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Choosing Summer Day Camps Already?

In many parts of the nation, snow is still on the ground and locating matching mittens is the morning norm. But before you know it, it will be time to trade those snowsuits for swimsuits and snowballs for beach balls. Many parents have learned that it's never too early to begin researching summer camp options for their children (especially since some camps begin taking applications as early as February).

Use the below guide, written by early childhood professionals, to ensure that your child’s summer experience is educational, safe, but most of all, FUN!

Here are some important questions to ask when choosing a summer day camp for your child(ren):

Application Process

  • Does the camp offer flexible schedules?
  • What are the hours of operation?
  • What are the camp’s opening and closing dates?
  • What is the deadline for submitting applications?

Tuition and Fees

  • What is the tuition and registration fee?
  • What is included in the tuition: transportation, meals, insurance, special trips, entrance fees, health services, use of equipment? Ask the camp director to itemize any services for which an additional fee is required.
  • Is there a membership fee? Must the parent join the sponsoring organization in order for his or her child to participate?
  • How and when is tuition paid? By week, month, session?
  • Are scholarships available?

Children

  • Are there systems or methods for keeping track of each child and making sure every camper receives attention and care?
  • How are children grouped? Tell me about my child’s grouping.
  • What activities does the camp offer for campers in my child’s age group?
  • What is the daily routine?
  • Are there enough activities to keep children involved, but also opportunities for quiet, down times?
  • Do children get to choose activities?
  • What happens outdoors?
  • Are there field trips, enrichment activities, or sports opportunities?

Parent Involvement

  • Are parents welcome at the camp anytime? Are there opportunities for parents to participate?
  • How does the camp solicit parents’ opinions, ideas, suggestions, and concerns?
  • Are there some parents I can call for references?

Staff

  • How are camp counselors and other staff members hired?
  • What are their qualifications and experiences?
  • What background checks do they undergo?
  • What are the counselors’ duties?
  • Are counselors hired for short periods or for the entire summer?
  • What is the ratio between staff and campers?
  • Is the staff knowledgeable, professional, enthusiastic, and caring?
Communication

  • How do parents receive information about what their child is doing?
  • What are the specific rules campers must follow, and what are the consequences for not following those rules? How are parents informed when children break the rules?

Environment

  • Is the facility and outdoor environment safe and clean?
  • Is the environment inviting, exciting, and fun, but also warm and nurturing?
  • Are there adequate supplies and equipment?

Meals

  • Are lunches provided by the day camp? Ask for a sample menu in advance.
  • Are snacks provided during the day? What kind?
  • Are special meals available?

References
Ask for references. For more information and advice on choosing residential camps, visit:

The American Camping Association. The American Camping Association is a community of camp professionals and is dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults through the camp experience.

The National Camp Association. The National Camp Association provides online camp referral services.

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