It’s hard to believe that the time is coming…but it is. The time to research is now so that you will be ready to register your children before programs fill up! (To find camps and programs in your area, simply select “School’s Out” from our category list.)
Summer camp is a unique opportunity for children of all ages to broaden their horizons and explore various interests! Camp is a time for children to enjoy the summer, try new activities and make new friends. Summer camp should be a safe and memorable experience, but, when not managed or staffed properly, it can be potentially dangerous. Take a few moments to research your options before committing to a camp schedule and you will ensure a fun-filled summer for your children.
Here are a few essential questions to ask when searching for a camp for your child:
Certifications & Training: Is the camp certified? If so, by whom? Most camps in Maryland are licensed by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as well as local county regulations. Many camps also have accreditation by the American Camp Association (ACA). An ACA accreditation goes beyond basic requirements for health, cleanliness, and food service into specific areas of programming, including camp staff from director through counselors, emergency plans, health care, and management. Certifications verify that camps meet certain standards and help assure camp safety.
If the camp provides swimming time, does the pool have certified lifeguards? What ratios of camper to lifeguard do they follow? Do they adhere to their state and county guidelines for safety? Statistically, one of the most dangerous areas at summer camp is the pool. Certified lifeguards that are provided with continuous trainings allow the pool to be an enjoyable and safe part of camp for your child.
Ratios: What is the ratio of counselor to child that the camp follows? The lower the ratio, the more individual attention your child will receive. Adequate supervision is essential to a successful camp experience.
What are the ages of the staff employed by the camp? Do they have adult staff? What are the qualifications of the camp director? Are all camp staff given criminal background checks? Have they been fingerprinted? If there are volunteers staffing the camp, have they also been through the background check process as well?
Facilities: First rule of thumb – it is always preferable for a parent to personally visit the camp. You want to see first hand the state of the camp’s facilities. Does it appear clean and safe? Is it a place you would want your child to spend the day and/or night at? In the event of bad weather, is the alternate space adequate? What about a before and after care component? Many working parents rely on the flexibility of a day camp to care for their child beyond the traditional hours of 9:00am to 5:00pm. Is this option available at the camp of your choice?
Having a place to keep the children safe, under all circumstances, should be an integral part of operating a camp. One last component to consider is medical facilities. Are they available? What medical staff is on campus?
Policies: What are the policies and procedures of the camp? How do they handle misbehavior? What happens if your child becomes ill? What refund options exist for the camp? Finding out all the specifics before the camp starts, can help ensure a successful summer for all involved.
Cost: Costs for camp vary widely depending on the type and length of the program. Sleep-away camps range from $200 to a $1,500 a week depending on the specialty. Day camps and half-day camps are more budget friendly. Be sure to inquire into the availability of scholarships. Many camps offer financial assistance to families who qualify. Some also offer payment plans.
Finally, ask for references of families who have had their child attend the camp. The opportunity to talk with these families can give you valuable insight about the inner workings of the camp and the children that attend.
A child’s memories of time spent at summer camp often last a lifetime. Careful research and planning will not only ensure that your child has an enjoyable summer but will also provide you with much needed peace of mind.