Thinking about summer camp for kids? Before you start searching kids summer camp near me and creating camp packing lists, first ask these 15 crucial questions about programs for kids in the summer.
It’s summer vacation and everyone wants to have fun for the summer, right?
But, summer time isn’t just for summer vacation. Unfortunately, many of us still need to work and we’re left trying to figure out how kid can spend summer days.
That’s when the (sometimes) dreaded “C” word comes up…
::whisper voice:: camp ::whisper voice::
Sending kids to a summer camp overnight adventure may be on their summer bucketlist, but let’s face it: kids’ summer camp can be … scary.
Because of that, there are several questions you should ask when looking for camps for kids in summer.
Before you start searching summer camps near me, you should understand a little more about summer camps and kids programs.
Day Camp vs Overnight Camp
Overnight camps (sleepaway camps) are different than day camps because at overnight camps the kids spend the entire time, days and nights, at the camp. For day camp, kids spend a few hours during the day at a camp, but then still come home at night and spend the night in their own home.
Day camp times can vary. Generally, day camps for kids will be a few day out of a week or for an entire week, from morning until afternoon.
What types of camps are there?
Different types of youth camps include:
- Day camp
- Sleepaway camp (overnight camp)
- Sports camp
- Faith-based / Religious camp (based on a specific religion)
- Girl Scout / Boy Scout camp (or other troop-based camps)
- Art camp
- Performing Arts camp (music and drama)
- All girls camp / all boys camp (gender specific) / co-ed camp
- Camps for kids with disabilities / special medical needs
- Theme camp / Special Interest camp (like cooking/chef camp, technology, nature camp, robotics, etc.)
And many others! If your kid have special activity interests, there’s probably a camp for it!
What age is appropriate for overnight camp?
According to the American Camp Association, the average age of campers who attend their first overnight is between 7 to 9 years old. However, what age is appropriate for overnight camp for your family will depend on a variety of factors including your child’s maturity level and comfort level with being away from you and home.
Why do parents send their child to summer camp?
Parents send their kids to summer camp for a variety of reasons. Not only are there fun kids activities in summer, but summer camps also help students who are on break to bust boredom, allow parents to still work during summer break without disrupting their schedule, and also provide important skill building opportunities for children.
Why Summer Camp Is Important
Are summer camps good for kids?
Summer camps can be very good for kids! Summer programs like youth camps help kids:
- Gain exposure to new activities that they may not have tried
- Practice important life skills
- Develop self-confidence
- Practice character building skills
- Improve leadership skills
- Develop autonomy and independence
- Practice team-building skills
- Develop lifelong friendships
What activities can be done in summer camp?
You may be wondering what summer activities you do at camp? Things to do for summer will depend on the type of camp your child attends. There are some camps that are based on a specific theme (like sports) and others that are general camps.
Traditional summer camp activities may include:
- Bird / nature watching
- Water sports
- Scavenger hunts
- Sing alongs
- Drama / plays
- Performing arts and crafts
- Flashlight tag
- Mini Olympics
- Obstacle courses
- Volleyball (and other sports)
- Campfire stories
- Horseback riding
And, many, many other summer things to do for long (awesome) summer days in camp!
How do I choose a summer camp?
Choosing a summer camp for kids can seem overwhelming. You will need to consider:
- Do you want a day camp or a sleepover camp?
- What kind of summer youth programs do you want? (Are you looking for a summer camp art program, a summer camp for teens, a nature camp, or something else?)
- What is the cost (and what is your budget)?
- What schedule do you need for a camp? (Only during week days? A week long? A month in the summer?)
Once you figure out those things, a good place to start is to search online for summer camp for kids near me.
15 Important Questions To Ask When Choosing Summer Camp for Kids
1. What is the summer camp cost?
The cost of summer camp can vary greatly, from less than $100 to up into the thousand for sleepaway camps.
Clearly cost is one of the first things you’ll want to ask.
What amount is due and when?
Is the full amount due at time of registration, or can you pay a partial amount at registration and the remaining amount right before camp starts?
Also, don’t be afraid to inquire about discounts.
Is there an early bird discount for registering by a specific date?
