Parents on this page is loads of information that will help you make the most informed decision when selecting an overnight summer camp. So please take your time, because the time you take now will only help ensure a wonderful summer experience for your child.

 

Unlike school, you don't have to go to summer camp, but despite the costs, more than 8 million children attend summer camp each year. Choosing a camp is a personal decision It is important to find a good match for both you and your child. You must take into account your own family's lifestyle, as well as your child's needs, personality and desires. The process of choosing the right overnight camp should begin long before the first day of the summer. To narrow down the choices, some things to consider are:

  • General interest or specialty camp?
  • Private or nonprofit camp?
  • Affiliated with a church/synagogue or secular?
  • Full summer program or shorter sessions?

There are also certain standards, such as those that have to do with safety or camper to counselor ratios, which you should not compromise on. However, many other issues are a matter or personal choice. While reading about camps, you should create a checklist of the qualities that you want to find in a camp, prioritizing them so that you can select a program that will meet at least the most important items on your list.

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You may decide, after much thought, that the quality of a particular program is so outstanding that you are willing to set aside certain criteria. While you might want to send your child to a religiously affiliated camp, you may discover a secular program that is a better match. You may also find that a program that is perfect for one child may be not as good as a fit for another. It is important to select a camp that is compatible with both your own child-rearing philosophy and the needs of your child. You want your child to hear the same messages at home and at camp, and this will avoid confusing your child and facilitate parent-camp communication.

What Can My Child Learn at Sleepaway Camp?
Camp can be just as educational as school, with children learning through experience. Through activities and play, children learn a wide range of skills and develop physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. At camp, children learn by doing, living, and experiencing things for themselves. It's one thing to watch a program on television, but quite another to experience it in real life.
At camp, children are given the choice to take risks and try new things. This voluntary nature makes children more open to new experiences, with personal satisfaction as their motivation. Not only are there opportunities to try new things, but camp offers many areas for children to excel in. At a good general interest camp, the non-athlete can shine at arts and crafts, woodworking, or dramatic programs, while the athlete can also find many outlets for their skills. Perhaps most importantly, the two campers learn to live together and become friends despite their varied interests.

Enhanced Self-Esteem
Camp offers children many opportunities to become competent. Practicing both new and old skills on a regular basis ensures the sense of improvement. Novices have chances to learn, while those who are more experienced can improve. Learning new skills and improving old ones builds self-esteem. Children become more independent and self-reliant at camp with their newfound skills.

Trying New Things
Sending your child to camp is giving them an opportunity to try something new. No matter how many after-school programs or lessons a child takes, it's likely they will never have the opportunity to try all that is offered at summer camp. In a supportive environment, the child can try something new. Children often are more willing to try new things including food and activities at camp that they would not try at home. The athlete can try out for the camp play, while the artist may dabble in sports. And SNC apples taste best! At camp, children can try new things and set their own goals for success.

Life Skills
Though years later, your child may not remember capture the flag games or the words to a camp song, the life lessons

learned at camp will remain. At camp, a child learns how to take responsibility. The child who has never before made a bed, will

learn how to smooth out sheets and blankets and tidy up a cubby. Though counselors will remind and encourage, campers quickly take responsibility for personal hygiene, and for more minor health issues, a camper learns to articulate what hurts and how to get help. All of this personal responsibility further fosters a sense of independence and self-esteem. Camp also improves a child's social skills and learning how to make new friends is one of them. At camp, children learn to get along with others, all while living together 24 hours a day, learning about courtesy, compromise, teamwork, and respect.

Hidden Benefits of Camp
The benefits of overnight camp are not limited to children, but extend to parents as well. There is relief in

knowing that your child is in a safe, exciting environment for the summer. Even if child care isn't an issue, it's often hard to find suitable activities for the summer, as well as finding peers for children to interact with. Camp offers entertainment and constant peer company. For parents that have more than one child, camp can give a younger sibling a chance to shine in the older one's absence. And if you homeschool, camp is a wonderful way to help your child socialize. For families where all the children go to camp, parents have a chance to do things that would not interest the children. When a child makes it clear how excited he or she is to go to camp, these parental excursions are guilt free.

