Your Guide to Choosing a Summer Camp
With so many summer camps to choose from, selecting the right camp for your child can seem very overwhelming. To make your life that bit easier we asked a broad spectrum of summer camp directors, leaders and experts about the most important questions you should be asking to guide you in your search.
One obvious way of narrowing down the list of camps, is to first look at the overall camp philosophy or worldview. You may be looking for a specific religious affiliation for example, that would significantly narrow down your choice.You may also want to ask about the overall educational philosophy of the camp as it pertains to your child's experience and growth while at camp.
Staff and Counsellors
Ultimately, it’s the staff who is going to set the tone of the camp. They will be responsible for the fun, education, and wellbeing of your child so it’s important that you feel confident that staff is well equipped for this hugely important job. Some questions you’ll want to ask are: “What training do staff go through?”, “How are they selected?”, “What experience do they have?”. You’ll also want to ask about the counselor to camper ratio and a little more background information about who the counselors are and what makes them suitable for this type of camp.
The thought of depositing our children into the care of someone else’s hands can be scary and you want to make sure that the camp has all the right safety procedures in place to help guarantee your child’s well being. Questions you will want to ask in this regard are “How does your camp assure the safety and health of my child?” , “What are some of the camp safety protocols you have in place?”, “How will you keep my child safe from danger, bullies, etc.?”
There are major camp associations like the ACA (American Camp Association) that accredit summer camps. This is an easy question to ask and it can put you at ease knowing that the camp is being supervised and needs to live up to certain standards.
This topic came up a lot in discussion with camp directors. Parents want to feel assured that there is a high level of transparency and easily accessible communication channels between the camp and parents and between parents and children during camp. Questions to ask include: “What type of communication from the camp should I expect before, during, and after camp?”, “ What kind of communication should I expect about my child's experience?”, “What’s the best way to communicate with my child during camp?”
Food and Lodging
It may sound silly at first, but food and accomodation is a real concern for many kids and their parents.You want to make sure that your kids will have their basic needs taken care of so that they can enjoy everything the camp has to offer. You may also want to ask specific questions about procedures regarding food allergies, dietary accommodations etc.
Content and Activities
Children often learn their most important life lessons and skills during summer camp and as a parent you may want to know more details about educational content and activities offered at camp. It could also be interesting to find out a bit more about camp culture by asking a question like “What are the signature traditions, meals, or games I can help my camper be ready for?”
The price of camp is a real and legitimate concern for many parents. Ask about the cost of camp but don’t be shy to also ask about camp scholarships. Most camps offer some type of scholarship to ease the financial burden of sending your children to camp.
The Camp Experience
The things we remember most about camps are the things that are most difficult to measure. It’s those intangible life experiences which stay with us for the rest of our lives. But how do you ask questions about this topic? For this one, it's probably best to speak to parents of campers or camp staff and counselors and ask them questions like “Why should I pick your camp over others?” or “What is your wow factor—what makes your camp different than all the others?”
Good Luck with your Choice
There are so many amazing camps out there to choose from and we hope that we’ve given you some of the tools to find the right fit for your child. Thank you to all the camp directors and experts who contributed to this article.
About the Author
Gaby Fachler spent 10 summers in his youth as a camper and staff. He is the founder and general manager of Pack for Camp, an online store that offers everything you expect to find on a camp packing list: soft trunks, bedding, laundry accessories, toiletries, storage solutions, clothing and more. Pack for Camp partners with summer camps to create customized smart packing lists and landing pages for campers and staff.