Starting to think about camp for your child this summer but don’t know where to start your search? Here are a few tips from the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey for starting your camp search:
Talk to friends:
Speaking with friends and neighbors is a good starting point when looking for camps. However, you want to make sure to do your own research and don’t just make a decision about a camp because your friend likes it for her child. Each child and family is different so the right camp for one family might not be the right fit for yours.
Call the American Camp Association:
Not sure where to begin your search? Parents in the New York area can contact Renee Flax at the American Camp Association, NY & NJ at firstname.lastname@example.org for free, one-on-one advice in finding a camp. Renee will work with you to come up with a short list of camps to look at based on the conversations she has with you about your child’s interests and what type of camp you are looking for. Families can also visit www.acanynj.org to search accredited day or overnight camps.
Free events that dozens of day and overnight camps attend, allowing parents to come and have one-on-one conversations with many camp directors all in a short period of time. Check out the New York Family/American Camp Association, NY & NJ camp fairs throughout NYC from January to April.www.newyorkfamily.com/camp-fairs.
Once you’ve narrowed down the camps to just a few, you can schedule tours. Touring a camp the summer before your child would go will allow you to see the camp in action and get a real feel for what the camp is all about. Many day camps tour all year long, so if you can’t make it during the summer, they will be happy to tour you in the off-season.
Camp directors are happy to come to your home to meet your family and talk about their camp program. Home visits are great for getting to know the camp director and allow for a relaxed talk in the comfort of your home.
There are many overnight camps that offer Rookie Days, weekends or weeks which are introductions to overnight camp the summer before your child would attend. The days are designed to give future campers a chance to experience the camp before actually attending.
Camp open houses/festivals:
Many camps host spring and fall festivals which are nice opportunities to visit the camp, meet the leadership team and participate in an activity.
Whether you meet a camp director at a camp fair or find out about a camp through a friend, it’s important to do your research and consider the following:
• Philosophy - Each camp has its own mission and philosophy. Make sure the camp you are choosing has a philosophy that reinforces your own family’s values.
• Director – Get to know the camp director before you register. This is one of the best ways to get a feel for how the camp is run.
• Program – Parents should inquire about the camp program and activities the camp offers. Think about what your “must have” activities are for your child and make sure the camp offers them.
• Consider your child – While you may be excited about certain aspects of different camp programs, make sure to step back and consider who your child is and if the program is the right fit for your child.
• Safety – Above all, you want to make sure the camp you are choosing runs a safe program. Make sure the camp is inspected by the DOH at a minimum and ask if the camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. The ACA standards focus on health, safety, and risk management. Accreditation is a parent’s best evidence of a camp’s commitment to safety.
• References – Ask the camp for references of parents with children of similar age. It’s always good to speak with other parents about their child’s experience at the camp.