Is Your Child Ready for Camp?
Given the benefits of a sleepaway camp, it seems that all children should enroll. There are camps for almost all children, including those with special needs. However, there are certainly children who are not ready for an overnight camp experience. Some may not be mature enough to accept the separation from home. Though some camps accept children as young as six, not all children will be ready for camp at that age. Nor will the parents. In addition to increased maturity, when a camper can read and write they can enjoy reading your letters and also you can enjoy reading your child's letters from camp. This reduces anxiety for both campers and parents alike.

However, as parents know, chronological age is never a definitive marker. Some children are more than ready at six or seven, Nature Camp 5especially those who have an older sibling at camp, while some eight year olds still need a year or two before they are ready to handle the separation of a sleepaway camp experience. Three guidelines can help you to consider your child's readiness:

  • Has your child enjoyed other overnight experiences? Many children eagerly sleep over at friends' or grandparents' homes - a sign of readiness. When a child is successful spending the night away, it's a sign that he or she can function independently. However, if you've gotten middle of the night calls and had to pick your child up in the middle of an overnight stay, it's an indication that he or she is not quite ready for overnight camp.
  • Has your child had other camp experiences? It's helpful if a child has attended day camp prior to going to sleepaway camp. At a day camp, children learn to move from one activity to the next, make new friends, and develop teamwork skills.
  • Is your child adaptable? Going to overnight camp requires some flexibility, an ability to adjust to new situations, and a willingness to try new things. Though all children experience some period of adjustment, camp adjustment will be more difficult for the child who is fairly rigid and has difficulty in new situations.

Generally speaking if by 11 or 12 your child is still reluctant to go to camp, the time might come to give some gentle persuasion and insist that they go. Then encourage and guide to help make this transition easier for them.

Ready, Set, Go!
Once you have decided that your child is ready for an overnight camp, there are still several issues you should resolve before even searching for camp. This will help you to narrow down the number of camps in your search.

Time and Distance
While some parents chose to send their children to a camp right next to home, others may even send their children overseas for a summer experience. Your family needs to decide how close to home the camp should be. Choosing a camp close to home eliminates some problems, but must face others. A camp farther from home has a unique set of problems and benefits.

Close to Home
Choosing a camp near your home often has many benefits. Travel to and from camp is simpler. Most camps provide transportation to and from camp, usually via buses. Choosing a camp close to home eliminates long bus rides and the possible motion sickness. Lower Costs - You reduce the expense of visiting your child at camp if you can make the visit and return home in the same day. You also lower the overall cost of camp by eliminating or cutting travel costs for your camper. Peace of Mind - There is comfort in knowing that you can reach your child easily in case of emergency. Familiar Faces - Your camper is more likely to bunk with kids from your general region, which may ease the transition. Friendships developed at camp are simpler to maintain during the rest of the year if the kids can easily meet and visit each other.

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At a Distance
In many programs, campers from a wide geographic area add to the richness of the experience. Many camps are used to making long distance travel arrangements. Campers can fly alone or with other campers from the area, to an airport close to camp where they are met by camp staff and taken to camp. Travel plans must take into account the age and maturity of the camper. If you are considering a camp far from home, you must work closely with the director to make sure that your camper is comfortable with the travel arrangements.

Reasons to choose a camp farther from home include:

  • It's worth it - There may be something about a camp that makes the travel worth it. If your child wants to specialize in sailing or mountain climbing, you'll need to choose a camp that meets those need. A parent may have a preference for a camp that they once attended, even if they no longer reside in the area.
  • Diversity - While your camper may not see as many familiar faces in a camp far from home, this may be just what he or she, and you, want. Children may want to separate their camp life from the lives they lead the rest of the year, having the opportunity to begin the program with a 'clean slate'. Campers often have a sense of freedom when they go to a camp where they don't know anyone.
  • The distance doesn't bother the camper or parents - Many children find traveling alone, even by airplane, exciting rather than scary. Assuming that proper travel arrangements are made, you may be comfortable with a camp awayfrom home.

