Summer Activities For Kids: Choosing A Summer Camp For Your Child

Every parent wants to send their children to camp, but they have to investigate the camp to find out if it is a safe and appropriate choice for the child.

In order to choose a camp, parents need to ask themselves this question: Is my child really ready for sleep away camp? Knowing you child's and your family's need is the first step to finding the right camp. If your child can't handle being away from home overnight, a day camp is probably a better option. You may want to have your child sleep overnight at a friend's home to make this determination.

What to look for in a camp:

1// Is the camp accredited? The American Camping Association is the only organization in the US that has a voluntary standards-and-accreditation program for all kinds of camps. These standards cover health, safety, camp management, personnel, programming facilities and transportation. If a camp you're considering is not accredited, ask the camp director why is not listed and then make your decision.

2// What is the camp's philosophy? Does the camp have a religious background? Is the camp's philosophy one of sports, arts and competition? How does does the camp director describe the camp's philosophy? Is that what you want for your child?

3// Who is directly responsible for your child's supervision at the camp? Find out the counselor/child ratio to determine whether supervision is adequate. This ratio differs by age group and between day sleepaway camps. Some offer smaller ratio among younger children.

Ages six to eight: Day camp is one counselor to eight children and sleep away camp is one to six children.

Ages nine to fourteen: Day camp is one counselor to ten children and sleep away camp is one to eight children.

Ages fifteen to seventeen: Day camp is one counselor to twelve children and sleep away camp is one to ten children

4//Who else besides the counselor can children go to with problems? There must be many staff members available for your child to go to, if he or she runs into problems. Make sure the camp offers a good support system (group or division leaders, counselors in charge of particular activities) so your child has more than one person to talk with if he/she is upset about something. Also find out what the camp's policy is on telephone calls.

5// How are the counselors screened and trained? If the camp is accredited, you can be assured that the staff is screened and trained. But get specifics on how the counselors are chosen, what the screening process involves and what training covers. Most important is that you feel comfortable that the camp director is concerned enough to provide the best possible care and supervision for the children.

6// How much instruction is provided during each activity period and how long do activity periods last? This will give you a good idea of whether the camp will suit your child's attention span and level of independence. Also, find out which activities are required and how many electives your child can choose.

7// What medical facilities are available on-site? And it is good to find out if they have other facilities close to the camp. Most camps have registered nurses or on-site doctors nearby. You will also need to know the camp's policies are on medical insurance and notification of parents in the event of illness or injury.

* Ask to see references. Talking to the parents of children who have recently attended the camp can prove invaluable in your decision. Find out what the child and the parents liked best and least about the camp.

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