10 Questions to Ask when Picking a Summer Camp

Today, Plum District’s kicking off Summer Camps and Camp GearWe’re lining up everything from traditional day camps and enrichment programs to sports and performing arts camps, so you can sign up your little ones for an incredible summer. Check in with us often so you don’t miss anything!

Here are 10 questions to ask before signing up your little one –  to help ensure they have a healthy, happy summer camp experience:

1) Is my child ready for summer camp?

  • Assess your child’s maturity and social skills. Do they relate well and have good friends? Are they amenable and agreeable? If so, they’re already off to a good start.
  • Next, your child should have the basic skills needed for the camp you’re considering (computer knowledge, sports skills, etc).
  • For overnight camps:  Has your child had positive sleepover experiences with friends or relatives? If so, they’ll probably be just fine.  If they’re excited about the idea of going away, that’s a good sign.

2) What camp is best for my child?

  • Choose a subject your child is comfortable with, and something they’re naturally interested in. Don’t send them off to computer camp if they’d rather be playing basketball. They won’t be a happy camper.

3) What about cost?

  • Start with tuition, then find out if there are extra fees for activities, meals, transportation, or extended hours. Can you afford the total amount?
  • Check to see if it’s a half-day or full-day camp, and look at the program cost per hour. What will my child do during those hours? What will my child take away when camp’s over?
  • Most camps offer financial assistance. Inquire sooner rather than later if you need a helping hand. Options may include: financial aid, scholarships, deferred payment plans, sliding scale tuition, and discounts for bringing a friend.

4) What’s the camp’s philosophy?

  • It should be one you’re comfortable with as a parent. Think about the kind of experience you want your child to have.
  • Some questions to ask: Is the camp interactive and hands on? Is it focused on collaboration or competition? Do campers apply concepts to real word situations?  Is there much unstructured social time?
  • Speak with a camp official if that would be helpful.

5) Who’s leading the camp?

  • Find out the Director’s background and how long they’ve been directing the camp.
  • As for staff, some camps employ high school and college students – others require college degrees, more experience, and various certifications. High school and college students can make great counselors, but make sure they’re engaged and interested in interacting with children rather than just trying to make some summer money.

6) What’s the ratio of staff to campers?

  • ACA guidelines for overnight camps call for a 1:6 ratio for ages 7-8, 1:8 for ages 9-14, and 1:10 for ages 15-18. Day camp guidelines call for 1:8 for ages 6-8, 1:10 for ages 9-14, and 1:12 for ages 15-18.

7) What procedures are in place to keep my child safe?

  • All staff should have background checks and be trained in CPR and First Aid.
  • EMTs should be nearby.
  • Lifeguards should be present at camps involving water.
  • If transportation is necessary, all drivers should be licensed and trained, and all vehicles inspected.

8) What things are most important to you personally?

  • For some parents, it’s the quality of facilities. For others, food allergy prevention is critical. If you’re religious, are there services?
  • Think about what you and your child must have, and if the camp provides that.

9) What’s the camp’s approach to discipline and how is conflict handled between campers?

  • Find out what the camp rules are. The camps practices should generally be in line with your parenting practices.
  • Ask a camp official about conflict resolution. If conflict does occur, it’s important that counselors treat it as a ‘growth opportunity’. They should ask the campers how the conflict arose, how it could’ve been handled differently, and how to move forward in a positive way.

10) What do others say about the camp?

  • Learn about it’s reputation: it’s return rates, accreditation status, and references.
  • For camper return rate, 50% is good (more is better, of course).
  • For staff return rate, anywhere between 40-60% is common. A high return rate suggests the camp is well-managed and can help preserve the traditions that create bonding among campers. If the rate is lower, ask why.
  • Do a site visit, tour the camp, and get a sense of whether or not the kids are happy and engaged. There’s nothing like seeing it in action!

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