What are the benefits of sending a child to a traditional summer camp? Should you select a summer day camp or an overnight summer camp?
Positive summer day camp or overnight summer camp experiences can be of tremendous benefit to your child’s development. While at a traditional summer camp, either a summer day camp or overnight summer camp, children learn about themselves, learn to be more independent, are expected to live up to expectations and help out younger campers.
A good traditional summer camp program can help increase a child’s self-esteem, teach them respect for others, enable them to learn self-respect and also learn tolerance of others. Living in a group situation, as in an overnight summer camp, campers learn to accept differences such as race, religious beliefs and cultural differences. Both types of traditional summer camps offer benefits that will help your children grow and mature and broaden their horizons.
When you receive a traditional summer camp’s brochure, you will invariably have questions for the camp director about the camp philosophy as well as that of the director. From that first phone call and/or visit to the web site, you begin developing an impression of what a particular traditional summer camp is like and how it’s run.
A traditional summer camp may be described in nothing less than glowing terms in its brochures. The setting can be absolutely breathtaking. Activities offered by the camp may run the gamut from racquetball to modern dance. In the end, however, it’s the human equation of how those activities are operated and conducted that determines the quality of the summer day camp or overnight summer camp program. Remember the marketing materials for traditional summer camps are designed to make you want to send your child there!
Get to know the camp director as a person through telephone conversations, correspondence and if possible, a personal visit. Have the director describe the camp’s philosophy and how it is carried out by the staff. Find out if you have the option of sending your child for summer day camp or overnight summer camp. Ask how many years the director has been at that camp and also find out the total number of years he or she has worked as a traditional summer camp director.
How Much Is It Going To Cost?
One of the biggest questions facing parents when they consider sending a child to a traditional summer camp is the cost. The cost of a traditional summer camp, whether a summer day camp or overnight summer camp, can be substantial especially if there is more than camp-age child. American Camping Association accredited overnight summer camps and summer day camps offer price ranges to fit every budget. While not always the case, if a non-traditional summer camp is designed for a very specialized group of campers, it may be more expensive than traditional summer camps, which are also often called adventure camps.
The cost of a traditional summer camp per week will probably also figure into how many weeks of summer day camp or overnight summer camp your child(ren) will attend. The American Camping Association reports the among its accredited camps, both summer day camps and overnight summer camps, the prices for a week of summer day camp or overnight summer camp ranges from $75 per week to $650 per week.
There are some ways to save money, even if it is not obvious from reading the camp brochure or visiting the camp’s website.
The first question you should ask is whether or not financial assistance is available to help subsidize the tuition costs. It’s not uncommon for all kinds of summer day camps and overnight summer camps to set aside a certain number of spots for families who might not otherwise be able to afford to send their child to traditional summer camp. If they don’t offer to subsidize the full cost of the camp session, they may pay part of it.
Although scholarships for traditional summer camp programs are usually available on the basis of need, there may be extra unclaimed subsidized spots which the camp will allow your child to fill. You won’t know, though, unless you ask. If you are hoping to receive a scholarship or other type of financial assistance, it’s a good idea to apply early before all the slots are taken.
Another way to save on the cost of traditional summer camp is to find out if special discounts are available. Often summer day camps or overnight summer camps will offer a discounted tuition price for early registration, for siblings attending the same camp, or for signing your child up for a particular session of the summer camp program. Again, if you don’t ask, you won’t know what your options are.
What is included in the tuition cost?
Typically, transportation is included as part of the cost for summer day camps. Resident or overnight summer camps may offer transportation from a central location or may require the campers to be delivered to the campground. If the overnight summer camp program includes trips, movies, laundry service, snack bar, special equipment or other costs, find out if they are included in the cost, if your need to pay a separate additional fee, or if you should send extra money with your child to camp.
What is the refund policy?
Refund policies vary greatly from camp to camp. Some refunds cover only illness of the child, while some will give a total refund if it is requested prior to a certain date. Some camps may return all but a registration or administrative fee and some may not offer refunds at all.
What is the camp’s philosophy and program emphasis?
Each traditional summer camp has its own method of constructing programs based on its philosophy. Does it complement your own parenting philosophy? Are the activities at the summer day camp or overnight summer camp of interest to your child? Many traditional summer camps actively promote competition and healthy rivalry among camp teams, as reflected in team sports. For many campers this is pure fun. Some parents feel that learning to be competitive at an early age teaches essential survival skills. However, other parents and educators are in favor of cooperative learning. Research has shown that noncompetitive methods encourage young people to learn more, retain it longer, and develop greater self-esteem and appreciation for others. Knowing your child’s personality and style of learning is valuable in selecting the right summer day camp or overnight summer camp.
What is the camp director’s background?
American Camping Association (ACA) minimum standards recommend directors possess a bachelor’s degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years, and have at least 16 weeks of camp administrative experience before assuming the responsibilities of director.
What training do counselors receive?
At a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision. Often traditional summer camp counselors are college students working toward degrees in various sports-related and human services fields.
What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?
ACA standards require different ratios for varying ages and special needs. Generally, the ratios at overnight summer camps range from one staff for every six campers ages 7 and 8; one staff for every eight campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff for every 10 campers ages 15 to 17. At day camps the ratios range from one staff for every eight campers ages 6 to 8; one staff for every 10 campers ages 9 to 14; and one staff for every 12 campers ages 15 to 17.
What are the ages of the counselors?
ACA standards recommend that 80 percent or more of the counseling/program staff be at least 18 years old. Staff must be at least 16 years old and be at least two years older than the campers with whom they work.
The number and types of programs a particular traditional summer camp offers may also impact the ages of the counselors. Academic camps and other specialty camps may require camp counselors to have a particular level of education or number of years of experience or training.
What percentage of the counselors returned from last year?
Most traditional summer camps have from 40-60 percent returning staff. If the rate is lower, find out the reasons why there isn’t a higher number of staff who return to work at the camp each year.
How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?
Are the behavioral expectations clearly laid out and available to campers in advance? They should also be reviewed with the campers on the first day of camp. It’s also important to know the disciplinary steps that will be taken for violation of the rules.
What is the style and personality of the camp director? How much authority do the camp counselors have? These are all important questions to ask because you want to be sure the camp behavior standards and disciplinary policies are a good fit for your child and your family.
What if a child becomes ill, is injured or has a special need?
Find out if trained medical personnel are resident in the camp at all times, especially overnight summer camps. A nurse or other medical professional will be able to tell if an injury is serious and requires more intensive medical attention. You’ll want a professional available if a child becomes ill or needs medical attention in the middle of the night.
If your child has allergies or is insulin-dependent, there should be a designated place for the medication to be stored in a locked container. It should be administered only by trained staff. If your child requires a special diet, find out if the camp is able or willing to accommodate their dietary needs. The wrong answer to any of these considerations can be potentially life-threatening.
Even a child who has slept away from home in the past may become homesick, or simply have trouble adjusting to the overnight summer camp during the first few days. Find out from the director how homesickness is handled by the staff and let your child know what their recourse is if they feel lonely or have trouble adjusting.
Is the camp American Camp Association accredited? Why or why not?
American Camp Association accredited camps undergo extensive scrutiny and must meet very high standards to be accredited. Accreditation reviewers ask over 300 questions about the camp and staff including essential health and safety issues, program quality and the camp’s overall operation and functioning.
What about camp references?
Every summer day camp or overnight summer camp will sound like a dream when you read the brochure or visit the website. Ask the director to provide you with a list of references including past campers and counselors to check the camp’s reputation.