When choosing a camp far from home, discuss what this means with your camper in practical terms. Once your camper arrives on site, the distance won't really be an issue. Mail can keep campers and parents close in touch even if they are far away. Be sure to be honest with your camper about whether or not you will be able to visit while your child is at camp.

Camp Size
The level of program organization will determine the extent that the size of a camp matters. While you don't want a camp that is so small that your child is limited in activities or friends, you also don't want a program where your child is lost in the shuffle. The issue is not only numbers, but more importantly, how the camp breaks down the campers into manageable groups. Too small a camp can mean cliques can form, leaving children out, while a large camp may be intimidating to a first time camper. When a program is too large, it becomes harder for the camp to offer all-inclusive activities, like campfires and cookouts. These circumstances make it difficult to build a sense of camp unity and spirit. Also, in a smaller camp you tend to know the director more closely and feel comfortable asking question or just calling to see how your camper is doing.

Single Sex or Coed
A strong case can be made for choosing a single gender camp, but an equally strong one can be made for coed camps. You must consider both your own philosophy and your child's opinions.

Advantages of a single sex camp:
Boy-girl social issues are kept to a minimum, especially among the older age groups. Eliminating the distraction of 'how you look' in front of the opposite sex helps put the focus back on the primary goals of a good camp experiences: developing skills, making new friends, and taking risks.

  • Most campers attend coed schools, making a same sex camp a different and enriching environment.
  • Campers can form friendships with more depth without the distraction of or the competition for the affections of the opposite sex.
  • When campers aren't distracted by social issues, the intensity of play and skill development is enhanced.

     

  • Advantages of a coed camp:
    If you have children of the opposite sex, it can be easier if you can find one camp that suits them both. The mechanics of getting children off to different programs may be too complicated.

  • Coed camps can be less competitive than single sex camps. Because there is a more social atmosphere in camp the intensity of play is reduced.
  • A good coed camp will focus not on coed relationships but on coed friendships. This can be an important part of becoming a mature adult.

General Interest or Specialty Camp
General interest camps offer diverse programming with many different activities and sports, while Nature Camp 13a special interest camp focuses primarily on a specific sport or activity. Most experts recommend sending first time campers to a general interest camp. A general interest camp gives children the opportunity to try a wide range of activities and interests. Most general interest camps have more staff training and greater sensitivity to the emotional demands of the campers. At a specialty camp, most counselors are hired for the expertise in the specialty, rather than their attention to child development. Thus emphasis is on skill development not on emotional development.

A good program at a general interest camp will satisfy and challenge the interests of all campers. Even if a talented youngster will surpass the level of competition found at a general interest camp, you may prefer to send him to a program that will test and encourage the camper in other areas.

However, some children, especially the older first time campers are very focused on a specific sport or activity and want to spend the summer pursuing that interest. Most specialty camps hold a series of one-week sessions with campers attending for only one or two weeks a summer. Specialty camps are best for the child who is personally committed to the sport or activity. A specialty camp is not the place to send your child because you think that he should improve his skills. Participating in any activity for ten to twelve hours a day, unless you love the activity, will kill any interest quickly. Specialty campers are for campers who want to immerse themselves in the subject with like-minded individuals.

Camp Adjustment
Especially if it is your camper's first time at a sleepaway camp, you will want to know how the staff handles the adjustment to camp. How is loneliness and homesickness handled? Inquire about the camp policy on telephone and internet contact. Some camps prohibit all calls for campers, others permit calls after a week at camp, there are also camps that provide unlimited telephone and internet access but most allow calls on birthdays or during special days. Ask about visiting days and the program during those days. Are siblings allowed to visit? Can campers leave camp?

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Session Length: Full Summer or Less
When looking at camps, you want to know how long most of the children stay. You may prefer a full summer program lasting seven or eight weeks, or, for family or budget considerations, you may desire a shorter program. Some camps run sessions of varying lengths, from a minimum of one week to a range of varying combinations. Some camps offer only a full-summer program. Some advantages to a full summer program include:

  • All campers come and go at the same time. It can be a problem if your child has made a good friend at camp, who leaves after two weeks, while your youngster is staying for another six weeks. Furthermore, all the campers are going through the emotional adjustment to camp at the same time.
  • All campers get the same program. It can be disappointing if your child is staying for the first month of camp, and color war, often the highlight of the experience, isn't held until the second half of the summer.
  • The campers have time to build relationships and to sample the wide variety of activities offered.

