Summer Camp Essentials

I don't know about you, but a staple of my childhood was the opportunity to go to summer camp—one residential one in particular—each year. Friendships were formed, new skills were learned, and I came back home both exhausted and exhilarated. As a parent or caregiver, however, while you want to find a place that the child will have fun, there are several other issues to consider, both in choosing a camp and equipping the child to learn new things and be safe.

When it comes to which summer camp to choose, it's important to assess some of the following criteria:

  • Is the camp accredited? The American Camp Association grants accreditation to camps that meet their extensive safety and health regulations (find out more about the ACA here).
  • What is the screening process for personnel? Do adult counselors receive background checks? What safe environment training do staff and volunteers receive?
  • What sort of emergency measures does the camp have in place? Is there a doctor or nurse on staff? 
  • How can you be in contact with your children during camp? Do they provide you with access to the child? Does the child have access to you? Is it a level of communication you're comfortable with?

Of course, no camp is without its risks. That's why talking with children about the following issues ahead of time is important:

  • For younger children: Do they know the correct names of their body parts? Are they mature enough to know that some parts of the body are off limits?
  • Secrets: Have you had a discussion recently about not keeping secrets from you? They should also know that it's wrong for anyone (a peer or an adult) to ask them to keep something from you.
  • Peer pressure: Camp is often a world unto itself with new friendships and lots of new relationship dynamics. It can be helpful for children to be reminded to listen to their consciences and not participate in anything they're uncomfortable with.

Camp can be an incredible time of growth and development for children and teens.  As parents, we have the opportunity both to choose a wonderful camp for them to experience and to equip our children to with knowledge and to make good choices during their time away from home.

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