Questions to Ask When Looking for Overnight Camp
Summer camp? Already? It’ll be here before you know it, and believe it or not, it’s not too soon to begin researching what overnight camp(s) your child may want to participate in this year. It’s not as easy as just signing up, though. At least, it shouldn’t be. As a parent, you’ll want to make sure your child will be happy and well cared for in someone else’s charge. In order for this to happen, be sure to do your research ahead of time and ask questions before you hand over your money—or child. Here are some important things to ask to ensure you find the perfect camp.
Is my child ready for overnight camp?
How does your child do at sleepovers with friends? Is he excited about the idea of going away? If your child has reasonable social skills and relates well with others, she will do well at camp. Once you’re sure your child is ready, look at the basic requirements. Some camps are open to all kids, while others require certain skills or have other admissions criteria. Math, science and technology camps, in particular, may have prerequisites.
How long has the camp been in operation and what licenses does it have?
Be aware that state licensing requirements vary widely, and in many cases are minimal. Great news if the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association, but remember that some programs are too new or small to get ACA accreditation. And if the camp isn’t the right match for your child’s personality, even an accredited one can be a thumbs-down.
What is the camp philosophy?
What kind of experience do you want your child to have? Will your child get to work in a group, collaborate with other kids and/or learn how to work with a team? Find out how much flexibility the children will have in making their own schedules, how many activities are available and how much unstructured social time there will be. Only you know what your child will need.
What are the qualifications of the director and staff and the ratio of staff to children?
Some camps employ high school or college students, while others require college degrees and more experience. Both are fine, but make sure the staff is engaged and interested in interacting with the kids. As for the director, it’s important to know how long that person has been directing the camp and what his or her background is. The leader-to-child ratio varies depending on the type of camp. ACA accreditation requirements range from 1:5 for overnight campers who are 4 and 5 years old, to 1:12 for day campers ages 15 to 17.
What are their safety procedures?
Make sure the camp does background checks on all employees, has EMTs nearby, staff trained in CPR and first aid and lifeguards if there will be swimming. If transportation is involved, ask about the training and licensing of drivers, how often vehicles are inspected, etc.
What is their approach to conflicts that may arise?
Too much unstructured time can sometimes lead to conflicts between campers. Ask the camp director directly how they deal with situations like this, and make sure you’re comfortable with it.
What do others say about the camp?
Learn more about the reputation of the camp by checking these three things: its return rate, accreditation status and references. If it’s a good camp, people come back. Ask the director for references. Check out the camp website and online reviews, and you may even visit the physical site.
Gina Klein is a homeschool mom and author who resides with her two daughters and husband in Kansas City.