By Jess Michaels, American Camp Association, NY & NJ
Your family is starting to think about camp but with so many options, where do you begin? Each camp has its own feel and it’s important for parents to do their research to figure out which camp will be the best fit.
View website, social media & videos
Camps have a wealth of information on their websites and social media platforms including leadership information, camp philosophy, program, activities, photos, camp video, session length, dates & rates, blogs and so much more. Checking out a camp’s website and social media is a good starting off point when beginning your camp search.
Get to Know the Camp Director
Find a camp that looks like it might be a good fit? One of the best ways to get to know a camp is talking to the camp director. The director makes the ultimate decisions at camp so you want to make sure that when you ask questions, you like the answers you are receiving. Ask about the camp’s philosophy and if it matches your own family’s values. Keep in mind you are starting a partnership with the camp director so you want to make sure there is a feeling of trust and that you feel comfortable leaving your child in the director’s care.
Tour the Camp
A good way for parents and children to get a feel for a day or overnight camp is to tour the camp. Scheduling a camp tour over the summer gives the future camper and family a chance to see camp in action. A tour also gives you a chance to ask the camp director questions while you are in the camp environment. If you can’t tour during the summer, schedule a tour in the off season so you can see the facilities and still get a feel for the camp environment. Camp tours give children the feeling that he or she is part of the process of choosing the camp and the more involved a child feels in the decision making, the more successful the camp experience will be.
Camp Fairs are free events that bring dozens of camps straight to parents, allowing parents to have one-on-one conversations with many camp directors to find out about their camp program. Camp fairs are great ways to meet the directors and learn about the camp.
Can’t tour the camp/camps you are interested in? Most camp directors will come to your home for a home visit and meet with you and your child. This is another great opportunity to get to know the director and ask questions about the program.
Camp Open Houses
Many camps host spring and fall festivals/open houses giving families another way to see the camp and get to know the camp staff. These festivals/open houses are also great ways to involve your child in the process of choosing a camp and they are good events for families who aren’t able to tour the camp over the summer when camp is in session.
There are many overnight camps that offer Rookie Days or Rookie Weekends which are designed to give future campers a chance to experience the camp in session by joining in on the camp activities before going to camp. While children enjoy the camp activities, parents are taken on a tour of the camp. Rookie days are wonderful ways for children and their parents to get a feel for what the camp is like and to determine if the camp is the right fit.
If you are interested in a particular camp, ask the camp director for references. Speaking with parents whose children attend the camp, preferably parents who have children the same age as yours, will allow you to ask about their child’s experience. You can also ask about their feelings on the camp staff, facilities, food, activities and parent communication as well as any other questions you may have.