The thick envelopes in the mailbox brought about great excitement as each welcomed my children to their third season of summer camp. We praise God for Camp War Eagle and how it has blessed our children’s lives, but I remember the apprehension I felt deciding if it was a good choice for our children. With so many summer camp options available how does a family decide?
Beyond the basic “When, where, and how much?” inquiries, there are a few more questions that I have found important to ask when evaluating summer camp options.
1. Camp’s Goal
What does the camp hope a child will learn during a session? If there is a religious component, or the camp is affiliated with a church, make sure that the doctrinal views line up with the Bible. If it is sports or activities oriented, evaluate the focus to make sure it’s a good match for your child’s interests and abilities.
2. Staff Training
While the camp director’s role is important, the counselors are the ones who have the day-to-day impact on your child. Find out how much and what kind of training the staff acquires to effectively deal with emergencies, behavior issues, and care for a child’s specific needs (i.e. diabetes, ADHD, sensory issues, fears). If activities are counselor led, learn how they are trained to provide for the children’s safety and to teach proper technique. For example, are licensed lifeguards monitoring the swimming pool?
3. Counselor to Camper Ratio
To evaluate how much supervised time your child will have, ask the camp what the ratio of counselor to campers is. One camp staff member to three campers is much better than a 1:10 ratio.
4. Staff Expectations
Are the staff glorified babysitters or are they expected to interact with the children throughout the day? Sometimes just asking the question “Do the staff use their cell phones while working with the children?” will give you a good idea of the staff’s focus.
5. Age Groups Included
Some camps are age specific while others are open to multiple ages. If your child will be attending a camp with kids of different ages, ask if they will be separated by age for specific activities and what ages are included in those groups. Also learn how children are divided for cabins and night time.
6. Attendance Requirements
Some camps have requirements for a child to attend. For example, the camp that our children attend require volunteer and community service hours. Find these out as soon as possible to give your child ample time to prepare.
Even after finding out the answer to these questions, the most important means of collecting information is to talk to campers and their parents, and those who’ve worked at the camp. In these conversations we learned inside information including how and what to pack.
In our experience, it was these discussions and much prayer that provided us the peace needed to decide the camp that was right for our children. And looking at our children’s excitement for this summer’s week of camp, I think we made a good decision.