When the calendar turns to the New Year, it’s a good time for parents to start thinking about what their children will do this summer. Although swimming and long summer days may seem months away, summer camps fill up early, and many offer early registration discounts that expire in early spring.
Finding the right camp experience for a child can take time, so the nonprofit American Camp Association (ACA) recommends that parents start soon, and regional camp fairs like the Bucks Camp Expo are a great place to start. Camp fairs offer a convenient way to meet a variety of camps, and to speak personally with camp directors or other camp representatives. To make good camp decisions, and find the right camp for your family's needs and budget, consider asking some of these questions:
- What is the camp’s philosophy and program emphasis?
- What makes this camp unique?
- What is the camp director’s background?
- Is the camp director accessible? Does he/she welcome your questions?
- What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?
- What does a typical camp day include?
- Does the camp offer age-appropriate activities that can grow with your child?
- Do campers choose activities or move as a group?
- How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?
- How does the camp handle special needs?
- How does the camp handle homesickness and other adjustment issues?
- What is the camp’s policy on cell phones and electronic games?
- If the camp serves food, can they handle dietary restrictions?
- Is medical staff on camp?
- What experience, certifications, and training do counselors have or get?
- What percentage of campers return each year?
- What percentage of counselors return each year?
- What is included in the camp tuition? Snacks? Transportation? All activities?
- Is the camp sanitized regularly with an approved cleanser to combat viruses?
- Can or should siblings and friends be in the same group? (Discuss pros and cons.)
- For day camps, does the camp offer early drop-off and late pick-up? Extra fee?
- Is the camp accredited by the ACA (or another oversight organization like the National Association of Independent Schools)?
ACA offers helpful information about preparing children for a summer camp experience here: http://www.acacamps.org/campers-families.
Wrap up a gift certificate for a camp experience with some items your child might use at camp and give the gift of camp this holiday season, then come meet camp directors at the Bucks Camp Expo on January 21!