When it comes to choosing a camp for your child, there are a host of options.
Published: January 1, 2019
By: Denise Yearian
Both residential and day camps have traditional and specialty offerings. Traditional camps offer a variety of experiences and are a good choice for the child who wants different activities or enjoys constant stimulation. Specialty camps provide concentrated instruction in one or two areas and are a good option for those who are extremely focused on a given activity and can maintain their attention span. Following are a few things to consider when selecting a camp for your child.
- Personal interests and preferences. Talk with your child about his expectations for summer camp. What are his interests? Does he want to focus on one activity or try a variety of experiences? Would he like to try something new? If so, summer camp is the perfect opportunity to do so.
- Camp readiness. If this is your child’s first experience with camp, consider a day or residential program close to home. If your child wants to attend an overnight camp, schedule a trial run. Send him to a relative’s house for the weekend. How did he do away from home? Was he able to take care of his personal needs? Did he adjust to different foods? Did he sleep well?
- Duration. Talk with your child about how long he would like to stay at camp. Is this a reasonable length of time for his age and developmental level? First-time campers would do well starting in a partial-week to full-week program. Even if your child decides to stay at camp all summer, allow a few weeks break between school and camp for down time.
- Cost. When considering a camp, be sure you know what the total cost is. Some camps have a base price but charge additional fees for trips, special events and activities. If the camp you want to send your child to is more than you can afford, ask about scholarship programs. Also ask about the refund policy in the event your child gets sick or there is a family emergency.
- Camp Counselors and staff. Find out what the camper-to-counselor ratio is. Six campers to one counselor is recommended by the American Camping Association. What is the camp’s return rate? What experience and/or training do the counselors have? How are counselors chosen? What is the camp’s discipline policy? Can they accommodate health concerns such as asthma, allergies and dispensing medicine?
- Referrals. When considering a camp, ask for individuals you can call whose children have attended the camp. Find out what those children’s experiences have been. Also check to see if the camp is accredited by organizations such as the American Camping Association or the National Camp Association. While this is not imperative, organizations like these have guidelines camps must meet before they can become accredited.
- Pre-visit. Once a camp has been chosen, arrange to visit with your child. Does the camp have an open house? If not, can you drop by on a given weekend? If visiting isn’t an option, get onto the camp’s website or look at a brochure with your child so he can familiarize himself with the campground, buildings and sleeping quarters.
- Supplies, rules and regulations. Several weeks before camp, get a list and begin gathering the supplies your child will need. Also ask the camp what the child is not allowed to take (iPods, videogames, etc.). Find out about other rules and regulations and familiarize your child with these rules.
- Communicate. Several weeks before camp begins, talk with your child about the upcoming experience. Does he have any apprehension? If your child is afraid he will be homesick, remind him these are normal concerns. Reassure him of the positive experience he will have. Since fear of the unknown is the greatest cause of worry, the more information you have about camp, the better off your child will be. Consider sending letters and care packages before your child arrives so he will have something to open during mail call on his first day.
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children and four grandchildren.
5 Benefits to Attending Summer Residential Camp
Day camps are a summer staple for many families, but sleep-away camps provide an iconic outdoor setting with a wealth of ways to help children grow, expand their horizons and make memories that will last a lifetime. Here are five benefits to sending your child to residential camp this summer:
- Foster Independence. Residential camp is an ideal place to learn independent living and self-responsibility. Out from under their parents’ shadow, campers are expected to get up, go to bed and attend scheduled events on time, as well as keep their cabin area clean. And for those who have never spent the night away from their parents, it enables them to embrace the experience as their own, without having to filter it through what Mom and Dad think or feel.
- Practice Kindness. Sleep-away camp is a good way to put character-building skills learned at home into practice. Here, kids have an opportunity to show empathy toward others in need, such as sharing shampoo or toothpaste with someone who forgot a toiletry item, or extending kindness to a camper who feels left out.
- Make Diverse Friendships. The residential camp community is the perfect platform for children to step outside their normal social circle and forge friendships with kids from other parts of the state, country – even the world. And with the widespread use of electronic communication, it’s easier than ever for these friendships to continue to grow long after camp is over.
- Venture Out. Many residential camps offer atypical activities that may not be available at day camps, such as overnight hiking trips, mountain boarding, wilderness adventures, etc. Activities such as these challenge kids to take risks under trained supervision, using appropriate safety gear.
- Take a Tech Break. More often than not, children are instructed to leave their tech devices at home before coming to camp. This can turn into a big bonus, as it gives campers the opportunity to work on other communication skills, such as letter writing, and real “facetime” with other campers, as well as ample time to enjoy planned camp activities.
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE CHOOSING A CAMP
- Are you licensed by the state or do you hold an accreditation or certification? What exactly does that credential mean?
- What kind of background, training and experience do counselors and staff have? How are they chosen?
- What is the counselor-to-camper ratio? How many students are in each group? How often are the groups together?
- What kind of medical response is on hand? Camp nurse or CPR and first-aid certified staff?
- Are you able to administer medicine?
- What is a typical day like?
- How often will the campers take field trips? Where do they go? Is there increased supervision in populated setting?
- What other resources are available to campers, such as a pool, ice arena, farm, hiking trails, ropes course, archery, etc.? How often will my child be able to participate in these?
- Are lunches and/or snacks provided?
- Do you offer before-care and after-care? Will it be the same staff caring for my child?
- How often are the facilities cleaned?
- What alternative plans do you have for inclement weather?
- What does the camp fee cover? What extra fees will I be required to pay?
- Do you offer scholarships or financial aid?
- What is the refund policy and rules regarding transfer of weeks?
- What is your policy regarding cell phones and other technology items brought to camp?
- How do you handle homesickness and other adjustment issues?
- What is the discipline policy?
- How do you handle bullying?
- What are your drop-off and pick-up policies?
- Will you provide references?