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Is Your Child Ready For Camp?

Tips, questions to ask, and points to consider before sending your child to sleepaway camp.

It’s already time to plan for summer camp. If residential camp is a possibility this year, your mind may be filled with uncertainties: Is my child ready? How do I find the right camp? How do I prepare my child? Here are some tips, questions to ask, and points to consider before sending your child to sleepaway camp.

Is My Kid Emotionally Ready for Camp?

It’s natural for kids and their parents to feel anxious about a first-time camp experience, says Eric Rightor, Avid4 Adventure senior manager of resident camps and director for the Mt. Evans program. But, in general, he says, the answer to whether a child is emotionally ready for sleepaway camp is a resounding, “Yes!”

“Kids are stronger than you think,” Rightor says. “Ninety-five percent of kids are ready to go to camp, and it’s really about the approach to that situation. It’s a lot about having a nervous conversation,” he says, and letting your child know, “You’re ready for it; you can do it.” Here are some ways Rightor says parents can prepare their children emotionally for the camp experience:

Five Questions to Ask a Camp Director

Camp directors are a critical part of your child’s camp experience. Asking one the right questions can help you select the right camp for your kid’s needs. Rightor offers five questions that parents can ask a camp director to help whittle down the list to the camp that’s the best fit.

  1. Are you willing to chat with my child before camp? Whether it’s a phone call or FaceTime, directors should be willing to chat with any parent or child who’s researching their camp.
  2. What do the first 24 hours look like for my camper? Camps should have a good idea of how that first full day looks for your child, including the check-in process, planned activities, and ways the camp helps campers make new friends.
  3. How can I contact my child if necessary? Make sure you know the ways to contact your children if necessary. Also, ask how long it usually takes the camp director to respond to a parent.
  4. What do you like about your job? Camp directors should be able to have a passionate conversation about why their program is outstanding and why it’s going to be a good experience for your child.
  5. How do you build the staff culture? Good directors will not only train staff properly, but they’ll also build staff morale by working in some fun during training and allowing them sufficient time off to stay fresh during camp season. If the staff culture is fun, chances are the camp culture will reflect that.

Safe-Camp Checklist

Here are some key issues that are critical in determining whether a potential camp is safe for your child.

Top 5 “Red Flag” Questions to Ask a Camp

The American Camp Association (ACA) is a nonprofit organization that establishes accreditation guidelines for U.S. camps through a voluntary, peer-review program focused on health, safety, and risk management of camp operations. First and foremost, parents should ask whether a camp is ACA accredited. From there, they recommend asking these five questions to help weed out red flags:

  1. Staff Ratio Where are the adults? Make sure your camp maintains an appropriate ratio of staff-to-children (the ratios vary by age and situation). All staff must receive training to minimize the potential of being in a 1:1 camper/staff situation when out of sight of others.
  2. Safety Does the camp ensure water-craft safety (life vests and lifeguard certification), helmets, harnesses, emergency exits, etc.? Does the camp require background checks on staff?
  3. Health Does the camp maintain a health care center/facility, medication storage, emotional health support, etc.?
  4. Security Is the camp guarded? What is their missing-child protocol?
  5. Accessibility Is the camp accessible for your child to learn and have fun, worry-free?  How inclusive can this camp be for your child?

Parents Point Out

Other parents who’ve sent their kids off to residential camp are a valuable source of information. Consider the following tips from parents in the know before you send your kid off to camp, to avoid uncertainties along the way.

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