Is there a sibling discount?
Are there any grants or scholarships available to assist you if you have financial needs?
2. What is the policy on cancellations?
Things happen in life and you might need to cancel your summer camp registration process once you’ve paid.
Even if you don’t plan to cancel, still ask about their cancellation policy. Some camps will only give a percentage of refund (like 50%), especially if it’s close to the start of the camp date. Be prepared to lose some money if you need to cancel.
3. What is the camp time schedule?
While you already know if it’s a week-long day camp or a sleepover camp for one month. Make sure that you are clear about the schedule.
Camps will have specific drop off and pick up times (especially day camps) and many will assess fines if you do not pick your kids up on time.
4. Is the camp accredited?
Be sure to ask your summer camp if they are accredited.
Accreditation is a rigorous process that shows an organization is maintaining a high level of standards.
Although it’s not required, a camp going through the voluntary accreditation process will show their commitment to the highest standards for quality and safety of the program.
If your summer camp program is not accredited, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad camp. Ask them why they have opted not to go through the accreditation process.
5. What is the camp’s mission and philosophy?
Another thing you should do early on is learn about the camp’s mission and philosophy to ensure they are inline with your own belief system and your family’s goals for the camper.
Start by searching the camp’s website. See if their mission and philosophy are listed. (If not, email or call them to ask!)
Visit their social media accounts and see what they post.
6. What happens in an emergency situation?
Understanding how the camp handles emergencies will give you more peace of mind while your kids are away (even if it’s a day camp).
What is their protocol for emergencies?
Do they have medical staff available onsite?
What kind of training is the staff given for emergency situations (beyond medical emergencies)?
7. How are staff members, counselors, employees and volunteers screened?
What kind of screening does the camp organization give to hiring employees, counselors, staff and volunteers?
Are background checks performed? (If so, what level of check?)
What kind of training do they receive?
8. How many counselors does the camp have?
Having a sufficient amount of counselors is important for the kids to have fun during their activities (and keep them safe!).
What is the ratio of campers to counselors?
What is the average age of the counselors?
What training do they receive before working with the kids?
9. What are the sleeping quarters like?
If you’re sending your kids to an overnight camp, you’ll definitely want to know what they sleeping quarters are like.
Are they cabins?
Are they rustic (no electricity) or do they have electricity?
Are there bathroom facilities within the cabin or does everyone use one centralized bathroom location? (If the bathrooms are elsewhere, what’s the protocol if the kids need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?)
How many kids bunk in one room / cabin?
If they have siblings or friends attending the same camp, will they be in different bunk areas / cabins or can they bunk together?
10. What are the kids not allowed to bring?
There will be long camp packing lists of what the kids can and can’t bring.
Pay special attention to the “can’t bring” items.
For example, most camps won’t allow kids to carry their phones or bring tablets or music players.
(Are you OK with your kid not having a phone and not being able to get in touch with them whenever you need/want?)
11. What does a typical schedule look like?
It’s always nice to know what your kids will be up to while away.
What is a typical day going to look like for the child?
12. How does the camp handle dietary issues and allergies?
If your kid has special dietary requirements, allergies, or needs regular medication, how does the camp handle that?
13. Will there be days when kids will be leaving the camp?
Will the kids be staying on the camp grounds or will there be days that they will leave for special field trips, etc.?
If so, how will they be transported and how many counselors and adults will go?
14. How can you contact your child (and how often)?
You need to know how you can contact your child, whether your child is attending a day camp or a month away at sleepaway camp.
Is there a dedicated phone number for parents to contact their kids?
Is there a special time each day they can have their own phones or have access to a phone?
15. Where can I see ratings and references?
Before you sign up for a summer camp, check out what people are saying online.
- Do a general search online for the camp and see what comes up.
- Look at Google reviews.
- Review their Facebook page comments and reviews (if available).
- Post on your Facebook page if anyone knows anything about the camp.
- See what their Yelp review are.
Also, ask the camp for references.
Follow these tips and once summer time ends you’ll have some happy (and tired!) kids … and you didn’t even have to come up with a ton of summer vacation ideas for them (and you can check off an item on your bucket list for the summer)!