made the decision to send your child to an
overnight camp, the next step is to find and choose
the right program. With over 5,000 summer camps in
the United States, this can be a daunting task, but
one that can be fun when you plan your search. the
key here is to match your child's needs and desires
with the program of the camp. It's impossible for
one camp fits every child's needs. So even with in
a family different camps might be required. First
take a few minutes to review the previous chapter
and prioritize the areas of importance for your
child. Then review these with your child.
to Start Ideally, you should start searching
for a camp at least a full year before you plan to
enroll your child. This gives you the chance to
visit the camps that you are considering while they
are in session. This gives you an opportunity to
not only view the camp facilities, but also the
campers, giving you a chance to get a feel for the
program and its personality. Another bonus, often
camps have a discount for enrolling early. Most of
us are not that organized so, if you don't begin
your search the summer before, don't lose hope. You
should start by late fall or early winter. Some
popular camps fill up quickly and may be full by
this time but keep searching, you will find the
to Start Even if you think that you have
already decided, it is always a good choice to take
a look at other programs before making a
commitment, so that you can compare different
programs. Some ways to find camps include: Word of
Mouth, Churches or Synagogues, Library, Newspapers
& Magazines, Local Camp Fairs and Private Camp
Adviser's. However the most popular theses days is
the web. By going to your search engine and typing
the summer camp plus the state a huge array of camp
listings will show up. You can also get info from
camp directories, which have many camps listed and
a short overview of each camp. However, one of the
best is American Camp Association at
Camp Video It is important to have a goal in
mind a check list of what your looking for in a
summer camp experience. With that in hand start
your search and use a check list to help narrow
down your search. Once you have narrowed your
search to four or five possibilities, call or
e-mail the camp to ask for information. In addition
to printed materials, most private camps also have
a promotional video. Understand that these videos
are promotional tools, but they will give you a
visual image of the camp and the children.
You should view the camp video with your child,
and let him take the lead when you discuss it. This
will give you a good idea about what is important
in a camp to your child. Make sure to explain to
your child that the videos are advertisements and
that the reality may not always match what you see
on the screen.
When you watch the video, pay attention for
clues about the camp's philosophy and strengths.
While you're watching, look for:
How old is the video? If there is no date,
then estimate the age based on the campers'
clothing and the background music. No matter how
recent the video is, you should ask the director
what has changed or been added to the program
since its filming.
Does the video answer your questions about
the camp? While there should be additional
questions that you want to ask the director, the
video should give you a comprehensive
What does the video emphasize? Pay attention
to what activities and facilities get the most
time in the video.
Do the kids look like they're having fun?
What activities are they doing, and would your
child enjoy them?
What level of sports were shown? If you're
looking for a specialty sports camp, does the
level of play look too advanced or too
What did the video stress? Does the video
seem to complement the philosophies expressed in
the camp's printed materials?
What was your and your child's general
impression after watching? Sometimes a gut
instinct may tell you the most.
Visits Most families can not make a journey
to camp while they are in session. But if you can,
you will learn the most through direct observation
and conversations. Call ahead for an appointment to
make sure that you can visit on a day where you can
see the program in action. The director may ask you
to choose another day if your first choice falls
when many campers would be off camp, or during
visiting day or between sessions. If you can,
review the camp's promotional materials before the
You should leave at least two to three hours to
spend at the camp so that you will have time to
tour, observe, and chat. Observing activities for
an extended period will give you a chance to see
how the counselors juggle the demands of campers
and to observe the safety precautions that are
taken. At a visit, you should observe not only the
facilities and the settings, but also how the
administration and the staff are in action. If your
child is with you on the tour, pay attention to how
the tour guide interacts with and includes your
child. How the guide interacts with your child
reveals a lot about the camp's attitude and
relationship with children.
The camp director may or may not be the tour
guide, but you should make sure to meet him or her
before you leave. You need to know if the director
is someone that you can trust to take care of your
child for the summer. Is the director a hands-on
administrator, or does he or she spend more time in
the office with paper work? Does the director know
the names of most of the children that you meet?
Where is the director's on-camp residence?
If the counselors aren't kind, caring,
sensitive, imaginative, and skilled, then the
facilities and activities don't matter. Counselors
are directly responsible for making sure your child
has a safe and fun summer. Pay attention to how the
counselors interact with campers. During
activities, counselors should be supervising and
interacting with the campers, rather than chatting
amongst themselves. Praise should be given to all
children in activities, not just the superstars,
and praise should be specific. Make sure that the
specialty counselors are not just skilled
themselves, but also great teachers who can
translate their enthusiasm and skills to
to Consider Weather you are going on a camp
visit or are just watching a video and flipping
through the brochure it is important to take note
of many area that may affect your child's stay at
camp. If an area is a top priority for your child
and you can not find the information be sure to
call the camp Director and ask questions.
