Asking the Right Questions About Your Child's Camp
Sending your child to summer camp for the first time can be a difficult experience; from asking about camp size to camp cafeteria food, the first action you need to take is asking questions to determine the right summer camp for your child. After all, according to the American Camp Association, ACA accredited camps have shown a 90 percent growth in the past decade. Since parents have determined that children need to undergo further developmental education even when school is out, the numbers are still rising. Proper research on a camp will alleviate many of your fears, and most importantly, it will help you decide if your child will be happy attending this camp. Each child is an individual who wants different things. Find answers for your child by asking the right questions about a potential summer camp.
- What size is this camp?
Camp sizes can vary greatly; from population to size of location, these factors matter for your child. Both small and large camps have their benefits, but it depends on what kind of experience your child is looking for. Smaller camps tend to foster a sense of community and children get more individual attention, while large camps often have more resources and activities for the children.
- What is this camp's philosophy?
Finding out what this camp wants to bring to the table for your child is key. Also, a part of the camp's philosophy can be found in its affiliations. Some camps are Christian-based or have other religious leanings, while still others have no religion associated with them whatsoever. Some camps are more focused on community building or democratic education than others. Whether the philosophy is secular or not, a parent can learn a lot from a camp's philosophy.
- Is there a specific demographic that the typical campers hail from or is the camp population diverse?
Some camps are havens for children with well-to-do parents, and these camps may sometimes have financial aid available for children who are unable to pay the full cost. Other camps have children of a specific ethnicity or subculture who dominate the population. Other camps pride themselves on diversity and have a whole host of different students for your child to become friends with. Another factor of demographics is whether the camp is local or has a national reach. Some camps attract children from all areas, while others are mostly camps for local children.
- What will be a typical day at camp for my child?
Find out if your child will be swimming or doing crafts, horseback riding or kayaking; after all, your child will want to know what a typical day will be like. Camps offer a variety of different activities so a typical day will be different for each camp. They could offer free play or a strict schedule, so it is up to you to find out.
- What is the staff to camper ratio, and how much training and experience do the staff have?
You want to find out if there is a staff member for every five students or every fifty students. If there is a problem, the smaller the ratio the better. According to the American Camp Association, more than 1,200,000 people are staffed by summer camps annually, as counselors, managers and even food service providers. For younger children, there are usually around 10 children assigned to a staff member, but as the ages of the children increase, the staff- to-child ratio can grow. In Florida, the maximum staff-to-child ratio for summer camps is 1 to 25, while Massachusetts institutes a ratio of 1 to 13 for younger children. It depends on both the area and the age of the child. Question the camp about how much training and experience the staff have; do any of them have lifesaving certifications? Years of prior employment with children? Ask away.
- What can I expect when it comes to camp-to-parent communication?
Find out if the camp will regularly update you on the well-being of your child, or if you will be able to contact the child yourself while he or she is at camp. Research their speed with addressing crucial parent-related issues. Some camps even have online blogs and email picture albums for you to keep up with your child's in-camp activities.
- How safe is this camp?
Some of the larger-scale camps have instituted security guards and gates to ensure the safety of the children. Not all camps have these features, however, and they still retain an atmosphere of safety and community. Most camps, regardless of their small or large scale, have rules on who can come to see a child at the camp or even enter the camp.
- Can I be confident that the food served at this camp is both safe and nutritious?
In the past, camps have been known to serve red meat on an excessive basis and leave the vegetables lacking. However, in modern times, many camps have stepped up with nutrition and provide options that are healthy for everyone. Ask your potential camp about their usual menu and if they can make any special nutrition accommodations.
- Is there immediate healthcare available for my child if he or she has a problem?
Many camps have a nurse on their location while others are close to a hospital.
- Is there a proper balance of recreation and enrichment at this summer camp?
Find out if the camp will provide a proper balance of fun with important enrichment activities. For example, a camp could provide fun activities like swimming but include enrichment activities afterwards like group talking sessions and even academic refreshers.
- Structure versus free play: which does this camp value?
See if this potential camp has a rigid schedule that the staff and children stick to. Some camps value free play with different activities for children who can leave and choose another one if they would like to. Others have a schedule that must be adhered to.
- What can I expect of the parent-to-child communication while camp is in session?
Some camps institute a policy of no parental contact for the first week or so to prevent the child from homesickness. However, this is dependent on whether the camp is just a day camp or a sleepover camp. Each camp does parent- to-child communication differently, and some even encourage it.
- Does this camp have a reputable accreditation?
Organizations like the ACA regularly accredit summer camps across the nation. Find out if your potential summer camp has been accredited by any organization. If not, that is a factor that should be considered.