First step: selecting a camp
Do your research.
Talk to other parents, seek recommendations from friends
Research camps online, looking for parent and other recent reviews.
Attend camp fairs
Review expectations and camp values
Ask your local YMCA, faith-based communities, community centers and ACA for camp information
Find out what activities the camp has to offer.
Make sure the camp is ACA accredited. The American Camping Association is a voluntary membership, evaluation and accreditation for camps, holding the accredited camps to a strict set of safety and program guidelines.
Interview the Director/Staff. Camp is all about relationships -- this includes a parent's relationship with the camp leaders and staff. Interview the director -- prior to the camp experience. Ask questions about:
Camp philosophy, does it match your parenting philosophy?
What is the Director's background? ACA minimum standards is a bachelor degree, service training and 16 weeks of camp administration experience.
How are the counselors screened, hired, trained, supervised and evaluated? Ask about lifeguards and certifications.
What is the camp's counselor-to camper ratio?
Ask about references.
Ask about accreditation.
Know the policies/procedures.
What is the camp's safety record? What are their emergency procedures?
How does the camp handle special needs?
What is the camp's behavior management policy? Policy for handling bullying? Homesick kids? Etc.
Once you've decided where to camp:
Apply for camp.
Fill out required forms.
Talk and read with your child about summer camp.
Gear up and set up packing list.
What do you need to bring?
What items can you not live without?
medication/vitamins if applicable
In addition to all the necessities, make sure you bring a hat, sweatshirt/jacket (even during the hottest summer months), long pants and tennis shoes/boots (they're required for many activities). Is there a camp dance? Make sure you have clothes for these special activities.
Toiletries: Shower caddy, shower shoes, towels
Bedding: Know what you need at the camp you select. Pillow. Sleeping bag or sheets?
Flashlight and batteries
Reusable water bottle
Writing paper, envelopes, stamps
Money for camp store
What should you leave at home?
What should you expect once you're there?
Activities at camps vary, make sure you know what your camp offers before signing up.
It's important to remember, at the end of the day, camp is about the experience -- at camp children learn how to live cooperatively in a sustained group living experience. The important thing is not the specific activities but rather the powerful lessons learned at camp: living as a community, making friends, working as a group, thinking of others, being a role model to the younger children, progressively working through different levels in the programs, relating to differences in people, embracing the natural environment.
Camp takes positive role models who understand compassionate leadership and youth development and puts them in the camp community with campers who also get loads of opportunities to practice being a leader them selves.
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