Here’s a rule of thumb: camp directors LOVE to talk about camp! A big part of our off-season time is dedicated to speaking with prospective parents and sharing with them what makes our camps so special.
More often than not, newbie parents end our conversation with “so… what else should I be asking you?” Here are some great questions that you should ask your camp director before signing up for camp this summer!
- How do you help new campers integrate into the camp community? Find out what the camp does to welcome and integrate new campers. It is important to know how cabin assignments are selected and if the camp prepares icebreaker games and activities the first day to help him or her assimilate to camp life. Possibly the camp assigns a ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister’ to new campers or maybe the cabin counselors get a list of new campers to give them a tour of the camp. Find out what the camp does so you can prepare your child for the first few days of his or her new experience and give yourself a little bit of comfort in knowing the camp has a plan to make your child both comfortable and happy starting on day one.
- When is the best time to register and what other expenses are involved? Definitely find out the best time to register and some camps can be full as early as September or October. Most camps offer a financial incentive to register early and some camps offer promotions throughout the year. Find out when they are so you can save and plan accordingly. Sometimes camps even offer discounts or promotions that aren’t advertised online. Also don’t forget to ask about extra expenses. While most camps are all inclusive, sometimes certain activities or field trips come at an additional cost that you’ll want to know about.
- How would you describe the overall culture and community at your camp? Each camp is unique in it’s own way. You can truly gain a lot of knowledge about the camp you selected from the website, videos and parent ambassadors, but it’s important to understand the director’s goals and take on the camp community from his or her point of view. You can even pick their brain about special traditions or events – this is a great way to learn more about not only the camp’s culture but also the director who will be looking out for your child.
- Who is on your medical team? Of course, you never want to think about anything going wrong at camp, but if it does, you should find out who is there to care for your child. How many nurses or doctors are on campus? What are the policies in regards to contacting parents at home if the camper is ill? Where is the nearest hospital, doctors office and dentist? What are the camps emergency procedures and how often are they practiced with staff? Most camps are like a well-oiled machine and have very specific rules of action and a first time parent should absolutely know what they are.
- How do you recruit, evaluate and train your staff? I love when parents ask me this question. When parents hire a babysitter or a nanny they meet the potential sitter in advance and get the opportunity to ask them any question they want as well and call references themselves. At camp – parents are putting all of their trust and faith in the director to select great role models for their child. Find out how long staff training is, the average age of the staff, how many staff return each summer and also how the camp evaluates and provides feedback for their staff during the summer.
- What are meals like at camp and do you cater to picky eaters or allergies? Find out anything and everything you can about food! Ask how meals are served – are they buffet, family style or maybe both? Do campers eat with their age group or are there table assignments? How many options or choices do campers have and who is overseeing that the campers are making healthy choices in the Dining Hall? In regards to picky eaters, allergies and gluten – trust me, camps have seen it all. Don’t be afraid to share insight on your campers eating habits. The more the camp director knows, the more he or she can assist in making sure your camper is happy in regards to food.
- How can I contact my child and what are your technology policies? These policies vary drastically from camp to camp. Find out how you can communicate with your child so you can plan in advance. Some camps are completely tech-free and only allow letters, some camps have an email system and others have scheduled phone call times. Chances are, you’ve read about their policies online and it aligns with your views on communication and camp – but technology is constantly changing, so make sure you hear the most up to date policy from the camp director.
- Who else can I speak to about your camp? You may be afraid to ask the director for another contact but camp directors love this question. We are proud of our camp and other than speaking with a director, what better way to learn more about the camp than another parent or key staff member? Get at least two parent ambassadors or references from the director. There is nothing better than speaking with a current camp parent about their families experience with the camp.
Happy camping & have a great summer!
Director, Camp Chinqueka
About the Author
Amanda Ward is the Director of Camp Chinqueka, having spent many summers as a camper there in the 1990’s and started as a staff member in the 2005. She has fond memories of the activities she tried, the lessons she learned and the friends she met along the way. Amanda graduated from Kent School in Kent, Connecticut and and holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. She has a background in Theater and Education and has taught Fifth Grade and Kindergarten in both Connecticut and Manhattan (NYC) private schools. Amanda’s love for working with children, training counselors and teaching camp traditions continues to grow every year. She develops close relationships with campers and camp families and prides herself on knowing every one of her campers by name!