Last minute tips for selecting summer camp

by Linda Hubbard on June 4, 2010

Sign Up For Camp is a new website designed by local parents to make it easier to plan for summer camps. You can search for camps by age, location, dates and activities. InMenlo asked the company’s VP of Product Management, Peggy Chang, who is a Menlo Park resident, to provide some tips for choosing the right camp.

“The good news is that even this late in the season, there are many local summer camps that still have availability,” says Peggy.  “There’s no need  to settle for a camp that is less than a great fit for your family.”

Peggy sent us five questions to ask when investigating a camp’s program that also provide insight into the quality of the camp’s operation.

“1.   Who is the Camp Director? What is their background?

“If you can, talk to the Camp Director directly. The Camp Director sets the tone and culture for the camp. Most parents ask questions about the program but be sure to also ask questions about the operation of the camp.  Most camp operations depend on a large percentage of temporary staff to serve as counselors and run the camps. It takes an organized and skilled Camp Director to get the right team assembled, organize training and ensure that camp runs smoothly.

“2.  How do you develop your curriculum? What are your learning objectives?

“A quality camp will have a strong philosophy about the camp activities and solid plans on how they will implement the camp experience. The activities don’t necessarily need to be structured, organized activities. Some camps are very intentional about giving kids a great outdoor experience and letting them climb trees. But whether structured or more child-driven, the camp should be intentional about the kids’ experiences and what they will get from attending the camp.

“3.  How do you recruit your camp staff, and what do you look for in a camp counselor? How do you train your staff?

“The camp business is very seasonal and most camps are recruiting the majority of their staff every year.  There are many different staffing models that work for camps – using coaches, teachers, college or high school students. But you’ll want to be comfortable that the staffing model is adequate for the program offered.

“4.  What does the typical camp day look like? How are the children grouped?

“This can really help ensure that a camp is a good match for your child’s personality. Here are some specific tips we have received from camps:

  • If your child is very active, they may not be happy in a project based camp.
  • If your child has trouble with transitions, look for a camp at which they will stay with the same group of kids and same counselors throughout the day, rather than rotating between stations.
  • If your child is reserved or shy, look for a camp at which your child will be in a small group. Note, that this is different than a camp with a low ratio. Two camps can have a 6:1 child to counselor ratio, but your child may be in a group of 6 in one camp and a group of 18 in another camp.

“5. What do you do in case of (insert any emergency here – earthquake, allergic reactions, broken bones)?

“The specific answer to this question is much less important than the ability to answer it without running to a manual. These sorts of emergencies rarely happen at camp. But when they do, it is important that they are handled well.”

“Asking these questions, concludes Peggy, will make you feel much more confident that your child will have a great experience at summer camp.” Find out what’s available locally at Sign Up For Camp.

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