PLEASE NOTE: The city’s biggest Camp Fairs are coming up Saturday, February 4 (in Park Slope), then on Saturday and Sunday, February 11-12 (in Tribeca and Cobble Hill). Registration and admission are free, and children are welcome. The Camp Fairs, which are co-sponsored with American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey, offer families the wonderful convenience of speaking in person with camp directors from a big host of top day camps and sleepaway camps in one setting. Attending a Camp Fair is a great way to kick-start your search for finding the kinds of camps that would be a great match for your child.
But how should you make the most of your time with a camp director? The 10 questions, below, cover a lot of the important ground. We suggest you print them out and bring them with you to the Camp Fair of your choice.
And of course, don’t forget to register: CLICK HERE for Camp Fair details and to register.
1. What is the camp’s mission and philosophy? Each camp is unique in its programming and approaches, so it’s important that the director can easily explain what they’re all about. Ask the director about the type of child that is typically successful. Renee Flax, Director of Camper Placement for the ACA, NY and NJ says, “Knowing your child’s personality and learning style, along with carefully considering whether or not the camp’s philosophy matches your own philosophy, are valuable in selecting the right camp.”
2. What does the camp’s programming involve? Think about if you are looking for a well-rounded camp experience or a specialty program, like martial arts or theater. What activities are must-haves for your child? How long is each activity? How many electives do the campers get and what kind of guidance do they receive in choosing them?
3. What type of training and education does the director have? The ACA recommends that directors possess a bachelor’s degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years, and have at least sixteen weeks of camp administrative experience.
4. What are the enrollment options? What is the length of the program offered? Is there flexibility? You should also inquire about available transportation.
5. What is the staff like? It’s important to know who will be caring for your child. Ask about the age make-up, pre-season and on-going staff trainings, the camper-to-staff ratio and cabin supervision. “Parents should not only ask the camp about how many hours or types of training the staff has, but more importantly, the overarching philosophy and message being delivered to the staff,” says Paul Isserles, Director of Buckley Country Day Camp in Roslyn, NY. At a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision.
6. What percentage of the campers return each year? A large number of returning campers usually indicates a high level of satisfaction with the camp’s programming and operation.
7. What are the safety procedures? Ask about the safety measures that are in place. These can include: medical personnel on property, emergency plans, staff screening procedures and instructor qualifications.
8. Is the camp accredited? Find out if the program follows a nationally known accreditation process and if it’s inspected each summer by the Department of Health. The ACA is the only national organization which establishes uniform standards for reviewing camps.
9. Can the camp accommodate special needs? If your child has special requirements, such as food allergies, religious obligations or a learning disability, ask how the camp proceeds.
10. Can the camp provide references? This is generally one of the best ways to check a camp’s reputation and service record. Ask other parents about the experiences of their children at the camp and whether their child is returning or attending for the first time. “Parents can provide you with an “inside” prospective on how camp impacted their children directly,” says Sam Borek, Owner/Director of Woodmont Day Camp in New City, NY.