BY OLYA FESSARD
With summer around the corner, parents and children alike are beginning to wonder
how they will be spending this free time. Will summer camp be an option? lf so,
it is time for the big hunt.
When searching for the right camp, it’s important for parents to try to match their
child’s interests and abilities with the right setting. Talk to other parents
and friends about their recommendations. Even more importantly, talk to your
child about what kind of summer camp she’s interested in. Once you’ve narrowed
your selection to two or three camps, visit them if possible.
Many camps offer Open House days. A personal visit can provide far more information
about a camp than can a website, telephone call, brochure, or video. Visiting
when the camp is active in the summer is the ideal way to find a summer camp
for the following summer.
But for this year, make sure you approach the camps you are interested in with all
the right questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s only logical. After
all, the camp will have your child in their hands for a significant amount of
time. You want to make sure he or she is in capable hands. Here are some
questions that will give you information that you’ll probably want to know. If
you’re only looking at day camp, some of the questions will not apply.
- What is the camp’s overall philosophy? Make sure it is compatible with your own.
- Can you order a brochure or even a free video?
- Where is the camp located? Is it nearby for first-time campers? Near the mountains, ocean, or lake?
- How long has it been in business? Who owns the camp?
- How much does the camp cost? Additional fees for special activities or supplies?
- Does the camp offer financial assistance? Financial breaks for siblings or registering early?
- Is the camp coed or for girls or boys only? Divided by ages?
- What would a typical day be like?
- Are campers responsible for jobs around camp? How are the responsibilities divided?
- How often is laundry done? Do campers do their own?
- How competitive are the activities?
- How much equipment and resources are available for your child? For example, if your child wants to ride a horse each day, will he be able?
- How much supervision is there?
- How is discipline handled?
- Are disabled or special needs children accepted at camp? Are they separated or mainstreamed into camp life?
- What kind of food is served? Gourmet or basic camp rations?
- What are the sleeping arrangements? In tents, cottages, beds, or sleeping bags?
- How does a camp accommodate for kids with food allergies?
- If your child becomes ill, how is that handled? What type of medical staff does the camp offer? How are emergencies handled? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that overnight camps with more than 50 kids have an onsite registered nurse with access to a supervising physician.
- How does the camp handle homesickness?
- What happens in case of inclement weather?
- What are the staff’s qualification and age? The ACA recommends that 80 % of the staff be 18 years or older.
- How are counselors screened, hired, and trained? Who supervises this training as well as the counselors on a day-to-day basis?
- Who teaches specialized areas such as swimming, rock climbing, sailing, dance, etc., and what are their qualifications?
- What is the counselor turnover from year to year?
- What is the ratio of counselors to campers?
- Any special packing instructions, such as specific clothing, bedding, and/or special equipment?
- Are there special uniforms? If so, how much do they cost and what is the refund policy?
- Can the camp provide references? Be sure to call them. Ask the parents about their child’s camp experience as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the camp.
- What is the camp’s safety record?
Because the camp experience will have a significant impact on your child’s life, it’s
important for parents to take the time required to do the research. It is only
then that you can make a well-informed choice of camp, whether it be sleep-away
camp or day camp. While there’s no easy way to find the best camp for your
child, the above questions will provide you with a starting point in making
this very important decision.