What kind of program do I want for my camper?
A day camp program
Why you would choose a day camp program:
- You would like to connect with your camper each morning and evening
- Day Camp is perfect for a camper with sleeping issues
- You can administer most of any required medications throughout the day
- Similar structure/routine to a school day or daycare
- Usually closer to urban centres
- Usually less expensive
An overnight camp program
(overnight camps are also called residential camps)
Why you would choose an overnight camp program:
• Campers have an opportunity to apply more life skills independently
• Expose campers to new environments, communities and ways of interacting
• Often vast amount of programming and waterfront experiences
• Often more expensive than a day program (but not always more expensive than specialized special needs day or overnight program)
• The camper an away from home experience
• You get a longer re-charge period (professionally referred to as “parental respite”)
What programs does the camp offer?
Are you looking for a traditional and varied camp program, or a camp where campers hone a particular set of skills/talents? Ask questions about the amount of time spent on each activity in order to determine whether it suits your camper.
How do campers choose their programs at camp?
Asking for a description of a “typical day at camp” will give you a good idea of the campers’ schedule, and will help you determine whether or not the campers’ time is being spent productively, actively, and enjoyably. You can also use this information to prepare your child for his/her time at camp.
What does the camp director/staff want campers to take away with them at the end of their camping experience?
The camp directors’ answer to this question will reveal the overall values and philosophies of the camp. The camp director should be able to talk freely and passionately about such things.
What is the camp staff-to-camper ratio?
This ratio indicates the overall level of supervision that the camp can provide your camper. It is a good idea to also inquire about the number of campers under one counsellor’s care, as this may be a different ratio. According to OCA Standards, counsellor: camper ratios should be no larger than 1:6 for children under 5 or 1:10 for children ages 6 and over.
What safety measures does the camp take for programs such as, swimming, boating, snorkelling, high ropes, canoeing, kayaking, etc.?
This question addresses supervision and the quality of staff. You should ask about the ages and qualifications of the staff, the camp’s protocols for supervision and risk-management (buddy systems, cabin checks), and the guidelines set for campers (boundaries, water safety).
What kind of healthcare facility and staff is available to campers?
Healthcare should be of the utmost importance at any camp. The answer to this question should give you the parent/guardian confidence that the camp is equipped (on-site) or has a strategy in place to ensure quick and competent emergency response and everyday wellness.
How do the camp and staff deal with issues like homesickness, bullying and campers with special needs?
Many camps have written resources and policies in places concerning these issues. Staff should be trained in such areas as age-appropriate needs, behaviour management, methods of inclusion, and skill development.
What training has been completed by the camp staff?
All camps provide training on leadership, programs, child development, problem solving, confidentiality and reporting, camper safety. Find out the length of training, educational workshops and certificates required by your camp by contacting the camp director.
What is the camp director’s background and what are his or her qualifications?
The camp director’s experience, education, character, and overall level of maturity will determine her/his ability to run the camp safely, smoothly, and interact appropriately with staff and campers. The camp director is the person ultimately responsible for the care of your camper.
What is the camp’s staff return rate?
A high rate of staff returning to a camp indicates good staff supervision, dedication to camp programs, and a high level of tradition. Happy staff makes for happy campers. High staff return may also point to sound training, including team building and professional development.
Questions to ask experienced campers and parents
It is often helpful to speak to campers’ parents and campers to get their opinions of the camp you are considering. At your request, a camp director should be able to connect you with several current camp families. Often children have different questions to ask about camp. We encourage you and your camper to ask the following questions:
1. Did you like camp?
2. What were the counsellors like?
3. What kinds of things did you do at camp?
4. What were the other kids like?
5. Where did you live while you were at camp?
6. Did you like the food?
7. Are you going back to camp this summer?
It is important to ask if you can visit the camp. Often seeing the camp, the living accommodations, the activity areas, and meeting some of the staff will give you and your camper a solid understanding of what to expect from a camp experience.
A family camp program
Why you’d choose a family camp program:
- The whole family has fun together!
- Usually there are times when campers have their own age appropriate programming and you have your own programming (or personal time)
- You can connect with other parents/caregivers who you can exchange ideas and share experiences
- You remain the caregiver at all times