When researching the best summer camp for your child, you should get to to know the camp’s director before making your decision through phone conversations, email correspondence, or even a personal visit.
Here are seven questions you can ask to help you evaluate your options:
This question essentially boils down to the kind of experience you want your child to have, and for the best camp experience you should try to choose a camp that matches your child’s personality. Parents should ask about the competitive nature of the camp and evaluate whether or not it complements their own parenting philosophies, as some camps promote competitiveness while others focus more on cooperative learning.
The American Camp Association (ACA) is a national association that reviews camps based on 300 different health, safety, and program-quality criteria. And while an ACA accreditation does not guarantee a risk-free environment, it does signal that a camp has met the required standards relating to living accommodations, food service, emergency preparedness, program practices, health care, and other important factors.
This ratio is generally a good indication of the level of supervision your child will receive on a daily basis while at camp, and ACA guidelines require different ratios depending on age and special needs. At resident camps, the ACA requires one staff for every six campers ages 7 and 8; one staff for every eight campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff for every 10 campers ages 15 to 18. While at day camps, the ratios range from one staff for every eight campers ages 6 to 8; one staff for every 10 campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff for every 12 campers ages 15 to 18.
The ACA recommend that, at a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision.
Similarly, ACA standards recommend that 80 percent or more of the counselor/program staff be at least 18 years old. Staff must also be at least 16 years old and be at least two years older than the campers with whom they work.
Parents should be sure to ask camp directors about annual camper return rate as well as the return rate among their staff. A high return rate among staff suggests a camp is well managed and that counselors enjoy working there (most camps have between 40 and 60 percent of staff return). A high camper return rate is also a good reflection of how well the camp is being managed and whether or not campers are satisfied with their experience — though you can also ask for references as well if you’d like to dig a little deeper.
If you still have any lingering questions or doubts, you should have the camp director talk you through a typical day at camp. Ask how much time is spent on various activities and how much freedom children have in choosing their own schedules, and, if you can plan far enough in advance, you can even arrange a site visit while the camp is in session to help you decide if it is the best fit for your child.
American Camp Association. (n.d.). American Camp Association. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from American Camp Association