Choosing a camp for your child can be a daunting process (there are so many options!), but there are definitely things you need to know about all the camps on your list. Jess Michaels from the American Camp Association of New York & New Jersey shares her top 10 questions that all parents should ask the camp directors.
Are you interested in meeting some camp directors in person this spring? Don’t miss our first annual Brooklyn Camp Expo on Sunday, March 26!
You’ve made the exciting decision to send your child to camp (not so sure? Check out these top reasons why your child needs camp here). With so many choices, you want to make sure to do your research to find the right one for your child. Whether you are looking for a day or overnight camp, the American Camp Association, NY and NJ recommends parents ask the camp director the following questions at a minimum. In addition, make sure to write down any questions you may have before you speak with the director. You should feel they are able to answer all your questions and happy to do so.
- What is your mission and philosophy? Each camp has its own unique mission and philosophy. Ask about the camp’s philosophy and make sure it matches your own family’s values.
- What are the enrollment options? Find out the length of the program and how long the day is. Inquire about transportation for day camp and if before and after care is offered.
- How do you handle special considerations? Whether your child has food allergies or ADD, you want to ask how they handle special considerations. Be open and honest about your child’s needs and make sure the camp is able to handle them. Parents can ask for a reference from a parent with a child who has similar needs.
- Can you tell me about your background? Ask the camp director about his or her background and how long he or she has been in camping. When speaking with the director, you want to feel comfortable with him or her. You are forming a partnership with the this person and you want to feel that you have a good rapport.
- Is your camp inspected by the Department of Health and Accredited by the American Camp Association? Find out if the program follows a nationally known accreditation process and if the camp is inspected each summer by the Department of Health (DOH). Not all camps are checked by the Department of Health so you want to make sure that the camp is being inspected by DOH each summer. The American Camp Association is the only national organization which establishes uniform standards for reviewing camps and is a parent’s best evidence of a camp’s commitment to safety.
- What are the camp’s safety procedures? Inquire about safety procedures for everything from medical staff to water safety to emergency plans.
- What is the staff composition and what is the ratio of campers to staff? You want to know who is caring for your child. Ask about the hiring process, staff’s ages, staff training, background checks, supervision in cabins and the camper to staff ratio at activities and in the bunk.
- Can you tell me about the camp’s program? Ask if the program is structured or elective. If it’s structured, ask how many electives campers get and if electives increase as the child gets older. Make sure to find out what the program looks like as your child ages, and not just at the age he or she will be this summer.
- How is your camp different than others? When doing your research, you may feel that many of the camps seem similar. Have the camp director explain what makes them unique.
- May I speak with a reference? Ask for references, and be specific. Ask for a reference from your neighborhood or your child’s age group. This way, you’ll know the camp isn’t just giving out the same one or two names to each prospective family.
Jess Michaels is the Director of Communications for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, a not for profit organization dedicated to enhancing the summer camp experience.