The best summer camp experience starts with research. Knowing that a camp provides a safe environment will help parents feel confident sending their kids for a day, a week, or even longer.
The following are what every parent should look for in a child’s summer camp.
Student to staff ratios
A summer camp should have adequate supervision, information that will be on a camp website or that a director can answer questions about.
“When your kids are at camp, they will have more adults caring for them than in almost any other setting,” according to the American Camp Association.
In fact, kids usually have more supervision at camp than they do while at recess.
“Ratios generally range from 1:5 to 1:10, depending on the age of the campers and the activity,” according to the American Camp Association.
A summer camp should have safety rules about how to receive visitors, what its relationship with local law enforcement is, and so on. Camps should also have codes of conduct addressing how they expect campers to behave. Parents may want to look at the policy on bullying, for example.
Parents should also research what clothing and gear children will need to protect themselves from the elements and ask about safety plans for natural disasters.
“No one can guarantee your child’s camp will be sunny and bright the entire time,” according to summercamps.com. “You’ll want to know your child is safe and how the camp addresses natural emergencies such as tornadoes or flooding.”
Staff may be required to certify in anything from CPR to specialized training to lead hikes or other activities.
“Most camps provide at least a week of training before the summer begins,” according to the American Camp Association. “Many counselors are also required to complete online trainings and certifications before arriving at camp. Camp counselors learn about age group characteristics and how to use positive behavior management techniques.”
Parents should also ask about background check requirements for staff members.
If a child needs medical or other accommodations, certain camps may be better equipped. In fact, some camps will cater to children with specialized needs.
“They have campers with diverse physical and emotional needs,” according to CampNavigator. “People with learning and emotional needs develop strong emotional bonds and even come year on year for participating in a more residential setting of the summer camp. These special need camps are extremely helpful in showing care and value to the privileged campers.”
Summer camps often offer learning opportunities that are fun for young people. These may include hands-on activities, talks from experts on certain topics, and classes. Many camps will focus on science, music, theater, or another topic.
“Always good to keep up with academics during summer and academic camps are just the thing,” according to summercamps.com. “They can provide your camper with reinforcement of skills and topics your camper studied in school and offer new skills and knowledge that supplement your camper.”
No matter the type of camp, it’s important that children enjoy being there. If they aren’t interested in what a camp has to offer, they might not have a good time and will more likely get homesick.
That’s why parents should talk to their children not only about the focus of a camp, to ensure it’s something they are excited about, but also about the length of time they feel comfortable being away from home.
View Noozhawk’s Summer Camp Guide for a list of local organizations holding camps, programs, & activities for kids in Santa Barbara County this summer.