Summer camp is a rich and lasting tradition that dates back to the 1880s. What originally started as an opportunity for wealthy families to get their sons out of the city soon transformed into a national movement to “prolong and protect childhood innocence” for boys and girls from across the country. By 1918, there were more than 1,000 summer camps in America and the tradition continues to flourish.
Today more than 12,000 overnight and day camps open their gates each year to welcome upwards of 6 million children to learn, laugh, and play the warm days of summer away.
Choosing the perfect sleep away summer camp takes time, effort, and a great deal of research. With such an abundance of camps all specializing in different areas, how can you ensure you’ve chosen the right place to send your children for a few weeks? How can you be sure they’ll have fun and stay safe? How can you guarantee a successful summer?
By asking the right questions!
Here are 6 questions to ask to be sure you and your camper choose a good fit for your family.
Perhaps the most important question you might ask of each camp you research is if it is accredited by the American Camp Association. The American Camp Association is a leading authority in youth development that works to preserve, promote, and improve the camp experience. Camps that wish to become ACA accredited must meet ACA standards in all aspects of camp. These standards “establish guidelines for policies, procedures, and practices,
particularly those related to program quality and the health and safety of campers and staff.”
Lack of accreditation isn’t a deal breaker, but knowing that the camp you send your child to is responsible for consistently meeting specific industry standards that reflect the most up-to-date, research-based guidelines might give you some peace of mind.
- What is the camp’s mission?
Camps can range in age from hundreds of years old to just a few decades. Figure out what is most important to you and your camper. Does being a part of a 96-year-old legacy appeal to you, or would your camper rather be one of the founding members of a new tradition?
No matter its age, the camp you choose should have a mission and core values that align with you and your camper’s vision of his/her summer experience. Is this camp dedicated to growth or resilience, friendship or fellowship? Or is it some combination of everything? Either way, it’s up to you to decide what you and your family value most.
- How long do campers stay each summer?
Most camps offer a variety of session lengths ranging from 1 to 8 weeks. Some, however, offer very limited session lengths specific to their traditions. Determine with your camper how long you’re both comfortable with him/her being away from home and go from there.
- What kind of activities does the camp offer?
Is your camper super sporty? Does she love to swim? Is he interested in mu
sic or art? Maybe your camper wants to try something new. Either way, there’s almost definitely a summer camp that caters to your child’s interests.
Decide together if your camper wants to learn new skills and develop some unique hobbies at a camp that offers activities like archery and rock climbing, or if he’d rather hone and perfect the skills he already has in an environment designed to cultivate specific talents such as music or an aptitude for science.
- What are your safety procedures?
Whether you’re sending your child to camp for one week or two months, safety is of the utmost importance. Be sure to ask what measures each camp takes to ensure your camper is safe and healthy throughout his/her stay. Bonus points if they are accredited by Praesidium, a company with a Safety Equation that protects children from abuse while at camp.
- What are the facilities like?
While the traditional idea of a summer camp cabin brings to mind one-room cottages in the middle of the woods with an abundance of bunk beds and a lack of air-conditioning, the industry has evolved to include summer camps that offer more comfortable facilities.
Most kids would prefer to sleep in an air-conditioned cabin, especially in the middle of the summer, but maybe it’s important to you that your camper has a traditional experience. Either way, the mission is the same: get out of the house and out of your comfort zone.
Choosing a summer camp can seem like a daunting process, but armed with the right information and the right questions to ask, you are sure to find the perfect fit for your family.
Camp Lonehollow is a place where tradition meets innovation, an ACA and Praesidium accredited overnight camp that offers one, two, and four-week co-ed sessions, more than 60 different activities, and a chance for every camper to be successful.
But whether your camper ‘s experience includes learning new skills or perfecting existing ones, sleeping on a pillow top mattress or in a tent, hiking through the Texas Hill Country or canoeing across Lake Michigan, taking part in a tradition that spans generations makes for a remarkable summer.