Once warm weather settles in, summer will be right around the corner. For parents, it’s time to look for camps – day or overnight – that will keep their children safe and engaged when school is not in session.
Parents should look beyond glossy brochures and websites when searching for summer camps, Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises. The safety, health and satisfaction of children should be the camp’s top priority.
When choosing a camp, use the same care and common sense you would use in evaluating a day care program. Camps should offer activities that interest your child and are appropriate for the child’s age and skill level.
Visit camps to inspect facilities and ask about the staff’s training, experience and approach to medical emergencies. If your child is staying overnight, look at cabins, showers and other facilities the child will use.
Some camps, such as those organized around a particular sport, are highly structured and stress development of specific skills. Others are more flexible and give campers the opportunity to choose 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 at camp.
Ask how long a camp has been in business and check with parents of past and returning students. Check bbb.org, for the camp’s rating and record on handling complaints.
BBB offers tips for parents searching for the right camp for their child:
- Visit the camp before submitting a 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 staff’s quality and commitment.
- 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 communications 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 are required to meet standards.