When this newspaper first got underway 30 years ago we knew that “news you could use” would be an important part of editorial mix. A guide to nightclubs was in the first issue; where to find ethnic food soon followed.

While our memory may be a little cloudy we are sure we had all sorts of projects in mind back in those early days. And we are also sure we never envisioned one of them to be summer camps. Nor did we imagine it would be one of our most extensive annual features.

But that is exactly how it has turned out, and this week’s issue contains listings for more than 200 area camps in five different categories — just in the nick of time for working parents to solve the puzzle of how to care for the kids when regular schools have shut down.

This year’s camp guide is also being presented in our sister paper that serves West Windsor and Plainsboro, the WW-P News. And it is also being used for a directory that will be included in all eight of the monthly papers that comprise our Community News Service.

If you detect any errors or omissions please advise us ASAP. We will update our database and the listings that will appear online. It’s never too early to start planning for summer, and it’s never too late to correct or add to our database.

As we were assembling this issue, we received a timely letter from the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey, offering parents some advice as they scout various summer camps. Among the tips:

Program emphasis: Are you looking for a traditional well-rounded experience or a specialty program for you child? Think about what activities are must haves for your child and make sure the camp offers these activities.

Camp director: Find out about the director’s background and if he or she is a year-round camp professional or a seasonal employee. You must feel comfortable entrusting your child’s care to this person.

Cost: There is a camp for every child and budget. Look for camp early. Many camps offer early bird specials for registering early, payment plans, and sibling discounts. Looking early also allows you to plan for camp over time.

Safety procedures: Ask about the safety measures that are in place. These can include inquiring about medical personnel on property, emergency plans, staff screening procedures, and instructor qualifications.

Sensitivity to camper needs: Parents need to be honest about their child’s special needs and be sure that the camp is able to meet their requirements.

Enrollment options: Ask about the length of the program and if there is flexibility. For day camp, ask if they offer half days or 2-3 day options, whether there is before and after care, and if transportation is provided.

Staff composition: Inquire about the age of staff, their experience, training, background checks, camper-to-staff ratios, and supervision in cabins and activities.

Outside review: Make sure the camp is inspected each summer by the department of health and find out if the program follows a nationally known accreditation process. For additional information call 212-391-5208 or visit www.searchforacamp.org.

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