January is a good time to begin looking for the right camp for your child! Many programs are just opening their registration so parents still have time to do their research. We are happy to offer some suggestions and resources for parents based on our 46 years of experience in the Camp business. There are lots of different camps and summer programs out there so it’s important to find one that meet your child’s needs and interests. Here are some resources that can help you with your camp search.
- Type of Camp– What kind of camp are you looking for? Do you prefer a day camp for your child? Or does your child want to sleep away from home at a residential camp? Age and your family’s summer schedule are very important to think about when looking at the type of camp and how long a session of camp you want to select for your child.
- Camp Activities– What kinds of activities are you looking for in a camp? Talk to your child and find out what types of activities they enjoy. Do you have an active child that prefers outdoor activities like sports, swimming, and canoeing? Or is your child more interested in the arts and science, preferring a camp experience with an emphasis on arts, crafts, or technology? Maybe both! Many camps allow children the opportunity to spend time doing an activity they know and love as well as, try something new that they cannot do during the school year.
- Camp Values & Goals– What are the camp’s values and goals? Do the camps goals match what you are looking for in a summer camp? Are they a good fit for you and your child? How do the camps communicate and work with parents on a daily basis?
- Location– Find out where the camp is located. Do you want your child to be outdoors enjoying nature? Or do you want your children at an indoor facility like a gym or classroom? Do you want your child to be near to home or have a chance to experience a new place? How would you like your child to get to and from camp? Is it important to you to have the convenience of transportation available to and from camp?
- Schedule & Camp Hours– What is the camp schedule for your child’s age? Ask for a copy of your child’s daily and weekly schedule. This will give you an idea of the activities and instruction offered and how the day runs. Make sure that the schedule includes breaks for water, bathroom, snacks and lunch. Rest time is especially important for younger campers. Is extended care available for day camps?
- Camp Directors and Staff– Who will be taking care of your child at camp? How long have the directors been with the camp? Ask to meet them and find out about the staff that will be with your child during their time at camp. How old are the staff and what is their experience with children? Are they adults or high school students? Are they role models you would like your child to have? How are they selected?
- Camper Supervision– What kind of supervision of the campers does the camp have in place? Will campers be seen and supervised by an adult staff member at all times? How are the children grouped and who will be overseeing them? What is the adult staff to camper ratio?
- Safety and Staff Qualifications– What safety certifications and training do their staff have? Do staff go through background checks? Do most of the staff have their 1st aid/CPR and are waterfront staff lifeguard certified? What is their safety plan should an accident or emergency occur while at camp? Would you feel comfortable leaving your child in their care?
- American Camp Association (ACA) Accreditation– Is the camp currently recognized as an ACA accredited camp? Do they follow guidelines, policies, procedures, and industry practices? Learn more about camp accreditation and its importance at www.acacamps.org/.
- Camp Fees– How much does camp cost? What is included in camp tuition? Is it all-inclusive, or are there extra fees for special activities? Is transportation available, and if so is it included in camp tuition?
Ways to Help you Decide
- Visit Camp – Many campers offer Open Houses and Camp Tours for prospective camp families. If these are not available ask if you can set up a time to see the camp. Bring your child with you to meet with the camp directors and staff, check out the camp site, and see for yourself what makes this camp unique or suitable for you and your family. Ask about the activities they provide for their campers, and how this fits with your child’s interests and expectations.
- Meet the Camp Staff – Set up a time to meet the camps directors, talk with them, and have your questions answered. See the camp staff interacting with kids at a camp event.
- Camp Fairs– Community Camp Fairs are a great way to get information about and compare many camps at the same time. Attend aCampFair in your community and see what camps have a booth so you can pick up informational brochures and ask questions about their programs.
- Referrals from Friends– Do you know anyone whose child attends the camp? Find out about their experience. What do they have to say about the camps they attend? What made them choose these camps in particular? What do other campers and camper parents have to say about the camp you are considering? Ask the camp directors for a parent reference.
We hope all of these questions help you find the perfect summer camp for your child this summer!
Ann Woods, Owner and Director of Roughing It Day Camp since 1972.
Ann founded Roughing It in 1972 with her husband Hobie and together they serve as camp directors. Ann has been an active the American Camping Association, serving on local and national boards. She also taught 3rd grade and preschool. She is a parent and grandparent. Roughing It continues to be a family tradition for the Woods and families throughout the bay area who have sent their children to camp for over four decades. Their daughters grew up at camp, the whole family is still involved in camp and their grandson attends as a 3rd generation camper. Roughing It has a proud tradition of helping children grow in wonderful ways for 43 years. Roughing It Day Camp is an all outdoors traditional day camp located at the Lafayette Reservoir for children ages 4-16 years old with transportation service for the East Bay, Contra Costa, Tri-Valley, and San Francisco Communities. For more information go to www.roughingit.com.
This was originally published in Active Families Magazine, March 1, 2014