There are many choices for children’s activities during the summer months. If you’re looking for a program that is local, continues throughout the summer, and promotes growth and self-esteem, then day camping is an excellent option. There are many camps to select from, and with them, many questions that should be considered, or asked directly to the camp. From the first day, both you and your child should be confident that this will be the right place to spend the summer.
Following are 20 questions (and there are certainly others) to think about when choosing a day camp.
• Do you want a traditional or specialized camp?
• Do you feel your child will be successful and grow here?
• Will your child be an active participant?
• Is this camp a member of the American Camp Association?
• Have you visited the camp, especially while it was in session?
• Have you compared your camp with others, e.g., fees, facilities, programs?
• What is the camp’s reputation, especially by word-of-mouth?
• Have you met the camp’s director and talked at length with her/him?
• What is the philosophy of the director? Is he/she hands-on with the daily program?
• Will your child have contact with the director?
• Have you learned about the camp staff?
• What is the camp’s safety record?
• What is the return rate of campers?
• What type of swim program is offered? Arts and crafts? Nature?
• Is the camp’s layout and program designed well for your child?
• How well can your child transition from activity to activity?
• What happens on rainy or extremely hot days?
• What choices are available to you, e.g., lunch, transportation, length of day?
• Will your child be comfortable and “at home”?
• Will this be the right camp for your child?
Not every camp suits every child’s needs. Choosing the right camp for your family has many variables. Even after reading these questions, four main points should be made:
1. Day camp is not daycare. In a camp you are committing to a program that involves an extended time period. Swim lessons, athletic skills, social skills — these take time and repetition for your child to succeed. An eight-week camp period often yields the best results.
2. Do you feel comfortable that your child will have a safe summer? Accidents can and will happen anywhere to anybody, but do you feel good about the camp’s safety record and overall supervision of your child during daily activities?
3. Occasionally, parents allow their child to decide what camp to attend when, in fact, that child might not have the maturity or full understanding of what is best. The “bells and whistles” that attract children are nice, but being a parent means making the final decision by considering all of the available information.
4. Will your child have fun? Day camp is a time for kids to be kids and come home each night happy and tired. A busy active day, over a period of weeks, will result in children interacting with one another, learning to resolve conflicts, and having a blast!
JOE BERTINO is the director of Nabby Day Camp; this summer marks his 39th consecutive year with Nabby. He has a Master's degree in education and has taught in Westchester for 35 years.