Going to an overnight camp is a big step for your child. It’s where your child will gain independence, hone important life skills and become part of a caring and intentional community. Camp is a place that will become your child’s summer home for a number of years, so choosing the right one is an important decision not to be taken lightly. While you certainly want to ask some key questions inquiring about the camp’s philosophy, leadership team, program and safety procedures, you also want to go beyond the basics and dig a bit deeper to inquire about situations that don’t necessarily make it onto a camp’s website. Keep in mind that a good camp director or leadership staff will be happy to answer any of your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them and any other question you may have.
Looking for more info on sleepaway camps, parents? Check out Sleepaway Camps for Kids: What Parents Need to Know
10 Questions to Ask About Camp!
1. What type of child is successful at camp?
This sounds like a simple question but it’s one of the most important ones you can ask. If you ask the question and you get an answer that doesn’t describe your child, move on. You don’t want to set up your child for failure if the camp isn’t the right fit. Sometimes parents get caught up in wanting a certain type of camp for their child but in reality, the best camp is the one where they are going to be the most successful.
2. What do you do if the bunk isn’t working out?
While camp directors work hard on placing children in the right bunk, it isn’t a perfect formula and sometimes, a bunk just doesn’t gel. Ask the director what they do if a bunk isn’t working.
3. What is your camp’s bullying policy?
Although many camps work hard to create community and respect for others, unfortunately, like any environment with kids, bullying may occur. Find out how the camp handles bullying. Do they have zero tolerance for bullying and if so, what exactly does that look like? Find out what the policy is and make sure to also share it with your own child(ren).
4. What does it take for a child to be sent home from camp?
Each camp has its own rules for campers and if they are broken, there are consequences. Ask why a child might get sent home from camp and what the procedures are for it getting to that point. Make sure to share the camp’s policy with your child before camp begins.
5. How do you handle new campers coming into an existing bunk?
Often times, the same group of children had been bunking together for a few years or for the first session of camp when a new camper comes in. Ask how the camp helps a new camper assimilate to a group that has already lived together.
6. Do you have a policy about best friends or children from the same school bunking together?
Camp is a place where children easily make friends so there is no need to know someone before going to camp. However, sometimes friends do go together or a number of children from the same school attend. Find out how the camp bunks these campers. Do they separate best friends? Do they break up kids from the same school automatically?
7. What makes your camp different?
Some parents will say that after looking at a few different websites, all the camps start to look the same! Many camps offer the same activities and are located in the same areas. Ask the camp director to describe what makes their camp different than other camps. This will help you differentiate between camp programs and ultimately choose the camp that will work best for your child.
8. What do you do to retain staff?
Great staff can make or break a summer. Ask the camp about the percentage of returning staff, how many counselors are former campers and what they do to retain their staff.
9. How does the camp handle camper dynamics in the off-season?
Camp directors are used to helping campers with disagreements and bunk situations during the summer, but what happens during the school year? A simple sleepover after camp with a few girls can turn into a bunk disaster if posted on social media and someone was left out. Ask the director if they get involved in off-season cabin drama or how they help manage these situations before they even happen.
10. My child is a different race, ethnicity or religion than most of the campers at your camp. Will they have trouble fitting in?
If you are looking into a camp where your child is a different race, ethnicity or religion from the majority of campers, ask the director what they will do to help your child assimilate into the camp community.