As summer vacation gets closer, many parents—in fact, parents of more than 10 million children—make the decision to send their children to summer camp. While some families have already decided on a camp, others are still exploring their options. For these families, it can be difficult to choose – especially when the diversity of camps today reflects the diversity of America. There is truly a camp for every child, every interest, and every budget. The American Camp Association® (ACA) recommends that parents ask the following questions to get a better feel for which camp experience best suits their child:
- What is the camp’s philosophy and program emphasis? – Each camp has its own method of constructing programs based on its philosophy. Does it complement your family’s philosophy? Does the camp focus on learning through competition, or through cooperative learning? How does the camp handle homesickness and other adjustment issues?
- What is the camp director’s background? – ACA recommends directors possess a bachelor’s degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years, and have at least sixteen weeks of camp administrative experience before assuming the responsibilities of director.
- What training do counselors receive? – At a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision.
- How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled? – This is where the director’s philosophy comes through loud and clear. Do they use positive reinforcement? What are the rules and consequences?
- How does the camp handle special needs? – For a child with special requirements, parents should ask the camp director about needed provisions and facilities. Is there a nurse on staff? A designated place to store insulin or allergy medicine? Are special foods available for campers with restricted diets? Every question is important.
- What about references? – Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask for references. This is generally one of the best ways to check a camp’s reputation and service record.
- Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association? Why? Why not? – ACA-Accredited® camps meet up to 300 health and safety standards. This does not guarantee a risk-free environment, but it’s some of the best evidence parents have of a camp’s commitment to a safe and nurturing environment for their children.
For more information about a summer camp experience, or to Find A Camp, parents can visit www.CampParents.org. This online resource for families includes expert advice, information on health and safety, and ACA’s searchable database of over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps.
The American Camp Association® (ACA) works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited® camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps that meet up to 300 health and safety standards. For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org.