This page has been accessed times since March 27, 1996
Last Update: August 2 1998
If you have any questions or additions, please send them to me. Having
brought kids to many Scout camps and been on staff at a few I actually
think I can answer many -- it's coming up with the questions and issues
sometimes) Also, if you've had experience dealing with the issues, send me
My address is malak&pobox.com (&=@) Click here to go to the author's homepage.
- More online help is available from http://www.camping.org/
- This article featured in the June 1996 edition of the Net Rag
- a good site is at: http://grad.cgs.edu/~graysonr/
- Language Camps
Choosing a camp for your child
C1. How do I start looking for a camp for my child?
Discuss with your child whether or not they want to go. Find out why,
regardless of their answer; it may help you choose a camp or other
summer activity(ies) for them (ie. might they rather play soccer or
If they don't want to go (ie. presumably a residential style camp where
they're away for several days, a week or more), perhaps you should look
into a day-camp situation -- after all, you may just need something for
your child to do while you're at work during the day.
Make a list of well known organizations that run camps, what kind of
camp each runs, and compare that with your child's desires as well as
Ask your child if they would like to go to a specialty camp, catering
to specific interests. However, if a particular topic -- computers,
horses, acting, etc. -- is your child's only interest to the exclusion
of all else, sending your child to a specialty camp may be overkill.
C2. Where do I find a good camp?
Good people to ask are your friends and your child's friends (as well as
their parents!) Find out where your child's friends are going to camp,
and ask if your child wants to go with them.
Check through your place of worship -- many churches organize camps,
and of course have members who are parents who've sent their children
to camp. The YM/YWCA, B'Nai Brith, Scout groups, many local service
clubs (Lions, Knights of Columbus, Optimist Club, etc.) also often run
summer camps. In Canada, even the doughnut shop chain Tim Horton's runs
summer camps. Also check with your company to see if they're running
one. Check with local volunteer or social services bureaus or community
centre for suggestions.
Southam News in Canada publishes a guide each spring of various camps
in local areas. There are hundreds listed. Check the newspapers, as
usually regardless of where you are there are often either special
inserts or sections in the paper that offer such listings.
Often there is also a national/provincial/state/area camping
association. Contact them for information.
C3. What are you looking for?
When choosing a camp, are you looking for:
- a residential camp or day camp?
- a week, summer, two weeks, a weekend?
- a theme/topic such as computers, crafts, horses, high adventure, sports?
Why are you sending your kids?
- Is your prime consideration a good time for the kids
- Because you don't have the time to care for your kids while they're
off from school
The latter is not inherantly a bad reason to send your child to camp --
in my opinion -- but is a consideration as your children are people
too. As such, you should still look around seriously and try to make
sure that your children come out of the experience having had a good
time and safe experience instead of just farming out your kids.
Remember that it is your child's vacation. Perhaps looking for a day
camp through your local community centre is a good idea.
C4. What to look for
Your biggest ally in choosing a good camp for your child is to ask a
lot of questions. Along with the questions that may arise from reading
this text, section "C16. List of Questions to Ask" is a list of
questions you can ask when you are researching the camps, are speaking
with them and so on. You should feel satisfied and comfortable with the
answers. Ask questions and let your instinct, good sense and
impressions guide you, along with the answers. Write down your answers
for future reference. Keep their brochures and all communications
handy in a file folder. When you send them something, like a form,
photocopy it, so that when when you are discussing some point, you both
have a copy of the same paper handy.
Look for a full, well defined program that suits your child's interests
and abilities. My philosophy on how to run a camp is to keep providing a
program to the kids as long as possible, then run them some more. From a
parent's point of view, this means that what you should be looking for is
a full program that interests your child -- large amounts of "free time"
or "tent activities" foster boredom and homesickness. Your child is going
on vacation; would you choose to spend YOUR personal vacation money on a
place you knew you wouldn't enjoy or where you'd be bored all the time?
More specifically, you should be looking for an organized staff, safety
issues, whatever is needed to reasonably satisfy your expectations, an
environment that is appropriate for your child, a full program, people
who give you a good reaction when you're researching their camp, and a
place where your child will fit in and have a fulfilling experience.
C5. Potential camps/short list stage
Once you've chosen a few potential places, you should consider and
research whether or not the organizers are reputable (actually,
reputation should be a factor when you're looking for a list; at this
stage, you are now looking deeper into the reputation.) See if you can
meet with an organizer personally to ask questions and find out more
about the camp. Find out if there are organized meetings for parents.
Know the people who are running the camp either personally, or know
people who know them. (OK, not everyone has this luxury; however my
point is having some kind of direct line of trust with the people taking
care of your child, having as few intermediaries as possible, as you are
entrusting your child to them.) Ask for the names of parents who've sent
their children there, and contact them. Note: since this list of names
may be a list of hand-picked glowing references, nice as it is to know
that there are glowing references, you should also try to put together
your own independant list of references. Check with you local consumer
protection bureau, child services, etc.
Request complete information packages from each potential camp. Put the
information packages side by side and compare each against the other.
Ask your child to review them and choose one or two.
C6. How about issues dealing with whether or not your child is ready for
camp and homesickness?
Most camps (actually virtually all) have dealt with this issue. A
common tactic to deal with it is to avoid it in the first place by
providing a lot of activities for the kids to do so that they don't have
the time to be homesick. Look for a full, exciting program.
Almost always there is at least one -- usually two or more -- people on
site who have been directly involved in running camps over the years and
know how to deal with homesickness when it becomes an issue. Usually
they privately sit down with the child, have a talk with them, find out
what's on their mind, what they like and don't like, and as often as
possible and appropriate pull a couple of strings to place the child
into programs they like and will have fun in.
Look into phoning once or twice over the week to speak with your child
and/or sending a postcard.
C7. Will my child get the attention they need?
Ask for situation specific and general adult to child ratios to make
sure that it's adequate and appropriate to the situation. One on one or
one to three may be necessary for a computer camp but up to one to four
or six may be appropriate for a cabin, while having three or four adults
supervising a baseball game may be adequate.
C8. Teasing issues
By providing a good, flexible program, usually some teasing can be
avoided, as in a fun environment stressing teamwork over
competitiveness may be conducive to your child enjoying their stay.
Look for a really full program that allows for less idle time that
would allow such things to go on.
Choose a camp with a program that is appropriate to your child's
abilities and interests. A "computer nerd" at a computer camp isn't
among other "computer nerds", they're among friends, and so on. (As a
side issue, a friend mentioned that if a particular topic -- computers,
horses, acting, etc. -- is your child's only interest to the exclusion
of others, sending your child to a specialty camp may be overkill.)
C9. What does my child have to bring?
The camps will invariably send gear list which are typically very
complete and specific. You should be checking in particular for things
like whether they need to have a sleeping bag, linen, dishes (send
shatterproof, PLASTIC (not metal or earthware) dishes that you are
willing to never see again,) special shoes, hats, a tent, a backpack,
and so on.
Ask what types of supplies for the programs are needed -- though these
are usually mentioned in the gear lists. Then look at the program and
other information sheets they've supplied. Sometimes there are
suggestions on what to bring that aren't included in the standard
equipment list they supply. A bit of thinking things out will tell you
that spending a lot of time on water sports will mean that the sunscreen
you child brings needs to be waterproof, or that they will not need a
cot or sleeping bag or tent since they will be staying in a cabin that
has mattresses and linen supplied (or conversely they may need all
that,) a lot of sports may suggest that your child bring some of their
own sports equipment, and so on.
Radios, tape/CD players, electronic games, computers, cell phones and
pagers, and any other electonic devices should be left at home, as they
often aren't appreciated by the leaders/counsellors and are popular items
to be borrowed, broken, stolen, lost, abused, and so on. If you feel that
your child must have a cell phone or pager, entrust it to a leader or
counsellor. Conversely, find out the camp's phone number. If they don't
have one, in all likelyhood the device you want to send up won't work
where they are anyway; and if they do have a phone, you're able to
communicate with your child as needed, and you'll be doing the camp a
favour by not having your child unnecessarily be calling home all the
When packing, check the packing list the camp supplies. Make sure that
all items are identified with your child's full name, not just initials.
The number of garbage bags full of lost and found items from a typical
small camp at the end of the season is astonishing.
Pack your child's bags with your child. Many items come home clean
and unpacked from camp; your children might very well have worn more
than one set of clothes of their own accord if they realized that an
extra set was underneath that really big towel. Along a similar vein,
by packing with your child, you're doing the counsellors a favour, as it
may avoid accusations of "someone stole my flashlight from my bag" and
then the inane "end-of-the-week-comment" "Oh -- whoever stole my
flashlight on Tuesday must have put it back into my bag!"
