The Questions You May Not Be Asking When Looking for an Overnight Camp 

Photo by Gary Barnes, Pexels

When beginning your search for an overnight camp, there are many things to consider before registering your child.  Besides asking questions about safety procedures and the activities offered, there are questions that you won’t necessarily find answers to on a camp’s website yet are important to inquire about.  We caught up with Renee Flax, Director of Camper Placement for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, who has been helping families find camps for their children for over 25 years.  Here are some of the top questions Renee feels families might want to ask the camp director about and why. 

How do you define a successful summer for a child? 

The camp director is the person who sets the philosophy of the camp and takes ultimate responsibility for the camp.  They are the ones to recruit families and hire staff. If you get an answer to this question that is not what you believe you want your child’s summer to look like, then this camp may not align with what you feel is important and it’s time to move on.

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If I have a concern while my child is at camp, who will I be speaking with? 

One of the biggest frustrations for parents is when their child is away at camp and they think everything is going fine until they receive a letter that says they are homesick or not getting along with a bunkmate.  It’s good to know ahead of the summer what the protocol is if you call camp with a concern.  Will you get a call back from the director or the group leader?  When will the call back happen?  There is no right or wrong answer but knowing what the protocol is will help you to be prepared when you are upset in the moment.  

What do you do if the bunk isn’t getting along? 

Having a bunk that isn’t getting along can affect the whole camp experience for a child.  When you ask this question to a director, how responsive are they? Is this bothersome to the director? If so, don’t pick the camp.  No one will promise you that everyone in the bunk is going to get along but knowing what the leadership team will do to help the bunk get through a tough time is good to know.  Ask what is done if there are one or two campers causing problems and how well the staff is trained to recognize and step in if mean behavior is happening in the bunk.  If you know what to expect from a director before going into the summer, it will make it easier if these situations come up. 

How many other new kids will be in the bunk this year? 

This is an important question if you are sending your child to a camp where some of the campers may have been together for a few summers.  Being the new kid in a bunk where children have already been together isn’t always easy for a child.  Find out if there will be other new campers in the bunk and how the camp will help incorporate your child into the bunk.  Will the campers be welcoming to a new camper?  Will they connect you with a parent from the bunk to set up a get-together before the summer? You want to make sure the camp director is being candid about the bunk your child would be in and that they are partnering with you to make sure your child can be successful in an already established bunk.  

Where do most of your campers come from?  It is hard for a child to be in a camp division where there is a large group of campers all coming from one area that have either grown up together or gone to the same day camp together.  Ask about the campers specifically in your child’s division, not the overall camp.  Ask if the camp limits the number of kids from an area.  You may also want to know where the campers come from if it’s important to you to be able to have your child attend off-season get-togethers. 

Flax feels there is no question you shouldn’t ask the director.  “If you ask it respectfully, the director should be willing to answer any question you have. These questions and answers will help you to get to know the camp director, figure out if the camp feels like a good fit for your family and allow you to start to form a partnership with the camp’s leadership even before camp begins.” 

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