Many families prefer a shorter experience for their child. The child may not be ready for a longer program, they want time for a family vacation, or a longer program doesn't fit into the family budget. It is important to note that shorter sessions do not reduce homesickness, it often causes a camper to just get stuck, counting the days till Mom comes to save them. Often session lengths differ from coast to coast. Whereas camps on the East Coast tend to have longer session lengths, West Coast camps seem to favor shorter sessions, with options to combine sessions to stay longer.

Religious Affiliated or Secular?
You may decide to limit your search to programs affiliated with your family's religion. These types of camps generally incorporate a religious component, while still offering regular camping activities. Be sure to ask how religious components are included in their daily and weekly program. Some camps limit the religious component to holidays, while others include daily prayers as part of the camp day and choose only to celebrate holidays particular to that religion. You may want to ask if the camp will celebrate Independence Day. Although this is a national holiday, some more religiously observant camps choose to de-emphasize it.

 

Advantages of Religiously-Affiliated camps include:
Children become more familiar and comfortable with the traditions and customs of their religious heritage.

  • If your family is religiously observant, having your child in an affiliated camp reinforces what is being taught at home and facilitates observance of holidays and customs.
  • If your family is not observant, having your child in this type of camp often helps to build a place for religion in the family structure.
  • The child finds a peer group within his religion, which can reinforce his commitment to the faith.
  • Usually camp is sponsored by the church often reducing the cost.
  • Disadvantages of a Religiously-Affiliated Camp Include:
    Lack of diversity. Most, if not all of the campers will share the same religious background, meaning that your child may not be exposed to a variety of customs, traditions, languages, and experiences.
  • If your family is more or less observant than the camp, your child may find this difficult to understand. Some programs are comfortable and used to dealing with the issues, while others may be more judgmental or evangelical.
  • It's staff maybe mostly volunteers.

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American Camp Association:
Regardless of who runs the summer camp program you should make sure they are A.C.A. accredited. The ACA is an independent association that is responsible for the accrediting of summer camp programs. Of the 1000's of camps in existence less than 25% meet the rigid standards.

• ACA accreditation verifies that a camp has complied with up to 300 standards for health, safety, and program quality, which are recognized by courts of law and government regulators.
• ACA accreditation standards cover all aspects of camp operation from site/food service and health care to management and staffing.
• The American Camp Association collaborates with experts from The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth service agencies to assure that current practices at ACA accredited camps reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation.
• Accreditation is a parent's best evidence of a camp's commitment to health and safety.
• ACA accreditation assures parents that the camp has had a regular, independent safety audit that goes beyond regulations in most states.
• Parents can (and should) verify the accreditation status of any camp at any time. This may be accomplished through ACA's Web site at www.ACAcamps.org or by calling 800-428-CAMP.

What About Friends?
Should at-home friends go to the same camp? Going to camp with a close friend can lessen pre-camp jitters and to some extent, lessen homesickness, but when best friends are bunkmates, it can complicate adjustment to camp. Some things to consider are:

  • Friendships may not be able to survive the effects of living together 24 hours a day.
  • An old friendship can limit the development of new relationships.
  • If one child is having more trouble adjusting, the other may feel responsible for 'taking care' of her friend and ensuring her happiness.
  • Jealousy can develop if one camper begins to bond with others, leaving her friend out.
  • It's important to ask the camp what they do to help new campers feel comfortable.

Budget Concerns
When selecting a summer camp budget needs to be considered, and a high priced camp is no Overnight Camp 362guarantee that your child will have a wonderful time. Generally speaking, higher priced camps will provide higher staff to camper ratios as well as have better equipment and facilities. Plus they tend to use little or no volunteer staff. There are good sleepaway programs that meet all budgets. According to the American Camp Association, resident camps range from $25 to $200 per day. Many camps, especially those sponsored by nonprofit organizations, offer some form of financial assistance to those in need. The American Camp Association also reports that 85 percent of camps reported offering some sort of financial assistance. Some families have also been able to 'trade services' in exchange for a reduced or eliminated camp fee for their children. Parents may be able to work as nurses or office staff in exchange for their children to attend camp free of charge.

