How to Find an Overnight Summer Camp Your Child Will Love
Your son has been bugging you for weeks about going to summer camp. But when you ask him which summer camp, he just shrugs his shoulders and runs off. So, now the choice is on you. Every child is different and finding the right camp for your child comes down to personal preference. A camp that is a perfect fit for one child may not be a good match for another.
How do you choose from all of the overnight summer camps available? There are so many different things to consider when making an overnight camp decision. After all, you are entrusting strangers with your most precious treasure! Here are some tips as you navigate the camp world.
A Camp with Benefits
A positive summer camp experience can be transformative for a child. You want to pick that camp. You want your child to not only have fun, but also grow. When you start your search, look for a camp that will develop important life skills including leadership, independence, and confidence. The camp environment should teach children that they can do whatever they set their minds to and that fears can be conquered while making new friends. The camp should expose kids to challenges and activities they wouldn’t ordinarily consider trying.
Your Child’s Interests
How does your child want to spend his time at camp? Is he looking for a traditional camp with wilderness activities and a variety of adventures? These camps offer the classic camp experience, from s’mores to archery to swimming to hiking. If so, then narrow your search to camps that offer the best traditional schedule of events. But, maybe your child has a specific interest that he wants to really explore. Specialty camps are becoming excellent options for kids who want to discover a new skill or master a talent they already nurture. There are specialty camps for waterskiing/wakeboarding, drama, sports, architecture, equestrians, and science that will engage your little camper in challenging ways.
Ask Friends for References
What is one of the first things we do when we are considering a change or a decision? We ask our friends, of course! Whether it is a Facebook poll or a text or a phone call, we reach out to those who have already been there and done that for advice. Choosing a camp is no exception. Once you and your child have a few camps in mind, consult other parents who have sent their kids to those camps and pick their brains. They can share all the details of their experience and give you more knowledge to consider when choosing the camp your child will love. Your friends and their contacts can be the greatest resource when it comes to camp research.
Specific Camps Perfect For Your Child
If you are wondering if your exceptional kid could have a camp experience, the answer is yes! Camps for children with special needs are growing everyday. The mission of these camps is to offer a chance for as many children as possible, regardless of their diagnoses, to have the chance to have fun, to make new friends, to be accepted for who they are, and to learn new challenges. These camps should provide medical staffs consisting of medical doctors, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, medical and nursing students, and camp counselors who are available 24 hours a day. Many have financial aid available, and some camps are free. With highly trained staff, happy campers are able to create the lifetime memories they so richly deserve.
Now that you and your future camper have the camp in mind, it’s time to get serious. There are several key issues to inquire about regarding what the camp will be like once he is there.
Discuss medical policies and if they administer medications. Be sure to communicate your child’s needs and ask questions regarding medical procedures in case of an accident or illness. Medical policies are critical for parents to know prior to registration.
Camper and Parent Communication
When a kid is away from home, communication is vital for both the camper and the parent. Does the camp allow emails and care packages? Do they post pictures of campers on a closed site? Before choosing a camp, be sure to find out how you will be able to stay in contact with your child and how often you may contact them. Susan Hooks, Director of Riverview Camp for Girls, shares their method of keeping parents involved: “Riverview uploads hundreds of photos each day for parents to enjoy while their children are at camp. We also offer an email system for parents to communicate to campers and for campers to respond.”
Time away can be tricky, especially for a first-timer. How does the camp handle homesickness for your camper? Since homesickness is a common occurrence at camp, staff members should be fully prepared to help manage the situation by keeping the homesick camper busy, writing letters home, and talking with a staff member.
Camp Security and Safety
Of course your child’s safety is of utmost concern. The American Camp Association (ACA) encourages camps to continuously review and tighten security measures to ensure that campers remain safe at all times. The ACA suggests that each camp research its individual needs and liabilities by designing a protocol for handling visitors at the camp, assessing the need for fencing, lights, and telephone for emergency calls, assessing the quality of security and control present in the facility, and coordinating with local support systems. It’s a good idea to look for ACA Accreditation which ranges from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. ACA accreditation standards require a staff screening system, which may include criminal background checks where permitted by law. When talking to a camp director as you consider enrolling your child, ask what the screening process for that camp includes.
You should also choose a camp with a nearly flawless safety record and appropriate staff to camper ratio:
- 5 years and younger 1:5
- 6-8 years 1:6
- 9-14 years 1:8
- 15-18 years 1:10 (ACA)
Keep Cost In Mind
The cost of camp can be expensive and is a definite factor in choosing the right camp. If you are concerned about finances, find a camp that offers scholarships. Scholarships or camperships, as they are often called in the camping world, can be acquired by first reaching out and asking. Most camps will require that you fill out an application to attain a scholarship and that you qualify for a scholarship. Qualifications vary by camp. For instance, a camper may need to be of a certain age, have certain character traits, have a genuine interest in participating at the camp, maintain a certain grade average throughout the school year, and the camper’s family have difficulty affording the camp tuition. If a scholarship is unavailable, but you have the perfect camp in mind, sign up early for a better registration fee, and ask if the camp has a parent volunteer program that may lower the camp tuition.
Now you are ready to jump into the camp world and find the best camp possible for your camping girl or boy. Happy camping! ■