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5 key pointers for choosing a summer camp

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1. Choose a camp that is an Accredited Camp through the American Camping Association (ACA). The ACA provides its member camps with ongoing education and a community of camp professionals to provide training and support. The ACA Standards provide a bench mark of rules and regulations that should be attained to provide campers the safe, caring and healthy summer camp experience we all want for our kids. These standards must be met for a camp to maintain its ACA Accreditation.

2. Decide what fits your needs. Are you looking for a local day camp while you are working or are you looking for a residential sleepaway camp? You will find an incredible selection of camps from which to choose. Day camps, residential camps, special needs camps, sports camps, travel camps, specialty camps, and so much more. Is your family looking for an all boys camp? An all girls camp? A coed camp?

3. Is your child ready? The truth is, that most campers are ready at least a year sooner than the parents! Look at the benefits that a well-chosen camp will provide your child. On a daily basis, your child will have positive interaction with their peers, they will have counselors there to assist them at all times, they will participate in incredible activities that provide entertainment and skill development. Choose an age-appropriate experience.

4. What activities does the camp provide? Make sure the camp provides the activities that meet the wants, needs and interests that you and your child are looking for in a summer camp experience is pivotal in the research process. Are there mandatory activities? What level of instruction is provided?

5. Ask thorough questions. Asking direct questions is the best way to narrow down the camp choice to the right choice. The one that fits. The choice that feels right. Here are a few questions that a camp director or camp representative should expect to hear from a prospective parent:

STAFFING: What percentage of returning staff does the camp have? What is the average age of the staff? What is the program staff to camper ratio (do not count maintenance, house-keeping, kitchen staff)

CAMPERS: What percentage of campers return each year? What type of camper attends the camp? Why do campers choose Pali? What is the policy on bullying? What is the average age of the campers?

FACILITY/PROGRAM: What are the sleeping arrangements? What toilet and shower facilities exist? How does the camp insure the safety and security of its campers? Is the camp a gated community? What do the campers do during inclement weather? Does the camp have a pool? Pond? Lake? Are the programs and activities all-inclusive? Extra program fees? Are there waiting lists for some activities? How exactly does the program work? What is a typical day? How do campers choose their programs (if picking an elective program)?
How is the food? Is there a sample menu? What does the camp do if your child is a picky eater?

EMERGENCY: What medical staff does the camp have on-site? Are all of the staff trained and certified in CPR/First Aid? Where is the closest hospital?What accidents occurred last summer? How did you deal with that situation?

PARENTAL CONCERN: Who can I call to check on my child? When are the phones at camp answered? What happens in an emergency? Can I call someone 24/7? Can I send or receive emails from my child? Is my child allowed to call me? Can they have a cell phone? Do you post photos during my child's stay?


Ian Brassett has worked in sleep-away camps since 1988, starting as a counselor and soccer instructor in a four and eight week summer camp. His current role is director of Pali Overnight Adventures, a residential one and two week specialty summer camp in Southern California.
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