Camp Uniform?
Some camps have a strict uniform, requiring campers to wear, both on and off site. Other camps allow children to choose their wardrobe while on site, but require that they wear a camp uniform while on off site trips. Some camps have regulation on uniforms and swimsuits for out of camp competitions, while other programs have no policy at all. You must decide if a uniform policy is important to you. Some parents welcome uniforms as shifting the focus from what their child wears to what they do. Keep in mind however, that purchasing a uniform can significantly add to summer camp costs.

Who Makes the Decision?
Choosing a summer camp is an experience that you can and should share with your child. It is important that they feel that their opinion is valued and taken seriously. When your child participates in the choosing process, it helps them to develop the attitude to fully enjoy camp. If you involve your child in the decision making process, then your child will be more committed to making their camp experience a success. The best way to accomplish this is for you to first send away for 3-5 camp videos that you feel best meet the needs of your child. Then allow your child to have the final word on the camp that they feel would be the most enjoyable to them.

Once you've made the decision to send your child to an overnight camp, the next step is to find and choose the right program. With over 5,000 summer camps in the United States, this can be a daunting task, but one that can be fun when you plan your search. the key here is to match your child's needs and desires with the program of the camp. It's impossible for one camp fits every child's needs. So even with in a family different camps might be required.

 

When to Start
Ideally, you should start searching for a camp at least a full year before you plan to enroll your child. This gives you the chance to visit the camps that you are considering while they are in session. This gives you an opportunity to not only view the camp facilities, but also the campers, giving you a chance to get a feel for the program and its personality. Another bonus, often camps have a discount for enrolling early. Most of us are not that organized so, if you don't begin your search the summer before, don't lose hope. You should start by late fall or early winter. Some popular camps fill up quickly and may be full by this time but keep searching, you will find the right program.

How to Start
Even if you think that you have already decided, it is always a good choice to take a look at other programs before making a commitment, so that you can compare different programs. Some ways to find camps include: Word of Mouth, Churches or Synagogues, Library, Newspapers & Magazines, Local Camp Fairs and Private Camp Adviser's. However the most popular theses days is the web. By going to your search engine and typing the summer camp plus the state a huge array of camp listings will show up. You can also get info from camp directories, which have many camps listed and a short overview of each camp. However, one of the best is American Camp Association at http://campparents.org.

The Camp Video
It is important to have a goal in mind a check list of what your looking for in a summer camp experience. With that in hand start your search and use a check list to help narrow down your search. Once you have narrowed your search to four or five possibilities, call or e-mail the camp to ask for information. In addition to printed materials, most private camps also have a promotional video. Understand that these videos are promotional tools, but they will give you a visual image of the camp and the children.

You should view the camp video with your child, and let him take the lead when you discuss it. This Overnight Camp will give you a good idea about what is important in a camp to your child. Make sure to explain to your child that the videos are advertisements and that the reality may not always match what you see on the screen.

When you watch the video, pay attention for clues about the camp's philosophy and strengths. While you're watching, look for:

  • How old is the video? If there is no date, then estimate the age based on the campers' clothing and the background music. No matter how recent the video is, you should ask the director what has changed or been added to the program since its filming.

  • Does the video answer your questions about the camp? While there should be additional questions that you want to ask the director, the video should give you a comprehensive overview.

    What does the video emphasize? Pay attention to what activities and facilities get the most time in the video.
  • Do the kids look like they're having fun? What activities are they doing, and would your child enjoy them?

  • What level of sports were shown? If you're looking for a specialty sports camp, does the level of play look too advanced or too basic?

  • What did the video stress? Does the video seem to complement the philosophies expressed in the camp's printed materials?

  • What was your and your child's general impression after watching? Sometimes a gut instinct may tell you the most.


