Finding The Best Camp For Your Child
Thank you for letting goCamps.com help you and your child decide which summer camp to attend. Whether this is your child's first year at camp or otherwise, your family has much to look forward to. Camp is a place where children grow individually and socially as they embark on an array of adventures that will transform everyday summer life into a special, stimulating world they will never forget.
Before you begin reviewing our camp listings and special program lists, you'll want to read our articles on Finding The Best Camp For Your Child, How To Avoid Homesickness, Camp Supply Checklist, and others. Be sure to have the kids take a look at the summer camp articles just for them!
Both accredited and non-accredited camps are listed in Frost's Summer Camp Guide. Those camps that are accredited have received their accreditation from the American Camp Association (ACA). The national office of the American Camp Association is at 5000 SR 67 N., Martinsville, IN 46151-7902. Current accreditation status, cost, and all other camp facts should be verified by parents when communicating directly with camp representatives. Unless camp is in session, you'll want to start out by contacting the camp operators first.
The staff here at Frost Publications, Inc. hopes you find the perfect camp within our site. If you have any ideas as to how we can improve our site, please let us know!
Any number of things will initially attract and motivate you to seriously consider a camp for your child. Location, session duration, pricing, facilities and programs are all easily communicated in camp publications, brochures and videos. However, you'll ultimately want to learn about the people who are responsible for the camp's policies and operation: Camp Directors and Operators. These professionals and their staff will guide, support, entertain and educate your child while at summer camp, so you'll want to ask several important questions and discuss key topics in order to make the best possible choice.
Review this list before calling or visiting the Camp Director and be sure to add to it. With a little time and effort, you'll find a wonderful camp that fits your needs and, more importantly, those of your youngster.
1. Camp Philosophy
This relates to the camp's purpose and how it impacts on all areas of camp life. What ideas are emphasized and how they are reflected at camp. For instance, the importance of competition can vary widely from camp to camp. Some Camp Directors feel that experiencing competition is a natural part of life and emphasize this idea in sports and other activities. Others work in non-competitive ways to foster a greater sense of cooperation and interdependence.
2. Camp Director's Experience
The American Camp Association (ACA) minimum standards for Camp Directors require a bachelor's degree, a minimum 16 weeks of camp administration experience, and the completion of in-service training within the previous 3 years. Whether a camp is accredited or not, you'll want to know about the Director's previous experience in staff and camper supervision. In some cases, you will speak with a Certified Camp Director (CCD). This certification comes from the ACA and is bestowed on those who have met requirements related to work experience, age, education, and have successfully completed a Camp Director Institute.
3. Staff Requirements
Accredited overnight summer camps require a ratio of counselors to campers as follows: One counselor for every six campers for ages 7 and 8; one counselor for every eight campers for ages 9-14; one counselor for every ten campers forages 15-17. Day camp ratios are: One counselor for every eight campers for ages 6-8; one counselor for every ten campers ages 9-14; one counselor for every twelve campers for ages 15-17. Ask the Camp Director what they look for in their employees. Staff members must be dependable, enthusiastic, outgoing, knowledgeable and truly caring individuals. They will be looked up to and depended on by campers for physical and emotional support and must be qualified to assume this important responsibility. The American Camp Association recommends that at least 80% of the counselors and program staff should be 18 years or older and at least 20% of the administrative and program staff possess a bachelor's degree. Also, find out what experience the Camp Director and staff have had with children the same age as your own and other age groups.
Ask the Director for references. It's always possible you'll find the name of someone you know. However, a conversation with a few other parents (friends or strangers) who have children attending the camp will be very helpful to you. Also, speak with your friends about camps they've had experience with. This can provide you with additional direction in locating the best camp for your child.
5. Rules & Discipline
Be sure that discipline problems will be handled in a manner that you are comfortable with. You and your child will be interested in knowing about important rules and how discipline is applied. Penalties should be carried out in a fair and calm manner. Rules and policies should be communicated clearly and openly, and should uniformly apply to all campers.
6. Special Needs
Be sure to discuss any special assistance your child will require. Everything from facilities and medical staff to special foods and medications should be reviewed to your satisfaction.
You dropped your child off at camp two days ago, you have heard nothing, and you sit at home and wonder. The question is how can you be sure your camper is okay? First, it is important to know that there is a huge variety in the ways different camps help parents and campers stay in touch. Some camps allow campers to carry cell phones; others ask that phones be left at home. Some allow free access to email; others work to remove technology as a whole. Some camps have designated visiting days; others discourage any visits at all. Every camp is different so it is important that you ask the director how communication happens before you enroll in camp.
Part of the magic of a great camp experience is being in a self-consciously closed community. During their sessions campers live their whole lives on the camp property, with their camp friends, and so they become completely immersed in the drama and story of camp. This is the most fundamental ingredient of a great camping adventure and this is the reason many directors discourage parents from calling or visiting their campers.
Instead, these camps work to create a one way mirror to allow you to see what is happening at camp without changing your child’s camp experience. The reason for this “creative separation” is to allow the children to develop a healthy sense of independence, which then leads to a healthy sense of adventure. At the same time, most camp directors want parents to see everything that happens at camp. They are your children, and directors want to be sure that you are happy with how they are doing at camp. Many create this one way mirror by daily publishing photos on their websites. Others may add newsletters, periodic Tweets (yes, you may have to start Twitter!), or videos. If you are still concerned, you can also call your child’s counselor, or even the camp director. Again, most camp directors want to let you know how your camper is doing, after all, we’re parents too.
As I write this my own daughter is preparing to come to camp. Soon the cliques at her school, her concerns about grades, and what her friends are doing and wearing and the music they listen to will be far from her mind. They will again be replaced by her love for her tribe, the competition for the banner, singing in the dining hall, and her growth as a paddler, a rider, a gymnast, and a climber. Even more, they will be replaced by a community of friends with whom she will share the deepest friendships and most exciting adventures of her life. It is likely that this is what your camp director wants for your camper as well.
Adam Boyd directs Camps Merri-Mac and Timberlake in Black Mountain, NC
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