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The Top Three Factors to Consider When Searching for a Summer Camp

While there are numerous factors to be considered when looking for the perfect match of camper and camp, parents should closely evaluate the overall program value, safety and camp off-season focus.

Written with Andrew Liebowitz

Although many parents today recognize the lifelong benefits of summer camp for their children, the immense amount of available programs often leads to an overwhelming and time-consuming search process. There are numerous factors to be considered when looking for the perfect match of camper and camp. While program options and activities may vary, there are three universal categories that should be evaluated when speaking to a camp director:

  • Overall Program Value
  • Safety in Terms of Facilities and Staff Training
  • Availability of Year-Round Programs and Off-Season Focus

 

Program Value: Are you Getting “Bang for your Buck?” In the summer camp industry, the term “value” should not indicate “discount” or “inexpensive” but rather “all-inclusive” or “flexibility”. Summer camp tuition rates should therefore never be directly compared as not all camps provide the same amenities.  Carefully crosscheck what is included with tuition.  For example, determine if the program includes hot meals, snacks, and transportation or if you have to purchase these items separately.  Additionally, ask if any activities are an additional cost (i.e. swim lessons, off-camp trips).  Remember to add up all the costs before committing to a program.  Furthermore, ask the camp director how the camp can accommodate differing family schedules. Marissa Allaben, Associate Director of Rolling River Day Camp in East Rockaway, New York, states “We noticed that flexibility is crucial for our families and as a result, we offer a variety of program options which allow parents to customize their child’s camp schedule.”

 

A Safe and Sound Camp Experience: After the recent tragic events in several school facilities, safety is of utmost importance to anyone supervising children. Parents must carefully analyze the safety precautions within the camp program and determine a camp director’s level of control for providing a safe environment.  For example, consider whether a program is hosted on a private, secure campground or if it utilizes public spaces such as neighborhood pools, parks and exposed schoolyards.  Also ask the camp director whether the program uses one monitored entrance and exit or if campers are required to wear clearly labeled camp uniforms.  Determine if the camp has an “open door policy”, where family members can visit the facility at any time, or if there are scheduled family visiting days with monitored staff supervision. Furthermore, multiple professional health providers should be on staff, along with lifeguards and counselors who are thoroughly trained in Red Cross First Aid and CPR.

 

Camp is Not Just For the Summer:  Although summer camp might only last eight weeks, it is important for children to remain connected to camp year-round.  Engaging with camp friends from other neighborhoods helps children develop crucial communication skills and foster friendships with a variety of social groups.  Many camps host events and activities in the off-season to encourage this unique camp connection as well as introduce new campers to the camp community.  Check out the camp’s website to review the year-round calendar and determine if the camp actively promotes reunions, festivals, or holiday camps.  Also, ask the camp owners and directors about their roles during the off-season.  If the camp is primarily a school, community center or religious institution during the year, their attention might be focused elsewhere.

Remember, camp is a time where children can expand their horizons and try new activities, all while learning important social skills that are no longer taught in school. Use these top three guidelines to create a memorable camp experience while simultaneously meeting a parent’s needs and expectations.

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Thomas Nathan February 22, 2013 at 06:54 PM
under the bang for your buck category Marissa left out the hidden cost of tips at the end of camp. For example Rolling River camp gives parents a set of suggested tips to give to everyone from the bus driver on that will run you another few hundred bucks.
Marissa Goodman Allaben February 25, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Thomas- thank you for bringing up the point of tips. That is another great question to ask when on a camp tour. Rolling River does send out a tip letter with suggested amounts but note that for any camp, tips are always at the discretion of the parents. Many families also provide thank you gifts to the counselors instead of tips. All camps respect the individual decisions from parents regarding tips and similar to a waiter at a restaurant or a birthday party attractions, tips should ultimately be based on the level of service.
Thomas Nathan February 25, 2013 at 07:38 PM
@Marissa Lets just hope you withhold the correct taxes on the tips
Chris Albanese February 27, 2013 at 07:12 PM
I get it that we live in a fairly affluent neighborhood, but I just can't see spending some of these exorbitant tuitions. I have been to CCDC for soccer tournaments, etc and really like the place. Then I looked at the tuition. Holy Crap!!! I'd be sending 3 kids. I can buy a new car for that much. Not to single them out. i looked into a couple of local day camps and the tuition is just obscene. I guess if you can afford it God bless you, but I'll stick to our SD's camp. There's more bang for your buck there for sure.
Thomas Nathan February 27, 2013 at 08:08 PM
@ Chris you are right with 3 kids the tuittion is high and the tiny discount they give you is no help. I have a friend who sends their kid to RRDC and now the kid works as a CIT and the tuition is basically the same as when they were a camper. What a deal for the camp you pay them and work there.
Jill March 05, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Rolling River Day Camp is a wonderful place. My kids have been growing up there in the summertime and as a staff member, I have had nothing but amazing experiences. This camp offers kids a safe, fun and loving environment to explore both new and old activities. My kids and I love going to RRDC and would encourage anyone to try it. I know my children love it there because they talk about camp all year long. During the dull days of winter, they are watching the video yearbook and are singing the color war songs. I have never thought twice about my decision to be at Rolling River. We are all a family and that truly shows when you step foot on the grounds. We LOVE Rolling River!
Zach T March 13, 2013 at 04:13 AM
I wouldn't even consider sending my animal to RRDC, let alone my kids. I will leave it at that.
Marissa Goodman Allaben March 13, 2013 at 04:14 PM
@ Zach T please note this article was about how to select camps in general and is not specific to any camp. If you have any questions or concerns about Rolling River, please contact me directly to discuss.
Celine March 26, 2013 at 04:06 PM
My daughter started her camp experience at Rolling River last summer. We did not know if she was going to like it, so we put her in for 3 full days. Well, she loved it after the first day, and had to sign her up for 5 days because she kept asking "Do I go to camp today"? Everyone was so friendly and excited to be there campers and staff included. I found the tip suggestion to be very helpful, as we didnt know who she has the most contact with and wanted to acknowledge everyone who made this a wonderful experience for her. Now she keeps asking "How many more days until camp time". Our little one will be joining the Rolling River experience. Thanks Rolling River, You Rock!!!!

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