On-site Visits
Most families can not make a journey to camp while they are in session. But if you can, you will learn the most through direct observation and conversations. Call ahead for an appointment to make sure that you can visit on a day where you can see the program in action. The director may ask you to choose another day if your first choice falls when many campers would be off camp, or during visiting day or between sessions. If you can, review the camp's promotional materials before the visit.

You should leave at least two to three hours to spend at the camp so that you will have time to tour, observe, and chat. Observing activities for an extended period will give you a chance to see how the counselors juggle the demands of campers and to observe the safety precautions that are taken. At a visit, you should observe not only the facilities and the settings, but also how the administration and the staff are in action. If your child is with you on the tour, pay attention to how the tour guide interacts with and includes your child. How the guide interacts with your child reveals a lot about the camp's attitude and relationship with children.

The camp director may or may not be the tour guide, but you should make sure to meet him or her before you leave. You need to know if the director is someone that you can trust to take care of your child for the summer. Is the director a hands-on administrator, or does he or she spend more time in the office with paper work? Does the director know the names of most of the children that you meet? Where is the director's on-camp residence?

If the counselors aren't kind, caring, sensitive, imaginative, and skilled, then the facilities and activities don't matter. Counselors are directly responsible for making sure your child has a safe and fun summer. Pay attention to how the counselors interact with campers. During activities, counselors should be supervising and interacting with the campers, rather than chatting amongst themselves. Praise should be given to all children in activities, not just the superstars, and praise should be specific. Make sure that the specialty counselors are not just skilled themselves, but also great teachers who can translate their enthusiasm and skills to children.

sleepaway Camp informationThings to Consider
Weather you are going on a camp visit or are just watching a video and flipping through the brochure it is important to take note of many area that may affect your child's stay at camp. If an area is a top priority for your child and you can not find the information be sure to call the camp Director and ask questions.

Facilities
Take careful note of the condition of the facilities. Are the buildings well maintained, or do they show clear signs of a lack of maintenance. Though well worn and rustic buildings are perfectly ok, make sure that they are not being neglected. Specific things you'll want to look for and ask about include:

Bunks:
Are they in cabins, tents, or dorms?

  • How many beds are in each bunk?

  • Are the beds individual cots or bunk beds?

  • Do the campers choose which beds they want? What if they don't want a top bunk?

  • Where do the campers store their belongings?

  • Are the bunks crowded? Is there enough storage space? Does it look like the camp has overbooked and crowded extra campers in?

  • How clean are the bunks? Beds should be made by the campers and belongings should be in cubbies.

  • Where do the counselors sleep? How many counselors sleep in each bunk?

  • Bathrooms:
    Where are the toilets? Does each bunk have it's own toilets or is there a common bathhouse?
  • If there is a common bathhouse, do children have to walk alone at night? Is the path lighted?

  • Are there showers in each bunk?

  • Do campers have to walk in their bathrobes/pajamas to the showers?

  • If the camp is coed, how separate are the shower facilities?

  • Who cleans the facilities, and how often?

 

Waterfront or Swimming Pool:
Is the pool large enough to accommodate all swimmers?

  • Are the waterfront areas for swimming, boating, water skiing and diving separate and clearly marked?
  • What kind of waterfront equipment is provided?
  • What is the level of waterfront supervision and ratio of lifeguards to swimmers?
  • Are life jackets always worn during water sports?
  • Are swimming areas clearly marked?
  • How do they account for swimmers? Buddy board?

The Grounds:
Are playing fields freshly reseeded and mowed?residential Camp selection

  • Are the trails clearly marked?
  • Is the equipment in good condition?

Dinning Hall:
This is one of the most important areas in camp. Your child will spend 2-3 hours a day in the Dinning Hall. So make sure the Camp Directors understand this and work to make it a clean, exciting and nutritious experience Their are an increasing amount of dietary option and allergy that camps are dealing with. If you have special dietary needs don't be forget to make sure they can accommodate you

  • Is there enough space for the whole camp to be served in one seating?
  • Do cabins eat together? After all, this is your child's best friends.
  • Are meals buffet style or are campers served? If they are served, who serves the food?
  • What if the camper doesn't like the main selection? Are there alternatives? Is there a salad bar?
  • Are snacks served? Is there a canteen/camp store?
  • What is a typical menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
  • Who is the kitchen director and what are his or her credentials?
  • What are the safety and cleanliness standards? Is the kitchen inspected by local authorities?

