According to the American Camping Association (ACA), more than eight million children attend camp each summer. Picking the right camp can be a daunting task. In addition to looking at the quality and variety of daily programs and activities offered by a camp, the ACA suggests parents consider the following while evaluating camps:
What safety and medical accommodations are at the camp?
Is the ratio of counselors to campers appropriate for the child's age? Younger children require a higher ratio of counselors than older kids.
What percentage of counselors returned from last year? Look for 40 to 60 percent returning staff.
If you're choosing a sleep-over camp, what are the sleeping quarters, showers and bathroom facilities like at the camp? Check where they are located in relation to one another and ask about their night security procedures.
If daily meals or snacks are provided, ask who selects the menus (it should be a certified nutritionist or dietitian) and how meals are prepared and served. Food storage, preparation and dining areas should meet state health and food service codes. Ask to see sample menus and dining schedules.
How does the camp handle homesickness, adjustment issues, and behavioral problems?
Make sure the camp's philosophy complements your parenting philosophy and your child's personality.
What is the camp director's education and career background? Look for a degree and camp administration experience.
If a child has special needs, can the camp accommodate them? Ask the camp director about facilities and remember to explain all special requirements thoroughly.
If possible, ask to visit the camp before enrolling a child in a program.
Contact the parents of campers who attended in the past to get their impressions.
Compare camps and fees. ACA says fees range from $20 to $120 per day. Many camps offer scholarships.
ACA accredits summer camps that meet nearly 300 health, safety, and program-quality standards. For more information, check out the ACA website or call (800) 428-CAMP.
From "Frontlines," March 1999, Our Children, the official magazine of the National PTA.
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