The Art of Choosing a Summer Camp

Parents, let’s face it. Our kids are growing up in a world much different than the ones we rode our Big Wheels in. Back then, we roamed the neighborhood in search of an adventure. Left to our own devices, we would transform empty lots into playgrounds, create fantastic forts with blankets held fast by encyclopedias, and find endless utility out of something as simple as a stick.

The world is now light-years away from what we knew then. Driven by an endless flow of information and novelty, the bar to keep kids engaged is as high as it has ever been. That is why camp is so important and has never been more essential than right now.

Choosing the right camp can allow your child the opportunity to discover themselves, to interact with others, to feel inspired, or part of something great. Yet with all the camp options out there, choosing an appropriate program can be challenging.

The following are some of the most important questions you can ask of any camp program. These will aid you when looking to make the most of your child’s camp experience.

General Camp Questions

1. Is the camp right for your child? Too many times, parents will enroll their kids in a camp they see themselves in and not their kids. You know your child best, so take into account their strengths, natural inclinations, and preferences.

2. What is the camp’s mission statement? Every camp should have a goal or a mission. That mission should ultimately be to makes kids feel great about themselves and feel successful.

3. Does the camp program have a track record of quality programming and service? Read reviews, ask for a couple of references, and talk with other parents who have been to that camp.

4. Is this camp licensed by the State of Texas Youth Camps Division? This licensing ensures that every camp is held to certain standards in terms of safety, quality of staff, and quality of programming. If a camp is unlicensed, then it can be shut down by the state of Texas at any time.

5. What is the camp’s policy on how they reward good behavior and regulate poor behavior?

Staff Questions

A camp can have the most beautiful facilities, state-of-the-art camp equipment, and the best website, but the quality of any camp program begins and ends with the quality of the staff.

1. What is the ratio of counselors to campers?

2. What is the age of the staff, and what are the camp staff minimum qualification standards?

3. What medical qualifications and procedures are set in place for campers and their staff?

4. What is the background check process on your staff?

5. Will the staff simply be supervising kids, or will they be active participants

Programming Questions

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Good camps have an active and well thought out curriculum. That curriculum should take into account factors like multiple ages, the weather, and the number of children attending. The following are a set of questions that should give you a good feel for the programming.

1. Does the camp provide an age appropriate curriculum suited for my child and his/her abilities? Camps tend to be open to a wide range of kids, so make sure that their activities are developmentally appropriate. Make it a point to ask about the appropriateness of the program with regards to your child’s age and individual needs.

2. What percentages of those activities are outdoors vs. indoors? How does the camp program plan for the hot temperatures during the summer?

3. How are multi-age campers grouped in camp?

4. Are there field trips? If so, how are campers transported? Who drives and is there air-conditioning on that transportation?

Overnight Camp Specific Questions

When it comes to overnight camp options, many of the previous questions are perfectly applicable. However, because your kids will be going away for camp, a few more specific questions will help you make a better and informed decision.

1. What are the sleeping arrangements like? Not every camp has air conditioning. If that’s a deal breaker for you or your camper, then ask. Additionally, the number of campers within a lodging varies greatly from camp to camp.

2. What is the waterfront safety procedure? Are there lifeguards stationed at all water activities?

3. What is the camp policy on use of technology at camp?

4. What are the food options like? Can they accommodate any allergies or dietary needs?

In Conclusion

Though this is not a comprehensive list, these questions will help you learn more about a camp program and give you the opportunity to select your child’s camp experience more wisely. At the end of the day, the camp you choose for your child must be safe, it must place the camper first in all matters, and it must provide both you and your child with an environment that is both comfortable and rewarding.

Camp has the power to transform the lives of our kids. It can teach courage, teamwork, empathy, grit, independence, and confidence. That transformative spirit has never been more alive than today. Seek out great camp programs, ask the right questions, and make solid camp choices with your child. The results will provide them with an immensely rewarding experience, one that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Happy camping!

Note: This article originally appeared on ParentUp.

About the author: Mike McDonell, President of Kidventure, spent endless hours as a kid riding his big wheel, honing his kickball skills and perfecting the perfect mud pie for his sisters’ enjoyment. At age 11 he roller skated nine hours straight becoming the first kid to circumnavigate his block 930 times. In the summer of 1978 he was known as the Disco Kid. At age 12 he began a project to tunnel to China but stopped short because the Brady Bunch came on TV followed by The Partridge Family. In the 80’s he bent to peer pressure and wore a mullet and parachute pants. And in 1994 he realized kids were missing out on a lot of cool stuff, so he created Kidventure.
 
Catherine Prystup
About Catherine Prystup 2115 Articles
Catherine Prystup founded LiveMom.com out of a desire to build a better community for Austin-area moms. She has three children, ages seventeen, eight and three years old.

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