor in returning to the same camp week after week, added Tom Holland, a spokesman for the American Camp Association in Martinsville, Ind. Parents will learn how much time to budget for the drive and drop-off and develop a summer morning routine.

MULTIPLE CAMPS

But families who utilize summer camps as a way to keep kids active over the summer - rather than as child care - may find it interesting to register for camps at several venues.

A lot of children who attend camp at the Ohio Craft Museum in Grandview Heights appreciate the opportunity to spend a week dedicating themselves to art and trying new mediums, said Megan Moriarty, education coordinator. Still, she understands that they also want to spend time playing games or exploring nature.

"There's nothing wrong with being well-rounded," she said. "I recommend a variety."

Dublin resident Shefali Shah takes that approach. She usually sends her three children to three or four weeks of day camp each summer. She lets the children select camps related to their interests, which means they have attended camps at several different locations.

Shah expects that her 12-year-old son will sign up for a football camp for the first time this year. Her 9-year-old son is gravitating towards an art camp.

"I do use summer as an opportunity for them to try things we don't have time for during the school year," Shah said.

She has found that her children do fine at new locations - especially if they are not attending alone.

"If it's a new place and they go with a friend, they're OK," she said.

HOW TO DECIDE

Parents should consider their child's personality when planning their summer camp schedule, Hasty said. A child who likes change and makes friends easily would probably enjoy the adventure of sampling a variety of camps throughout the summer, she said. A younger child or a shy child might prefer returning to a familiar setting, she added.

Halle Schwartz, the JCC's camp director, agreed.

"Routine is very good for kids, especially younger kids," she said.

When children attend for the entire summer, they get more out of camp, Schwartz said. She regularly sees kids developing new friendships and great bonds with their counselors.

"We want kids here longer," she said. "It gives them that connection - a sense that you belong."

Shah also looks for camps that focus on teaching her kids new skills. If it seems like the camp was more focused on playing rather than learning, the children don't usually go back.

Identifying what you want your child to accomplish also is an important step, Holland said. If building relationships with other children and counselors is important, it's best to spend a lot of time at one camp, he said. If you're hoping your child will "taste test" some new activities, a variety of camps is likely the right choice.

Parents need to research the camps to get a good understanding of what they are offering, he said.

For example, the JCC camp covers a variety of activities ranging from sports to science, Schwartz said. The camp also offers ongoing swim and boating lessons that help children master those skills, she said.

Holland recommends screening some options and then sitting down with your child to make a final decision.

"There needs to be an evaluation of, 'What are we comfortable with? What are we hoping to get out of the experience? What is feasible for us?'" he said.