When you're looking around for camps, it's easy to get caught up in what a camp offers or it's proximity, and forget some of the particulars you need to know, like how they manage emergencies or how well they train their counselors. Here are eight areas you should consider when shopping for a camp:
• What kinds of daily activities do the kids enjoy? It should strike a balance between physical activity and quiet time, familiar activities, and new ones.
• What is the counselor-to-camper ratio? When kids are hiking or swimming at the pool, are there enough adults on hand to manage a large group of children? In some situations, it only takes a minute for a crisis to emerge.
• What kind of communication does the camp allow? Many camps encourage kids to unplug and keep off electronic devices. This is a good thing — for both parents and kids. And snail mail is still a wonderful way to keep in touch with your munchkin. Letters take on a new level of importance when kids aren’t in daily communication with family.
• What kind of training do counselors receive? At a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures, communication, behavior-management techniques, child-abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision.
• What percent of counselors and staff return? Most camps report 40 to 60 percent returning staff. You want people who know the facility and work well with others. A high retention rate reflects this.
• How does the camp handle homesickness? Most camps encourage children to wade through the rough waters of homesickness. You can’t be sure how your child will hold up away from home. Before he goes away to camp, make sure he has spent some overnights with friends so he begins to feel more confident in himself.
• Does the camp employee a nurse full-time? With so many kids taking medications today, it is wise to make sure your camp has a nurse who is on-duty during the week. Ask what kind of precautions they take and how accidents are managed.
• Are they accredited by the American Camp Association? Those that are must meet some 300 health and safety standards. This does not guarantee a risk-free environment, but it’s some of the best evidence parents have of a camp’s commitment to a safe and nurturing environment for children.