For most of us, summer is a time to slow down and enjoy time with family and friends. But for many parents of young children, summertime also presents a challenge – how to keep their kids safe, entertained and engaged during their time off from school.
For many families, the answer is summer camp, but that doesn’t necessarily mean packing your kid off to a remote location, or busting your budget. Summer day camps are a convenient and affordable option, but choosing the right one for your child can be a daunting task.
When choosing a summer camp for your child, the American Camp Association recommends that you start by considering your child’s age, personality and interests.
Here are some additional things to take into consideration when selecting a summer day camp for your child:
Your child’s safety and wellbeing are obviously of the utmost concern to you, and they should also be the top priority of any reputable summer day camp program. When vetting summer day camp programs, be sure to ask the following questions:
- Is the program licensed, and if so, is the license current?
- What is the ratio of campers to counselors?
- Are the camp staff and counselors certified in CPR and first aid?
- Does the camp offer special accommodations for children with health issues including asthma, allergies, diabetes, special dietary needs, etc.?
- Does the camp offer aquatic activities? If so, are these activities supervised by certified lifeguards?
- How does the camp handle minor injuries?
- What are the camp’s policies and procedures regarding more serious injuries?
- Does the camp have an anti-bullying policy?
- What background checks have the camp staff and counselors undergone?
Scheduling and Transportation
Most summer day camps offer flexible schedules and transportation options to accommodate parents’ busy lifestyles, but that’s not always the case. Be sure to ask the following questions to ensure the camp your considering is a good fit for your particular needs:
- What time does the summer camp start and end each day?
- Does the camp offer extended hours? If so, what are the hours, and is there an additional cost?
- Is transportation available? If so, are the vehicle inspections current, and are the drivers properly trained and licensed?
Facilities and Activities
When choosing a summer day camp, you’ll want to make sure that the facilities are clean and safe, and that the activities align with your child’s specific physical and intellectual needs and interests. Here are some questions to ask of the camp director:
- Does the camp offer adequate security to prevent children from leaving, and unauthorized visitors from entering, the facilities?
- What are the check-in and check-out procedures and policies?
- Does the camp offer activities for your child’s age and level of maturity?
- Are the camp activities centered around a specific educational theme?
- Are lunches and snacks included in the cost of tuition?
- Are campers allowed to bring food from home?
- Does the camp provide a secure place for your child to leave his or her personal belongings?
- How does the camp handle discipline problems?
- Does the camp program include off-campus field trips? If so, how are children transported and supervised? Are they mandatory, or does your child have the option of not participating in field trips?
Communicating with Your Child and Camp Personnel
Separation anxiety is a common problem for first-time campers and their parents. The ability to communicate with your child and camp staff can make all the difference, so it’s a good idea to ask these questions about the camp’s communication policies:
- What is the camp’s policy regarding cell phones?
- Can parents visit the camp at any time?
- Do parent visits need to be scheduled ahead of time?
- Does the camp provide a single point of contact for parents?
- How do parents receive updates and information about camp events and activities?
- How does the camp communicate with parents about special concerns (behavioral issues, homesickness, etc.)?
Tuition and Registration
The cost for summer day camps can vary widely from program to program. Many municipalities, child care centers and religious organizations offer very affordable summer camp programs, and each will have its own requirements regarding the registration process, so be sure to ask the following questions as they pertain to your particular situation:
- Is there a deadline for enrolling your child?
- Does the camp have special enrollment requirements (vaccination records, proof of residency, etc.)?
- What is included in the price of tuition? Be sure to asks about additional fees for any special services you may require.
- Is tuition paid on a weekly or monthly basis?
- If needed, does the camp offer scholarships or financial assistance?
- What forms of payment are accepted (cash, check, credit cards)?
- What is the camp’s refund policy?
In addition to asking these questions, it’s a good idea to check online reviews and social media to get opinions from actual parents.
According to Kids ‘R’ Kids of West Frisco Owner Paul Huff, “It’s a good idea to make an in-person visit to the camp facilities. If possible, I recommend that you bring your child along on your visit. Most summer camps are happy to meet with you and give you a tour of their facilities – just be sure to call ahead to schedule your visit.”
Summer camp is a great way to ensure that the time spent away from school is filled with safe, enriching experiences and activities. Doing your due diligence and asking lots of questions will ensure that you choose the right summer camp.
Don Williams is a Project Director with DFW-based Advance Web Promotions which specializes in search engine marketing, content marketing and social media for small to mid-sized clients nationwide.