This year, parents can meet and speak with 28 exhibitors at the CrossRoadsNews 2012 Summer Camp Expo on March 31 at the Mall at Stonecrest.
Here are some tips to help you with that conversation.
Talk with your child
Maybe there’s something – drama, sports, dance, science, etc. – that your child has been yearning to try. Camp is a great place to take on new challenges. Most programs combine academic and indoor/outdoor activities – find one that suits both of you.
If you can’t find everything you want for your child in one camp, you may consider sending your child to more than one camp. For example, if your children want to dance and do sports, you might split time between a dance camp and a YMCA camp.
Find out what’s available
There are traditional camps that offer a variety of events and specialty camps that focus on a single activity or area of interest.
Traditional summer camps are great for children who are flexible but love fun. Campers get to explore a variety of events that will broaden their minds.
At specialty camps – ideal for children who are interested in specific skills and activities, such as dance, music, science, sports or mathematics – children get to learn all they can about a particular activity.
A performing arts focus is the big draw at Camp Jewell House, a 33-year-old summer camp in Lithonia at 1719 Redan East.
Executive Director Jewell Hunter said the camp annually draws 100 to 250 kids from as far away as Grayson and Loganville.
The age range is 2 to a surprising 15.
“We were cutting off at 13, but the kids wanted to keep coming back,” Hunter said, adding that they love the recording studio.
With writing and math instruction from certified teachers, a licensed therapist, art therapist, reading, field trips to go swimming and horseback riding, speakers and other programs, “we take a holistic approach to summer enrichment,” Hunter said.
The camp is housed in an independent building at the House of Miracles and Blessings Church, which also runs a school for kids in pre-k through grade 12.
Fees for summer camp are $50 registration and $75 weekly. Register before April 17 and the fee drops to $65 weekly.
Know what fees apply
There are usually registration fees and supplemental fees for field trips, camp T-shirts, food and extended services.
It’s important to find out what’s included in camp fees so there are no surprises later.
Once you have chosen a camp, make an appointment to meet the camp director and arrange for a tour. If the staff seems hesitant to talk to you, this is often a sign that the camp is not very organized and perhaps you should move on to your next choice.
When you meet with the director, have a list of questions you need answered in order to properly evaluate the camp.
Pin down additional costs for field trips or other activities. Will you be expected to provide meals, snacks or supplies?
Find out if they offer any need-based scholarships and what is the refund policy if your child gets sick or has an emergency and is no longer able to attend.
The YMCA Academies of South DeKalb offer summer camp for rising pre-k and rising second-grade children on a sliding scale of $85 to $105. The academies, in Lithonia and Decatur, also offer need-based scholarships for people with low incomes.
Celeste Phoenix, associate director, said the goal is to prepare students for the next grade level. “We’re focused on enrichment,” she said.
Licensed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the camps follow prescribed guidelines and schedules. The academies are located at 2575-A Snapfinger Road in Decatur and 2924 Evans Mill Road in Lithonia.
Go to open houses
Some camps have open houses to introduce parents and kids to their programs.
This is a great way for you to meet camp counselors and/or teachers ahead of time and learn about the program and activities in which your children will be involved.
You also will get a feel for the people who will be spending the summer with your kids and the environment.
Learn counselor policies
Some camps may use teen counselors who may be unaccustomed to dealing with large groups. Make sure the counselor/child ratio suits your child’s needs. The American Camp Association recommends a 1-to-6 staff to children ratio.
What is the return rate for counselors and campers? How old are counselors? What sort of experience and education is required?
What is the process for screening when hiring staff? Do they do background checks to screen out child predators? Is the staff certified in CPR and first aid?
When kids go away to 4-H, Girl Scouts, YMCA and other overnight camps, they get the opportunity to expand their horizons beyond their neighborhood or school.
Parents and children get to practice “letting go.”
Decisions about camp should be a joint venture, depending on your child’s maturity. If a child feels his opinions are being respected, the chances of having a positive experience will improve.
Ask about safety
Make sure the camp you choose has staff trained in safety procedures, supervision, conflict resolution and other issues that may be specific to working with young children. Find out what procedures the camp follows in case of an emergency.
Find out the camp’s procedures for tracking kids during field trips and how it deals with roadside emergencies on field trips.
For children with medical issues, such as diabetes or asthma, make sure that there is trained staff on-site and emergency procedures in place at all times.
In Atlanta, temperatures soar in the summer. If kids are spending a lot of time outdoors, find out how the camp will keep them hydrated and cool.
Talk with the camp staff about your child’s medical needs and what medical facility your child would be transported to should the need arise.
Learn what the discipline procedure is and decide if you’re comfortable with it.
Talk about concerns
As the first day of camp approaches, some children are uneasy about going to a new or unfamiliar place. Discuss these feelings.
Let your child know that you believe in his or her ability to deal with new situations but maintain realistic expectations. Encourage your child to write letters home and be sure you know how to reach them in case of emergencies.
Encourage them to have a reasonable and realistic view of camp. Camp, like the rest of life, has highs and lows. Every moment is not filled with wonder and excitement.
But remember, if you make the right choice, fond memories can last a lifetime.
Ask the right questions for the right fit
The American Camp Association recommends that parents ask the following questions when deciding on a camp for their children:
- What is the camp’s philosophy and program emphasis? – Each camp has its own method of constructing programs based on its philosophy. Does it complement your family’s philosophy? Does the camp focus on learning through competition or through cooperative learning? How does the camp handle homesickness and other adjustment issues?
- What is the camp director’s background? – ACA recommends directors possess a bachelor’s degree, have completed in-service training within the past three years, and have at least 16 weeks of camp administrative experience before assuming the responsibilities of director.
- What training do counselors receive? – At a minimum, camp staff should be trained in safety regulations, emergency procedures and communication, behavior management techniques, child abuse prevention, appropriate staff and camper behavior, and specific procedures for supervision.
- How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled? – Do they use positive reinforcement? What are the rules and consequences?
- How does the camp handle special needs? – For a child with special requirements, parents should ask the camp director about needed provisions and facilities. Is there a nurse on staff? A designated place to store insulin or allergy medicine? Are special foods available for campers with restricted diets?
- What about references? – Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask for references. This is generally one of the best ways to check a camp’s reputation and service record.
Source: American Camp Association (www.acacamps.org)