How to Pick a Day Camp

7 factors to consider for your child's summer experience

09 Jan 2020 | 10:01

Thinking about day camp for your child? A summer spent at camp will provide your children with the opportunity to swim, play sports and zip down the zipline — all while building life skills that will last a lifetime. Each day camp is different, so it’s important for parents to do their research and ask questions to find the right camp.

Here are seven things to consider when choosing a day camp for your child this summer.

1. Mission. Each camp has its own mission and philosophy. Genna Singer, Director of Camps for Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, says families should find out what the primary values of the camp are. “Ask how the camp brings the vision of the mission to life and make sure that it’s consistent with the values of you and your family.”

2. Licensed/Accredited. Families want to make sure the camp they are choosing is licensed by the Department of Health at a minimum. “Parents often assume that certain safety aspects are taking place at all camps when that is just not the case,” says Doug Volan, Owner and Director of Mount Tom Day Camp in New Rochelle, NY. “Unlicensed summer camps have no rules or regulations. It means there are no minimum camper to staff ratios, no minimum age requirements of staff and staff members who are hired without reference checks. Making sure a camp is inspected by the Department of Health or Accredited by the American Camp Association, which goes above and beyond state licensing, is one of the most important factors in deciding on a camp.”

3. The Camp Experience. Think about what you want from the camp experience. “Decide what you want camp to look like for your child. Do you want your child to walk away just learning soccer skills or are you interested in your child developing life skills like independence, communication and resilience that takes place in the traditional camp environment,” says Volan. “Your child can still hone their soccer skills during electives while still swimming twice a day in 90 degree heat instead of sweating it out on the soccer field for 4 hours at a time.”

4. Camp Director. Ask who the camp director is. “Choosing a camp is similar to finding a caregiver or picking a school. You want to pick someone who will share the journey of raising your children with you,” says Singer. Volan says you should ask if the director is a year round camp employee or seasonal. “Full time camp directors work on camp year round. It’s a profession, not a second job that is part time. We work year round to create the best possible program for your child.”

5. Amenities. Find out what the camp offers and what you are to supply. It’s also helpful to see the camp ahead of time when possible. “Does the camp serve lunch and what does it look like? Is snack provided? Does the camp have towel service?" says Singer. "Know ahead of time what the expectations of the camp are and what yours are as a family. Also think about the facilities and how they lend to the program.” Volan adds, “Ask if the camp has its own facilities or if the campers do a lot of day trips because there isn’t a camp facility. It’s also great to see the camp’s facilities before registering. Touring allows parents to get a feel for the camp and ask questions while in the camp environment.”

6. Safety. Safety should be of the utmost importance to a camp’s leadership team. “Inquire about what the overall safety and security plan is,” explains Singer. “Understand that many organizations won’t share the details but knowing there is a plan and they are constantly reviewing it is imperative. You should feel a level of comfort asking about security when you ask in the winter and spring then again as camp begins.”

7. Staff. Find out who the staff is, how they are hired and how old they are. “Staff is everything,” says Volan. “Ask about the hiring process and if there are adults on staff. You want to make sure the camp isn’t just kids taking care of kids with no adults on site."

“Choosing a camp is similar to finding a caregiver or picking a school. You want to pick someone who will share the journey of raising your children with you." Genna Singer, Director of Camps for Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan