Summer is right around the corner, and many parents are searching for a summer camp for their children. Some parents opt for a day camp, while others choose a camp that spans a whole week or even the entire summer. Regardless of how long camp is in session, you’ll want to ensure the camp you choose is the right type of camp for your child and that the camp is a safe decision.
Types of Camps
While general camps focus on a little bit of everything – including arts, outdoor adventures, and more – some camps are more niche. Academic camps include biology, astronomy, math, robotics, business, and more. Adventure camps can include a wide variety of activities, or they can focus on certain ones, such as backpacking, biking, rafting, and scuba diving. Arts camps can revolve around theater, music, writing, or classical art. Other types of camps include religious, special needs, military, family, sports, and more.
Talk to your children to find out in which camps they may be interested. You can then search online to see the ones that are accessible for you as far as distance and price. While choosing the type of camp and configuring the cost of camp are important, ensuring the safety of your children is the most essential part of the selection process.
Checking the Staff
You’ll want to find out who the camp director is, his or her history as a camp director, and whether or not he or she is a licensed camp director. You may even want to meet with the camp director or speak with him or her on the phone. Ask about the other staff as well. How are they screened and trained during the hiring process?
Determine the adult-to-child ratio at the camp. The American Camp Association (ACA) sets specific ratios for different age groups to ensure adequate monitoring of activities and to prevent the staff from becoming overwhelmed. Ideally, background checks would be the standard at camps, but unfortunately, 23 states lack requirements for camps to conduct background checks.
Luckily, the ACA accredits over 2,400 camps. In order to become accredited, camps meet up to 300 standards for health, safety, and program quality. Try to find an ACA accredited camp near you. If you cannot find one, ask why the camps you’re interested in aren’t accredited. Ask what types of training staff members receive, including medical emergency training, sexual abuse prevention, water safety, and fire hazard safety practices.
All staff should be trained in first aid and CPR. A well-run camp should have qualified, licensed medical personnel on site at all times. The camp should also provide basic equipment for medical personnel. Find out the distance of the closest hospital. Ask if the area in which the camp is located prone to natural disasters, and determine how well prepared the staff is to handle such an occurrence. Are procedures in place in case of a natural disaster?
Activities, Meals, and More
To find out what type of activities the camp provides for children, attend a tour of the facilities before camp officially starts. You’ll be able to see what they offer and the condition of the equipment, such as life vests, canoes, or specialized equipment for niche camps, such as batting cages for baseball camp.
For overnight camps, you’ll want to check out the dining and food. The camp should provide a well-balanced diet that can be adjusted for allergies or special diet concerns. If the camp cannot adhere to allergies or special diet needs, ask if your children can bring some of their own food and how it can be properly stored.
Your last step is to search for reviews of the camp and ask for references from the camp directly. Contact parents who have previously sent their children to the camp, and ask about their experiences and how they rate the camp. You should also take the time to speak to your children about how they can keep themselves’ safe. For example, discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol, as well as the hazards of experimentation.
While checking every little detail may not be possible or necessary, you should research your options. You don’t want to spend the weeks worrying about your child’s safety, so research ahead of time to ensure you’ve sent your children to the best camp available to your family. When it comes to the safety of your children, you can never ask too many questions.