11 May 2015
Summer Camp Tips for Parents

With summer on the way, a lot of Nevada families are weighing their options for summer camps – where to send the kids for a summer of fun. There are lots of options – sleep-away camps, day camps, special interest camps for arts, sciences, and other academics.

There’s also the cost factor that has to be weighed to determine if a summer camp experience is the best use of your household resources. What questions should you ask? How do you prepare your child (and yourself) for roughing it at summer camp?

Here are some tips to make sure your campers have the best experience this summer, whether at sleep-over camp or day camp. Outdoor fun, sports, crafts, and other activities will make this a summer your kids will remember for a lifetime.

Overnight Camp Tips

First, make sure the overnight camp you’re considering meets the standards of the American Camp Association to make sure the camp managers and facilities meet the highest standards.

You’ll have to pack up the duffel bag for kids attending sleep-away camp – everything from PJs to swim suits. Overnight camps usually provide a list of what to pack and what not to pack. For example…

…most overnight camps do not want children to bring non-prescription medicines like aspirin or over-the-counter allergy medications with them. If a doctor didn’t prescribe it, it doesn’t belong in your child’s knapsack.

Make sure your child has everything they’ll need for hiking, sports, swimming, and, of course, a good night’s sleep in the camp bunkhouse. Lay out all clothing and personal items on the bed and check them off one at a time to make sure you don’t forget to pack something essential.

See the family doctor. You may receive medical forms from the camp prior to opening day. This is a good time to visit the family health care provider to make sure your little ones can safely engage in camp activities. Are vaccinations recommended? If so, what and why?

Also, if your child does take allergy medicine, or some other kind of prescribed meds, make sure your doctor provides enough medication for your child’s summer camp experience. Running out of meds can be a major headache for everyone.

Sew labels into your child’s clothing to make sure they come back with the same clothes they left with at the beginning of the summer.

If possible, visit the camp and ask for a tour. Look at the condition of buildings, docks, and recreational facilities. If the stay-over camp looks shabby and run down, it may not be the best choice for your child, no matter what the cost savings. You want your child to be safe and have fun, even if it costs a bit more.

Pack pre-stamped, addressed envelopes and ask your child to send regular updates on what’s new at Camp Runamok. Kids aren’t going to look for stamps, so pack everything they’ll need to keep in touch by snail mail. That’s right – snail mail! Welcome to the good old days.

Keep the smartphones, tablets and other electronics home. Some camps don’t allow digital toys, insisting that “snail mail” is part of the camping experience. Check before you pack your child’s smartphone. It might be on the contraband list.

Finally, be sure to pack all family contact information, including an emergency contact in case you aren’t around.

Day Camp Tips

Day camps are usually close to home, so visiting a few local camps will help narrow down your choices. Bring your child along, too. He or she should have a say in where they spend summer vacation. 

Ask about the camp schedule. Is it flexible? Does it fit the family vacation schedule? Is there more than one session? Some day camps run for two weeks, some four, some the whole summer. Be sure you research the day camp’s schedule to avoid conflicts with other summer activities.

Be sure you know the deadline for submitting your day camp application. The best camps fill up quickly, so don’t wait until it’s too late to get your child enrolled in a quality day camp.

Ask about the camp counselors. Are they accredited? Do they know basic first aid? Does the day camp pre-screen counselors with background checks? These are all reasonable questions to ask the camp representative.

Also, what is the ratio of counselors to campers? If one adult has to manage 100 excited kids, safety may be compromised.

Ask how children are grouped. By age? Interests? Special talents? For example, if your child attends band camp this summer, he may want to stay in the “strings” cabin to practice his violin and share music with other young musicians.

Next, how does the camp communicate with parents? Email? Telephone? Are regular updates sent out to parents? Under what circumstances will parents be notified?

Check out safety features. Where is your child’s backpack stored? Is there always a certified lifeguard on duty? Visit the restrooms. Are they clean and up to date? How are strangers kept off day camp grounds? Is there a security system to alert counselors and kids?

Ask about meals. Is lunch served at the camp or do kids “brown-bag” it? Does the camp provide snacks during the day? Are meals available for campers with special dietary needs? Is the menu created by a certified nutritionist?

Camps are great for kids and families. Kids make new friends and share new experiences while parents can relax a little this summer, too. Just perform due diligence before writing a check, to make sure your child will be safe and will enjoy a great summer with lots of stories to tell.

 

The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.

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