Summer Camp Rules: What Families Should Know

Most Good Summer Camps Have Important Rules for Safety and Discipline

Make sure your child knows what items are allowed at camp.
Your tween may have to follow a rigid daily schedule while at camp. Hero Images/Getty Images

Summer camp can be the highlight of the summer for your child. There's so much to do and learn. But before you pack all those belongings, make sure you know the camp regulations and rules. Safety should be at the heart of any camp program, and in order to keep campers safe, certain rules will apply to everyone. Knowing the rules ahead of time will help your child stay out of trouble, and will make his time away from home much easier.

Review the list below, and be sure to check out any program your child attends, to see if they have additional rules for your child.

Rules for Day and Overnight Camps

Below are rules typical of both day and overnight camp programs. Your child's camp may be different, so it's important to review any materials the camp sends. If you don't receive a set of regulations, check the camp's website or call for further information.

  • Campers are asked to wear sneakers or closed-back shoes, as opposed to sandals or flip-flops. Camps often ask that girls wear one-piece bathing suits rather than bikinis.
  • Many campers are asked to wear hats and bring water bottles, to prevent heat-related health issues.
  • Camps that serve meals often ask that campers do not bring in outside food.
  • Your child may be inspected for head lice before camp begins -- to prevent an outbreak.
  • Some camps require that you take your child to his or her doctor for a physical exam before camp begins.
  • Many camps have very strict rules regarding bullying and other forms of aggression. Campers caught behaving badly may be asked to leave.
  • Your child may be given a swimming test before he or she is allowed to swim in the pool or other body of water.
  • Many camps do not allow campers to bring technology to camp, including cell phones, tablets, game players, DVD players, or other devices.
  • Parental permission may be required for certain activities such as horseback riding, zip lining, or other potentially dangerous sports or activities.
  • Many camps require that campers wear certain clothing, such as long pants, shirts with sleeves (no spaghetti straps), sneakers and hats, all for safety reasons.
  • Your child may be asked to sign a code of conduct, clearly stating what behaviors are not allowed at camp. Be sure your child understands that his behavior will be monitored by camp counselors.
  • Your child's camp will likely issue a list of things to bring to camp as well as a list of items that are not allowed at camp, such as knives, weaponry of any kind, tech devices, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.
  • Jewelry is often not allowed at summer camp, it can pose a danger to an active camper and the camp may not want to take responsibility for any lost or stolen items.
  • If your child takes medication, most camps require that the medicine be administered by the camp nurse or another member of the camp staff.

Special Rules for Day Camps

Day campers are more likely than overnight campers to bring in treats, come to camp with infections, or wind up having to stay late or come early depending upon parent availability.

Many day camps set up specific rules to cope with these issues. Do check with your particular camp, as some do offer early drop-off, late pick-up, and other services.

  • Day camps may require that your child be dropped off and picked up at a precise time each day.
  • Day camps may prohibit certain foods, such as peanuts, or other substances that could pose a danger to campers with allergies.
  • Campers who show up sick may be asked to go home until they are no longer contagious.
  • If your child rides a bus to and from camp or while on a field trip, he will be asked to remain seated, to avoid blocking the aisle, to keep his voice down and to keep hands to himself, and to avoid sticking his arms or head out the bus window.

    Special Rules for Overnight Camps

    Overnight camps look after children for weeks or months at a time, and as a result they have their own culture and policies. Be very clear with your child about expectations and rules, as they will have to live with those rules 24-7. As with all camps, be sure to carefully read through rules and policies, as they may vary from those listed here.

    • Overnight camps ask that campers do not bring food or sugary drinks into their cabins in order to prevent bugs or critters from finding their way in.
    • Many overnight programs require campers to take a nap or a break during the day.
    • Overnight programs may require that your child shower once a day.
    • Many camps discourage children from calling home as it can make homesickness worse.

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