Making informed decisions on camp

Today’s families are faced with a multitude of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. What do we eat for dinner? Where do we send the children to school? Cat or dog?  Knowledge is power, and camp is no exception. With literally thousands of unique camps nationwide, having critical information will help families determine which choice is best for their child. The American Camp Association® (ACA) recommends that families consider the following when choosing a camp experience this year.
Philosophy and Program Emphasis—Each camp is unique, and provides unique programming and approaches. Families need to consider carefully whether or not the camp’s philosophy matches their own. Asking questions about learning approaches, how behavioral and disciplinary problems are handled and how adjustment issues are addressed will give families a better understanding of the camp’s position. Don’t be afraid to ask about policies regarding discipline and communication. The more open families are with camp directors, the better informed they will be when it comes to making a decision.

Training and Education—Don’t be shy about asking for the education and background for the camp director and staff. 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. 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. Families should ask about camper-to-staff ratios, and supervision in cabins and for various activities, like swimming and athletics.

Special Needs—For a child with special requirements, parents should ask the camp director about needed provisions and facilities. Ask questions about nursing staff, the storage of medicines and special dietary needs. When talking to the camp director it’s important to have a frank discussion about the realities of a child’s needs and the limitations of the camp.
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. Ask if the camp is accredited. If not, ask why. ACA-Accredited® camps meet up to 300 health and safety standards. ACA accreditation is the best evidence parents have of a camp’s commitment to providing a safe and nurturing environment for their children.

Involve the Camper—It’s crucial for families to involve the camper in decisions about camp, including what to pack. The more involved children are in the process, the more ownership they feel. This helps ease concerns about camp, and can help make a child’s camp experience more successful.
Ultimately, it is important for families to remember that they know their child best, and are best able to determine which camp experience is right. 

Visit ACA’s family resource site, where families have access to tips for planning a camp experience, expert advice and research. ACA’s Find A Camp <>  search allows families to look for a camp based on region, activity, cultural focus, budget, session length and much more!