Facilities Take careful note of the condition of the
facilities. Are the buildings well maintained, or
do they show clear signs of a lack of maintenance.
Though well worn and rustic buildings are perfectly
ok, make sure that they are not being neglected.
Specific things you'll want to look for and ask
Are they in cabins, tents, or dorms?
How many beds are in each bunk?
Are the beds individual cots or bunk
Do the campers choose which beds they want?
What if they don't want a top bunk?
Where do the campers store their
Are the bunks crowded? Is there enough
storage space? Does it look like the camp has
overbooked and crowded extra campers in?
How clean are the bunks? Beds should be made
by the campers and belongings should be in
Where do the counselors sleep? How many
counselors sleep in each bunk?
Where are the toilets? Does each bunk have
it's own toilets or is there a common
If there is a common bathhouse, do children
have to walk alone at night? Is the path
Are there showers in each bunk?
Do campers have to walk in their
bathrobes/pajamas to the showers?
If the camp is coed, how separate are the
Who cleans the facilities, and how
Waterfront or Swimming Pool:
Is the pool large enough to accommodate all
Are the waterfront areas for swimming,
boating, water skiing and diving separate and
What kind of waterfront equipment is
What is the level of waterfront supervision
and ratio of lifeguards to swimmers?
Are life jackets always worn during water
Are swimming areas clearly marked?
How do they account for swimmers? Buddy
Are playing fields freshly reseeded and
Are the trails clearly marked?
Is the equipment in good condition?
Dinning Hall: This is one of the most important areas in
camp. Your child will spend 2-3 hours a day in the
Dinning Hall. So make sure the Camp Directors
understand this and work to make it a clean,
exciting and nutritious experience Their are an
increasing amount of dietary option and allergy
that camps are dealing with. If you have special
dietary needs don't be forget to make sure they can
Is there enough space for the whole camp to
be served in one seating?
Do cabins eat together? After all, this is
your child's best friends.
Are meals buffet style or are campers
served? If they are served, who serves the
What if the camper doesn't like the main
selection? Are there alternatives? Is there a
Are snacks served? Is there a canteen/camp
What is a typical menu for breakfast, lunch,
Who is the kitchen director and what are his
or her credentials?
What are the safety and cleanliness
standards? Is the kitchen inspected by local
Crafts Some camps use arts & crafts as
a filler others use it as a place to expand
creativity. if this is an area that you want your
child to grow at. thick about this:
Is there sufficient seating for every
What are the projects?
Is the emphasis placed on learning the skill
or on the end product?
Are there enough supplies and tools so that
many campers can participate at once?
Are crafts projects cookie-cutter duplicates
or is creativity and imagination
Are there special costs associated with
Are these just the same old projects your
child has done before? Is there something new
like pottery, stained glass or even nature
While you want your child to have fun at camp,
it is important that safety practices are
interwoven into all parts of the camp program and
facilities. Safety measures should dictate how
programs are run and how the camp is laid out.
Generally speaking if a camp is A.C.A. accredited
you should feel comfortable knowing that that camp
has passed a rigorous inspection process. You may
want to note:
Are there smoke alarms in every bunk and
building? Does the camp hold fire drills? Where
is the local fire department?
Is a list of safety regulations clearly
posted for each activity? Do counselors review
safety practices with campers before
Is protective equipment worn for sports?
Counselors should wear protective equipment as
well to serve as role models for safety.
Are there warm-up and cool down exercises
for sports activities to reduce injury?
Is there a higher counselor to camper ratio
for activities with more safety concerns such as
ropes courses, waterfront, riflery, archery, and
At the waterfront, is there a buddy system
with frequent buddy checks? Is there are
controlled but fun atmosphere during free swim?
Is the diving area monitored closely? What kind
of swim tests are given?
Are playing fields at a distance from normal
camp traffic? Where are archery and riflery
On ropes courses, how are harnesses used and
supported to hold the climbers?
For gymnasts, are there spotters and
protective mats at all activities?
For horseback riders, who is in charge of
riding instruction? Who gives the horses daily
care and maintains the barn, stalls, and riding
equipment? Do campers and staff wear protective
helmets when riding?
Calls If you do not have the opportunity
to visit the camp yourself, you can have the camp
can come to you. The director or another
representative of the camp may visit your home to
discuss the program and answer your questions.
Sometimes the director will ask if he can combine
the visit with another family or two. If possible,
ask that your visit is one on one. This gives a
chance for you and your child to get to know the
person who will be responsible for your child for
the summer. With a one on one visit, you have the
time and privacy to see how the director interacts
with your child and the freedom to ask any and all
of the questions you and your child may have. If a
combined visit is a must, ask for some time alone
with the director to discuss personal issues.
