According to the American Camp Association (ACA), more than 12,000 camps in the U.S. serve over 6 million children every summer. Those numbers add up to big decisions for parents and caretakers across the country.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises that parents look beyond professional-looking brochures and websites when searching for a summer camp. A child’s safety, health and satisfaction should be the camp’s top priority.
When choosing a camp, parents need to employ the same standards they would use in evaluating a day care program. They should look for a camp that provides activities that are of interest to their child and appropriate for the child’s age and skill level.
Parents need to take time to visit camps to inspect facilities, ask about the staff’s training and experience and find out how the camp handles medical emergencies. If the child is staying overnight, be sure to inspect cabins, showers and other facilities that your child will be using.
Camps organized around a particular sport can be highly structured and may stress development of specific skills. Other camps are more flexible and give campers the opportunity to choose some of their activities. Your child’s interest and personality should be your guide in choosing an appropriate program. If the child is old enough, ask what activities he or she would enjoy.
Parents should ask how long a camp has been in business and check with parents of past and returning students. Check BBB’s website, bbb.org, for the camp’s record on handling complaints. BBB offers the following tips for parents seeking the right camp for their child:
- Always visit the camp before submitting your deposit. Check its location and view the living, eating and recreational facilities. Ask about safety procedures (particularly for water activities, archery and out-of-camp trips) and assess the quality and commitment of the staff.
- Ask about fees and payment deadlines. Is your deposit refundable? Are there extra charges for any activities? Are meals and transportation offered?
- What is the camper return rate? The counselor return rate?
- What is the camp director’s background? How is the staff trained? Are criminal checks made for employees and volunteers? What is the ratio of campers to staff members?
- Are medical facilities adequate? Is a nurse or doctor on site? What are the procedures for transporting injured or sick children to medical facilities? Are those facilities nearby?
- What are the safety rules and how are they enforced? Does the camp have appropriate insurance coverage?
- Are family visits or other communications with campers allowed? How is homesickness handled?
- Are references from parents of repeat campers available? Ask the parents about their child’s experience and why they recommend the camp.
- Finally, look for camps that are certified by the American Camp Association. ACA-accredited camps have met up to 300 nationally recognized standards.
For more information on an individual camp or to check a BBB Business Profile go to www.bbb.org or call 573-803-3190.