Day, Overnight, Traditional or Specialty—the various summer camp options are endless. The process of finding a camp can be overwhelming, however, if you follow these six tips for researching a summer camp, your camp decision will become a lot easier.
Think about who your child is
Consider your child—not the child you want her to be, but who she really is. Is your child introverted or outgoing? Is she into the arts or competitive sports? If your child prefers to be in the school play over spending time on the soccer field, choosing a camp with a heavy focus on sports won’t be setting her up for a successful summer.
Decide what you want the experience to look like
Think about what you want the camp experience to look like for your child and what your own family values are. You want to be sure to pick a camp that has a similar philosophy to your own families. Parents also want to make a list of what the “must haves” are and what the “wish list” is for the camp to be sure they are choosing a camp that checks all or most of the boxes.
Do your own research
It’s great to ask your friends and neighbors about where their child goes to camp but don’t automatically choose the camp because their child is having a good experience. Just because a camp is good for one child, doesn’t mean it will be right for yours. Make sure to do your own research.
Get to know the leadership team
Take the time to find out about who is running the camp. You want to feel comfortable with the directors and how they operate the camp. Ask if they are full time summer camp professionals or seasonal camp directors and what their background is. Get to know the leadership team through phone calls and emails. The director should be happy to answer any and all questions you have and you want to make sure you like the answers to questions about safety procedures, staffing and how the camp handles certain situations.
Safety should be at the top of the list when researching camps. Ask the director about safety procedures, staff training, medical staff, how the camp handles bullying and how the waterfront is run. Find out if the camp is inspected each summer by the Department of Health and if the camp is accredited.
Everyone likes to save a few bucks, but what might seem like a good deal can go wrong if it’s not the right camp for your child. You also want to make sure the camp isn’t skimping on safety, counselor to camper ratios, facilities and other aspects of the camp.
Asking a camp for references is a good way to check the reputation of a camp. Be specific and ask for a child who is the same age and sex as your child so you know the camp isn’t giving out the same reference to each person who asks.
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Jess Michaels is the Director of Communications for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ. She has two daughters, both who will be attending day camp this summer. Parents looking for free, one-on-one advice in finding a camp can call the American Camp Association, NY & NJ at 212.391.5208.