Choosing the Right Camp
As you search through camp directories, 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, videos and online. 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. Here's more information to prepare you for your camp search.
See our article on 15 Questions To Ask Camp Operators.