Parenting Tips for Choosing a Summer Day Camp

Two preschool girls smiling outside at summer camp

Learn questions to ask when choosing a summer day camp for your kids.

When snow is still on the ground and locating matching mittens is the norm, it’s hard to think about summer camp! Yet, before you know it, families will be trading school for summer and snowsuits for swimsuits.

If you are considering enrolling your child in summer camp, it’s never too early to begin learning about the different types of programs, costs, schedules, and admission procedures.

When choosing a camp or summer program, reputations and word of mouth are meaningful resources; however, a terrific match for one family might not be the best match for your child and family. Our best advice: think about your child's interests and temperament, and start by making a list of important camp features.

QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT SUMMER DAY CAMP 

Below are some helpful questions parents often ask when gathering information about camps. You’ll likely be paying close attention to health and safety, so it’s important to ask additional questions and make careful considerations in those areas.

This list is meant to be all-encompassing — and it’s quite long — so highlight the summer camp questions that are most important to you.

Camp Application Process:

  • What is the camp’s schedule? Is it flexible?
  • What are the hours of operation?
  • What are the camp's opening and closing dates?
  • What is the deadline for submitting applications?

Camp Tuition and Fees:

  • What are the tuition and registration fees?
  • What is included in the tuition (e.g., transportation, meals, insurance, special trips, entrance fees, health services, use of equipment, etc.)? Ask for an itemized list of services with additional costs.
  • Is there a membership fee? Do parents have to join the sponsoring organization in order for their child to attend the camp?
  • How and when is tuition paid (weekly, monthly, or each session)?
  • Are scholarships available?
  • What is the refund policy if, for any reason, you commit and your child cannot attend the camp?

Camp Health and Safety:

  • Who licenses the camp? Is the license current?
  • Is there a daily health screening for all families and staff? What does it include?
  • What is your illness exclusion policy?
  • Are staff members required to wear masks? What about children — and what age?
  • How to do you encourage physical distancing?
  • Do you follow CDC, state, and local guidelines surrounding COVID-19 health and safety protocols?
  • Are campers taught hand hygiene tips and encouraged to wash their hands throughout the day? Do staff follow the same tips?
  • How does the summer camp accommodate children who have special needs, such as asthma, diabetes, or allergies?
  • What is the policy around water activities and how are children supervised during these activities?
  • Are counselors and/or other camp staff required to be certified in CPR and First Aid?
  • How does the summer camp handle minor injuries, such as bruises, scrapes, and cuts?
  • How does the camp handle emergencies? What happens if there is an emergency and parents cannot be reached?
  • If transportation is involved, what vehicles are used and how often are they inspected? Who drives the vehicles and what training do drivers have?

Staff Members and Camp Counselors:

  • What is the ratio between staff and campers? Do groupings stay consistent throughout the week?
  • What screening procedures are used when hiring staff members and summer camp counselors?
  • What are the counselors’ qualifications and experiences? What is their age range?
  • What background checks do camp counselors undergo?
  • What are the camp director's qualifications and experience?
  • Are there other staff members besides the director and counselors? How will they interact with my child? What are their qualifications? Will they be responsible for supervising children and/or alone with children? If so, have they gone through a background check, too?
  • What are the counselors’ duties? Are counselors hired for short periods or for the entire summer?
  • Who teaches special programs (archery, art, technology, etc.)? What screening procedures do they go through?
  • How do staff enforce health and safety protocols, specifically surrounding COVID-19?

Summer Camp Schedule:

  • What time does camp start and end each day?
  • Does the camp offer an extended hours program? If so, what are the hours and cost?
  • Do parents drop off directly at the camp location or somewhere else? What is the drop-off protocol?
  • What is the daily routine?
  • What activities does the camp offer for campers in my child's age group? Do children choose activities? What are some of the most popular activities?
  • Is camp fully in-person or does it follow a hybrid model? If hybrid, is everything cleaned and disinfected in between groups?

Child Supervision and Support:

  • What systems are in place to keep track of each child?
  • Can siblings interact with each other during the day throughout the summer program?
  • How does the camp help first-time campers get oriented and comfortable with the program?
  • How do the counselors support children who are sad or out of sorts?
  • What is the camp's approach to discipline? How are conflicts between campers resolved? What happens with serious rule infractions?
  • Does the camp offer field trips? How are the children supervised on field trips? How are the children transported? Is there an option if I don't want my child to go on a certain field trip? How are health and safety protocols enforced outside of the camp’s grounds?

Parent Partnerships:

  • How does the camp communicate with parents (phone, email, notes, etc.)? How do parents receive information about events and activities, and how can they contact the camp when it’s in session?
  • Are parents welcome at the camp anytime? Are there opportunities for parents to participate in the program? If so, what health and safety protocols are parents expected to follow?
  • How does the camp solicit parents’ opinions, ideas, suggestions, and concerns?
  • Are there parents of previous campers I can contact for a reference?
  • Under what circumstances will the camp call parents (i.e. minor injury, homesick, etc.)?
  • How will the camp notify parents about health and safety concerns, including suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases and other illnesses?

Camp Environment:

  • Where do the children leave their belongings?
  • When and how do children have access to the restroom?
  • How often will they have access to water, soap, and other hygiene products?
  • Are there adequate supplies and equipment?
  • Does the camp use electronics or gaming systems? If so, what are the policies regarding electronics?
  • Is the environment secure to prevent children from leaving or strangers from entering?
  • Are there spaces where children can choose to relax or have quiet time?
  • How is cleaning and sanitizing handled throughout the campgrounds?

Meals at Camp:

  • Are lunches provided by the camp? (If yes, ask for a sample menu in advance. If no, ask what guidelines they have for bag lunches.)
  • Are snacks provided during the day? What kind and when?
  • Are special meals available for children with allergies or special needs?
  • Will families receive a weekly menu at the beginning of each week or session?
  • Where do the children eat? How are groups spaced to ensure physical distancing?
  • Is food pre-packaged? If not, how is it handled to ensure safe meal practices?

More On Choosing a Summer Camp

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

February 4, 2021

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