Questions To Ask When Visiting Potential Sleepaway Camps

What parents should really be focused on when touring camps.

boys in sleep away camp bunk

If you are thinking about sending your child to sleepaway camp next summer, this summer is the time to go on tours of various camps to get a feel of what is best for your child. Visiting sleepaway camps is similar to visiting colleges before you make your final decision. It is important that your child feels ready to go away for the summer and that both you and your child feel comfortable with the camp you choose.

There is a camp for everyone and every camp offers something different so before you go on any tours, speak with your child about his or her expectations, hopes and wants for their summer experience. I spoke with a tour guide at Camp Wah-Nee, the sleepaway camp I attended. She let me in on what parents should and should not be focused on during a sleepaway camp tour.

Questions that Parents Often Ask on a Tour:

  • What is the schedule for the day?
  • Can my child play a particular sports/activity more often than other activities?
  • How often can my child make phone calls?
  • Can I sent my child packages?
  • How many counselors in a bunk/division?
  • How many children in a bunk/division?
  • At what age do most children start going to camp?
  • What happens if my child does not make the team? what other opportunities will he/she have to participate in the given activity?
  • Are showers and bathrooms available in the bunks?
  • Will my child swim in a lake or a pool?
  • Are there religious services and, if yes, are they mandatory?
  • What additional charges are there?
  • What is the medical staff on camp?

Questions that Parents Should Ask:

  • Does the camp have American Camp Association accreditation and follow ACA guidelines? The ACA evaluates the camp’s safety, health, program and camp operations. Some states have more in-depth standards needed for camp operators so look up your state's requirements.

  • How does the camp recruit, screen and train its staff? The camp director should be able to verify appropriate qualifications needed for the job, such as licenses, certifications and references. Some states require a criminal background check and a search of the sex offender registry, too.

  • What’s the camp’s philosophy?

  • What are the camper and counselor return rates?

  • What’s the ratio of counselors to campers?

  • How old are the counselors?

  • What medical staff work at the camp and what backup facilities are nearby?

  • What is the camp’s approach to discipline and how does the camp handle conflicts between campers?

  • What does a typical daily schedule look like?

  • Will the camp be transporting the children?

  • How do you handle allergy/food accommodations?

  • How do you handle particular special needs (physical, emotional, disciplinary)?

  • Does the camp offer tutoring? (i.e., Bar/Bat Mitzvah, English As A Second Language (ESL), etc.). 

  • How to you make children feel safe emotionally?

  • How can my child be exposed to new things, gain new interests?

Don't Fall for the Bells and Whistles

Parents and kids are swayed by the "bells and whistles", newest facilities and other amenities that a camp offers. Children are being molded during adolescence (when most attend camps) and it is important to foster a healthy foundation that they can develop self esteem and learn how to treat each other.

 Parents seem to be less concerned with the values that a camp offers and more concerned about "keeping up with the Jones'". Parents often want to be in control of their child's likes and dislikes which hinder individual growth. Parents should be be less concerned about what bunk their child is in and more interested in promoting a healthy attitude about making new friends.

Parents also should let their child be part of the decision. Involving children in deciding what sleep away camp they attend will help them feel more excited about their summer plans. But, make sure you are reading your child correctly and not letting them make a decision based on attractive or fancy features.

Think about your child in terms of their personality and likes/dislikes and how this camp will help them grow, develop and flourish. 

Use American Camp Association's "Find a Camp" to decide which sleepaway camps you will be visiting this summer.

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