Kids' day camp considerations

Twenty important questions to ask camp officials

The camp looks great in the flyer and her best friend is going. But what if things go wrong? Here are some more questions you should consider before signing your child on.

Qualifications

The Camp
1. How long has the camp been in existence? Is it provincially accredited? If not, find out whether it belongs to any other organizations.

The Director
2. How long has he been running the camp and what are his qualifications? Answers should include degrees, training and years of experience.

The Counsellors
3. Are criminal checks performed? How are counsellors selected? Are their attitudes towards children as well as their skills accessed? Is there a minimum age requirement?

Training
4. What type of training is available to staff? Are they instructed in first aid and/or CPR?
Evidence of Success

5. What percentage of campers return? Ask for references and the opportunity to speak to other staff members.

Structure / Rules and Regulations

6. What is a typical day for a camper like? Ask to be walked through it. How do they handle rules and discipline? How is misbehaviour dealt with?

7. For overnight camps — What is the policy regarding parental contact? This should address issues such as food packages, letters from home, and use of computers or telephone to speak with family. Are parents welcomed on a visitor’s day or are they allowed to drop in at any time?

8. Does the camp have both indoor and outdoor facilities? What types of washrooms are available? Is there an air-conditioned building?

9. What is the staff to camper ratio? Does it vary by age of campers and location of activity? Do they add additional staff for off location trips?

10. What plans do they implement for dealing with bad weather?

Philosophy/Programming/Values

11. What is the camp philosophy? Is it religious, competitive, goal oriented, individualistic etc.?

12. What specialties does it offer or is the camp traditionally generalist?

13. How are the children grouped? By age, interest, gender, ability etc.

14. What type of camper is most likely to have a good experience at this camp? Creative? Active? Independent?

15. How does the camp meet individual needs and differences among campers? Are disabilities and health problems accommodated?

Safety/Emergencies

16. Does the camp have medical facilities and is there a doctor or nurse on staff? How close to the nearest hospital is it? (This is especially important for residential camps.)

17. Do counsellors get breaks as required by law?

18. Do you have an emergency plan? (For natural disasters, bomb threats, fire etc.)

19. Is there swimming instruction offered? Does the camp have trained lifeguards? What is the ratio of staff to campers during swim time?

20. For day camp: Is there a before/after camp program for working parents — and if so-is it supervised? Do they make sure that campers are signed in and out by parents?

Queries on Costs and Refunds

• Ask for the total costs to be explained including all extras, equipment, supplies and taxes.

• Find out whether insurance is included with your fee or if this an extra cost.

• Determine how the fees are paid out- is it all upfront or can you give a deposit and then pay in stages? Do they take alternate forms of payment?

• Question the refund policy. Ask under what circumstances fees would be reiumbursed. If you child becomes ill or seriously unhappy, can he or she leave without financial penalty?

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