Arts & Crafts
Some camps use arts & crafts as a filler others use it as a place to expand creativity. if this is an area that you want your child to grow at. thick about this:

  • Is there sufficient seating for every camper?
  • What are the projects?
  • Is the emphasis placed on learning the skill or on the end product?
  • Are there enough supplies and tools so that many campers can participate at once?
  • Are crafts projects cookie-cutter duplicates or is creativity and imagination encouraged?
  • Are there special costs associated with projects/
  • Are these just the same old projects your child has done before? Is there something new like pottery, stained glass or even nature art?

Safety
While you want your child to have fun at camp, it is important that safety practices are interwoven into all parts of the camp program and facilities. Safety measures should dictate how programs are run and how the camp is laid out. Generally speaking if a camp is A.C.A. accredited you should feel comfortable knowing that that camp has passed a rigorous inspection process. You may want to note:

  • Are there smoke alarms in every bunk and building? Does the camp hold fire drills? Where is the local fire department?
  • Is a list of safety regulations clearly posted for each activity? Do counselors review safety practices with campers before starting?
  • Is protective equipment worn for sports? Counselors should wear protective equipment as well to serve as role models for safety.
  • Are there warm-up and cool down exercises for sports activities to reduce injury?
  • Is there a higher counselor to camper ratio for activities with more safety concerns such as ropes courses, waterfront, riflery, archery, and gymnastics?
  • At the waterfront, is there a buddy system with frequent buddy checks? Is there are controlled but fun atmosphere during free swim? Is the diving area monitored closely? What kind of swim tests are given?
  • Are playing fields at a distance from normal camp traffic? Where are archery and riflery ranges located?
  • On ropes courses, how are harnesses used and supported to hold the climbers?
  • For gymnasts, are there spotters and protective mats at all activities?
  • For horseback riders, who is in charge of riding instruction? Who gives the horses daily care and maintains the barn, stalls, and riding equipment? Do campers and staff wear protective helmets when riding?

House Calls
If you do not have the opportunity to visit the camp yourself, you can have the camp can come to you. The director or another representative of the camp may visit your home to discuss the program and answer your questions. Sometimes the director will ask if he can combine the visit with another family or two. If possible, ask that your visit is one on one. This gives a chance for you and your child to get to know the person who will be responsible for your child for the summer. With a one on one visit, you have the time and privacy to see how the director interacts with your child and the freedom to ask any and all of the questions you and your child may have. If a combined visit is a must, ask for some time alone with the director to discuss personal issues.

After a brief presentation about the camp, and a showing of the camp video, if you have not already seen it, the camp director will ask you for questions. The director should answer your questions clearly and in detail. A director who can't do this may not be a 'hands-on' director. You want to know that the director really knows the camp, program, and the community. Some areas that you should cover include:

The Numbers:
What is the counselor to camper ratio? The American Camp Association recommends a counselor to camper ratio of 1 to 6 for six to eight year olds, 1 to 8 for nine to fourteen year olds, and 1 to 10 for 15 to 18 year olds.

  • How many campers and counselors are in each cabin?
  • What is the instructor to camper ratio for skills classes like swimming, tennis, and riding?
  • How many counselors accompany campers on off-site trips?

 

overnight Nature Camp Who's in Charge:
Ask who runs the camp on a daily basis. Find out about the background and credentials of the camp director. Ask about how long the director has been at the camp. Ask if the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association, which is an independent organization that reviews camps on standards affecting safety, management, personnel, programming and facilities. Accreditation is voluntary. If the camp is not accredited, ask why. Make sure that even with an accredited camp, you make sure that the program is right for your child and that you do a reference check.

