Summer camp decision season is here for parents.
Many are conducting research by viewing the programs online or calling camp directors. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more questions about safety at camp. However, for first-time campers and their parents, they still have to be comfortable with all other aspects of attending. We talked to Bill Champ, the auxiliary programs director and summer programs director at University School, about what parents can ask and do to make the most informed choice.
“Summer programs are not all the same; (you) really have to look into where you are signing your child up,” Champ says.
The first step in the process, he says, is asking your child what they like to do.
While you want to gauge their interests, he suggests talking to them about “being open-minded to a new experience, even if it’s out of their comfort zone.”
For Champ, the quality of the program is still the most important when making camp decisions.
“Try to get a sense of what the camp is all about,” he says. “There are a lot of choices — all shapes, sizes and costs — you want to do a little research before you send them. If the camp has been around a while, that is a good thing.”
Make sure the camp matches the kid, he says, noting, “try not to fit a square peg in a round hole.”
With the ongoing pandemic, camp safety is on the minds of parents who will be asking questions about policies for this summer.
“I know there are a lot of parents who are nervous,” Champ says. “Everyone is thinking about how to make sure it’s safe. Most camps I am familiar with are well-prepared to do this right.
I know we are going to err on the side of caution. We are going to follow whatever the recommendations are of the local health departments and CDC.”
He also encourages parents to talk to others who sent their kids to the camp.
If you know a son or daughter who attended the camp, they can give feedback,” Champ says. “The reputation of the camp is important. If you know kids that went there and had a good time, you can send (your kids) there with confidence.”
After doing your camp research, Champ suggests giving your kids some choices about where to go to camp, so they feel part of the process.
“There is a camp for everyone,” he says.
Some questions to consider:
• What are your child’s interests?
• What’s the quality of the program?
• Does it have a good reputation?
• What are the program opportunities, daily schedule and activities?
• Where is the facility?
• Safety: What are the general safety policies?
• What are the COVID-19 safety protocols?
• How do you help kids with special needs?
• What are the policies and protocols for kids with allergies or other medical needs?
• What are the ages of staff members?
• What is the camper-to-staff ratio?
• Can you take a tour of the facility?
• Ask the camp to give you a referral.
• Does it meet your family’s schedule?
• What is the cost?
• Do you have an accrediting body (like American Camp Association) for overnight camps?