Sending your Child to Camp
Choosing the right camp to send your child is a big decision for a family. There are many factors parents will want to consider when finding their child’s future summer home. There are certain basics of a camp search that parents will want to ask about: the camp’s safety procedures, medical supervision, staff composition and training, and if the camp is Accredited by the American Camp Association or at a minimum, licensed by the Department of Health. However, parents should explore a camp even further to make sure the camp they are choosing is going to be a good fit for their child.
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Finding out about the camp director and the leadership team at a camp is imperative in your camp search. These are the people who are making final decisions for the camp and ultimately is responsible for all that happens at the camp. “It’s very important for parents to feel a connection with one of the directors or leadership team. It’s more than just liking the person. Parents want to make sure the person understands their child and the child’s needs and that the parents feel they can be totally open and honest with the director about their child. When there is a trust between the parents and the camp director, a partnership between the two can be formed,” says Laurie Rinke, Owner and Director of Camp Echo Lake, a coed overnight camp in the Adirondacks. “At some point, parents need to feel comfortable to take a leap of faith that they aren’t going to know what their child is doing every minute and can they trust the camp they have chosen to make healthy, happy and safe experiences for their child.”
Steve Bluth, Owner and Director of Camp Southwoods, a coed overnight camp in the Adirondacks feels parents should also focus on the culture of the camp. “Does the camp have a lot of spirit? Is it nurturing? Does the camp focus on things like teaching, sportsmanship, making friends, building relationships and having fun? Is the culture about winning and competition? Or, no competition at all? Thinking about what type of camp culture you want your child to be part of is an important part of the process of finding the right camp. One of the best ways to learn about a camp’s culture is to tour the camp to see and feel these things while you are there. If you can’t see the camp in person, that’s ok! You can speak with the owners and directors to help you understand what their culture is all about.”
How a camp communicates with camp families is often something families don’t inquire about but it’s become even more important with the arrival of COVID-19 and ever changing information. Josh Male, Owner and Director of Gate Hill Day Camp in Rockland County says, “Parents should make sure they know how a camp will be announcing policy changes and decisions prior to summer. When is that communication happening? Parents feel more comfortable when they know there is a process in place.” Male also suggests parents ask questions about what is important to them in a camp. “What kind of food is served? How many swims do campers have a day? What type of activities do they go to? Do children get choice during the day? What does the camp do for new campers to foster new friendships? Is bus service door to door or group pick-up?”
Asking the camp director and leadership team about what they do to help prepare a first time camper and what parents can do is something parents may want to ask about. “Find out about setting up a tour of the camp or if the camp has any events before the first day so the camper will be more comfortable. Ask the director about what to talk about at home to prepare for the transition to camp. Kids need to feel certainty from parents when discussing camp and that even though they may be nervous, they should know that mom and dad think camp will be great for them.”
Although the process of finding a camp can feel overwhelming, if families ask the right questions and feel comfortable with the camp director, they will be certain to make the best camp decision for their child.