The Counseling Staff
The counselors can make or break a good camp program, so how the director staffs the program is critical. You should ask about:

  • Where does the director recruit his counselors? Many camps recruit from college campuses, but some also recruit overseas. This can add to cultural diversity, but also can change the dynamics for either better or worse because of cultural differences.
  • How is the counseling staff organized? Who supervises bunk counselors? Are regular meetings held and what is discussed?
  • What are the credentials of specialists? Do they have other responsibilities?
  • How many counselors are former campers?
  • How many counselors are returning from the previous season?
  • How many under-18 counselors will be supervising campers? Junior counselors and counselors-in-training should also be under the direct supervision of a more mature counselor and should not be counted as part of the staff to camper ratio.
  • What kind of background check is run on counselors?
  • What kind of training program are counselors required to complete?

Medical Issues
You should certainly discuss any special medical issues that your child has, but you should also know about the general medical care that your child will have at camp. Most camps are able to dispense routine medications, from prescriptions to allergy shots. Camps also generally have an established relationship with a local dentist and orthodontist for routine and emergency visits. You should also ask:

  • What are the credentials of the camp medical staff? How long have they been affiliated with the camp?
  • Of the medical staff, who stays on site? During what hours are children seen? Who stays with a child who is in the infirmary?
  • Who is admitted to the infirmary and how long can a camper stay there?
  • Are parents notified if their child is ill or only if they are admitted to the infirmary or taken to the local hospital?
  • Where is the closest medical facility and how are campers transported there?
  • How does the camp treat contagious diseases (colds, head lice, pink eye)?
  • Do the camp fees include medical insurance? How does the camp handle health insurance in the event that a child needs to be taken to the hospital?

The Camp Program
You should review the camps daily schedule with the director. Make sure to ask about or note:

  • What times do children get up in the morning?
  • When are meals, snacks, and camp store times?
  • What is the rainy day program? What if it rains for several days continuously?
  • Does the camp conduct religious services? Is attendance compulsory?
  • Ask the director to rate the level of competition at camp on a scale of 1 to 10. Are noncompetitive sports played?
  • Are there inter-camp teams? How are members of those teams chosen?
  • Are there special weekly or session events such as campfires, cookouts, sleepouts, or trips?
  • Ask the director to describe how all-camp events, such as color war, are run.
  • Is there downtime built into the schedule?

Camp Adjustment
Especially if it is your camper's first time at a sleepaway camp, you will want to know how the staff handles the adjustment to camp. How is loneliness and homesickness handled? Inquire about the camp policy on telephone contact. Some camps prohibit all calls for campers, others permit calls after a week at camp, while others have unlimited access. Others may allow calls only on birthdays or during visiting days if parents can't come to camp. Ask about visiting days and the program during those days. Are siblings allowed to visit? Can campers leave camp?

 Lego Overnight Camp

Cost of Camp
Be sure to ask the director about the actual, total cost of the camp. This should include not only tuition, but transportation, canteen and spending money, laundry, off-site trips, and uniforms, if required. Ask the director about how much of a deposit is required and if it is refundable? When must the camp fees be paid in full by? Ask about what the policy is if the family's plans change and they withdraw the child from the program before the start of camp. What if problems arise during camp and the child must come home?

References
An important part of selecting a camp should be checking references. Ask the director for the names and phone numbers of families whose children attended camp the previous summer. When you call, ask:

  • How did the camp handle any homesickness issues?
  • Was the program varied and interesting?
  • How involved was the director in the day-to-day running of the camp? If he wasn't directly involved, who was? How did this impact the campers?
  • How well supervised and interesting were any camp trips?
  • Did the camper have any experience with the camp medical staff? Were they satisfied?
  • Why did they choose this camp, and are they planning for their child to return?
  • What age group is perfect for this camp and why?

Though choosing a sleepaway camp is a time-consuming process, it is worth the effort when you get the result that you want. If you would like more help finding the right camp please give us a call and we will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Lonnie & Jeff 630-654-8036

Winter

25 Baybrook Ln.

Oak Brook, IL 60523

Phone: 630-654-8036

swiftcamp@aol.com

Camp

W7471 Ernie Swift Rd.

Minong, WI 54859

Phone: 715-466-5666

swiftcamp@aol.com