It can be a very difficult decision, choosing a summer camp. You are entrusting your precious bundle of joy to other people and you need to be sure that your kiddos are happy, safe & well cared for while away from home. So how do you where to start choosing the right place?
First of all you need to decide what type of camp your child would be interested in -you can search the internet for summer sleepaway camp information – then you should look at your budget, where suitable camps are located and if their schedules fit with yours. Armed with this information you can make a short list of camps that meet your families needs.
Once you have your short list there are three things you should be looking at:
- Camp history – How long has the camp been in operation – Is it a well established camp with a long history of success or is it relatively new? Are there families of past campers you can speak with or ask for references? Have there ever been any major incidents at the camp? If so, where the causes investigated & addressed? Has there ever been any police involvement in any camp incident? What was the outcome? It may feel a bit uncomfortable asking these questions but responsible camp owners will be happy to answer your questions and be open about any past issues.
- Staff – What is the staff / child ratio? What qualifications do the staff have? Are activities that have safety implications (rock climbing, water sports etc.) supervised by suitability qualified staff? Do all staff have criminal record checks before they start work? What percentage of the staff are new and how many are long term? How many staff have the appropriate first-aid qualifications? What kind of on-site training do staff have and is there an emergency plan that staff are aware of & trained in?
- Equipment / facilities : How old is the equipment at the camp? How often is it maintained / inspected / replaced? How are the facilities cleaned? How frequently, by whom & with what kind of cleaning equipment? Are cooking facilities inspected by the local health authority? What internet safety precautions are in place? Can you take a tour of the facilities?
We generally choose to ask these questions out of the kids earshot – we don’t want them to be worried or fearful about potential issues, we want them to go to camp, have fun and create special memories. After all camping is good for you we keep telling them and convincing them of the benefits of camp can be difficult if they have just spent the last seven days listening to you checking into the health & safety of camps!
The final decision should, whenever possible, be made in partnership with your child. Ask them at the beginning what kind of camp they would like to go to. Short-list facilities that are suitable for your child. Question your short-list and when you have two or three to choose from sit down with your child and discuss them. Speak with them about the pros & cons of each camp and let them choose from the ones your have decided are suitable. Giving them that control can make all the difference!
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