After a brief
presentation about the camp, and a showing of the
camp video, if you have not already seen it, the
camp director will ask you for questions. The
director should answer your questions clearly and
in detail. A director who can't do this may not be
a 'hands-on' director. You want to know that the
director really knows the camp, program, and the
community. Some areas that you should cover
What is the counselor to camper ratio? The American
Camp Association recommends a counselor to camper
ratio of 1 to 6 for six to eight year olds, 1 to 8
for nine to fourteen year olds, and 1 to 10 for 15
to 18 year olds.
How many campers and counselors are in each
What is the instructor to camper ratio for
skills classes like swimming, tennis, and
How many counselors accompany campers on
in Charge: Ask who runs the camp on a daily
basis. Find out about the background and
credentials of the camp director. Ask about how
long the director has been at the camp. Ask if the
camp is accredited by the American Camp
Association, which is an independent organization
that reviews camps on standards affecting safety,
management, personnel, programming and facilities.
Accreditation is voluntary. If the camp is not
accredited, ask why. Make sure that even with an
accredited camp, you make sure that the program is
right for your child and that you do a reference
Counseling Staff The counselors can make or break a
good camp program, so how the director staffs the
program is critical. You should ask about:
Where does the director recruit his
counselors? Many camps recruit from college
campuses, but some also recruit overseas. This
can add to cultural diversity, but also can
change the dynamics for either better or worse
because of cultural differences.
How is the counseling staff organized? Who
supervises bunk counselors? Are regular meetings
held and what is discussed?
What are the credentials of specialists? Do
they have other responsibilities?
How many counselors are former campers?
How many counselors are returning from the
How many under-18 counselors will be
supervising campers? Junior counselors and
counselors-in-training should also be under the
direct supervision of a more mature counselor
and should not be counted as part of the staff
to camper ratio.
What kind of background check is run on
What kind of training program are counselors
required to complete?
Issues You should certainly discuss any
special medical issues that your child has, but you
should also know about the general medical care
that your child will have at camp. Most camps are
able to dispense routine medications, from
prescriptions to allergy shots. Camps also
generally have an established relationship with a
local dentist and orthodontist for routine and
emergency visits. You should also ask:
What are the credentials of the camp medical
staff? How long have they been affiliated with
Of the medical staff, who stays on site?
During what hours are children seen? Who stays
with a child who is in the infirmary?
Who is admitted to the infirmary and how
long can a camper stay there?
Are parents notified if their child is ill
or only if they are admitted to the infirmary or
taken to the local hospital?
Where is the closest medical facility and
how are campers transported there?
How does the camp treat contagious diseases
(colds, head lice, pink eye)?
Do the camp fees include medical insurance?
How does the camp handle health insurance in the
event that a child needs to be taken to the
Camp Program You should review the camps daily schedule with
the director. Make sure to ask about or note:
What times do children get up in the
When are meals, snacks, and camp store
What is the rainy day program? What if it
rains for several days continuously?
Does the camp conduct religious services? Is
Ask the director to rate the level of
competition at camp on a scale of 1 to 10. Are
noncompetitive sports played?
Are there inter-camp teams? How are members
of those teams chosen?
Are there special weekly or session events
such as campfires, cookouts, sleepouts, or
Ask the director to describe how all-camp
events, such as color war, are run.
Is there downtime built into the
Adjustment Especially if it is your camper's
first time at a sleepaway camp, you will want to
know how the staff handles the adjustment to camp.
How is loneliness and homesickness handled? Inquire
about the camp policy on telephone contact. Some
camps prohibit all calls for campers, others permit
calls after a week at camp, while others have
unlimited access. Others may allow calls only on
birthdays or during visiting days if parents can't
come to camp. Ask about visiting days and the
program during those days. Are siblings allowed to
visit? Can campers leave camp?
of Camp Be sure to ask the director about
the actual, total cost of the camp. This should
include not only tuition, but transportation,
canteen and spending money, laundry, off-site
trips, and uniforms, if required. Ask the director
about how much of a deposit is required and if it
is refundable? When must the camp fees be paid in
full by? Ask about what the policy is if the
family's plans change and they withdraw the child
from the program before the start of camp. What if
problems arise during camp and the child must come
An important part of selecting a camp should be
checking references. Ask the director for the names
and phone numbers of families whose children
attended camp the previous summer. When you call,
How did the camp handle any homesickness
Was the program varied and interesting?
How involved was the director in the
day-to-day running of the camp? If he wasn't
directly involved, who was? How did this impact
How well supervised and interesting were any
Did the camper have any experience with the
camp medical staff? Were they satisfied?
Why did they choose this camp, and are they
planning for their child to return?
What age group is perfect for this camp and
Though choosing a sleepaway camp is a
time-consuming process, it is worth the effort when
you get the result that you want:
- Summer camp advisor and camp information online at
affordable prices. Day camp, overnight camp and summer camp
online at affordable prices in Minnesota, Winconsin,