C10. What kinds of accommodations will my child be staying in?
Depending on the camp, it can vary from small tents, army style tents,
beds, with or without wood floors, cabins, bunk houses or, with high
adventure camps or outings, either under the stars or makeshift shelters
made from a variety of natural materials. Usually small tents should be
checked for leaks -- I always bring a small tarpaulin to lay on the
inside floor. Army style tents may or may not have a wooden floor, and
may or may not have beds in them. Cabins typically will have beds, but
again conditions may vary.
You should also be inquiring about the kitchen and dining facilities,
washrooms, particularly for male/female considerations, as well as rainy
day accomodations for poor weather activities and keeping dry.
It is also of interest to check whether there may or may not be running
water throughout the camp. This may not necessarily mean that drinking
water is not available; it just may mean that there are designated taps or
water fountains for drinking and others meant only for washup. Usually
only high adventure camping trips use other means of getting drinking
water that are, as a rule, very safe.
C11. How about food?
Ask around. Being the subjective topic food is (after all, your child
may only like peanut butter sandwiches regardless of what is placed
before them), it's hard to tell beyond the general idea that most
established places do have decent food (although even then, the quality
and menu admittedly do vary from year to year depending on the kitchen
staff.) It can vary from year to year and definitely from place to
place, so surveying is the best thing to do. Watch for interesting,
varied foods that aren't particularly spicy and are child-oriented.
Look for menus that include lots of salads, fruits and vegetables and
other bulky foods as constipation can be a problem. A good way to help
with this in advance is to feed your child a couple or more bran muffins a
day for at least three days before they go to camp.
If your child is going to Scout/Guide camp, you may have to speak to the
leaders bringing your child instead of the organizers of the camp, as
often your child will be going up in a self-contained group and be
preparing their own food. Ask to see the menu. Offer suggestions. Offer to
pre-make a meal that only needs to be defrosted and reheated. Offer to go
along with the food shopping. (Scout Leaders -- have mercy on my soul!)
Watch out for "hot dog" variety menus. Ask for a typical menu. Ask
yourself if the menu is the type of food you'd want to A) eat yourself
during a week B) be the kind you'd have at home C) is appropriate to
your child's likes, dislikes, and so on.
Ask about food allergies or special menu needs your child may have. Ask
if they have substitute menu, or are able to improvise (such as making a
special plate that leaves out an offending ingredient.) If your child
is vegetarian, say so, and specifically define what they will and won't
eat. Usually camps with food service will make no-meat dishes or
plates; but be sure that they will be offering more than just extra
salad and lots of bread and peanut butter and jam.
Don't send your child up with an army bag full of snacks. A bag of
chips and a bag of cookies are fine, but the camp WILL feed your child,
and by supplying such items, at least in excess, you're probably causing
the counsellors a big headache in terms of their trying to make sure
your child eats right and having to deal with tummyaches.
You should also know that sending up snacks may invite thieves of the
four legged variety to their tents (ie. racoons, bears, squirrels, etc.)
C12. Are these places safe?
Established places usually are, but no site is perfectly safe. Look
for things like terrain (stumps, rocks), accomodation condition,
equipment condition, what obviously looks like a hazard. Also ask for
typical programs and where they would be typically held; sometimes they
might be held in places that can be hazardous. Look for things like
safety of access routes as well.
Go visit the place yourself. Make a judgement call. Ask around with
others who've sent their kids there.
Ask for health authority certification forms. These are typically
displayed, as required by law, in conspicuous places. Usually such
conspicuous places are the camp offices or the dining halls.
Ask for typical programs. Make a judgement call on the type of
programs, ask for details, what kind of safety precautions are taken to
make sure that a given activity is safe.
Ask how the buddy system is implemented; sometimes it's only used for
swimming, sometimes also for programs, sometimes the children are
paired up with buddies right at the beginning of the week and stay with
that buddy for the week, ie. see if the buddy system is used only
occasionally or required in all situations.
Ask what a typical adult to child ratio is. Look not only for
overall ratios or tent ratios (counsellors to kids) but what it might
be in other specific situations (such as swimming, wide games, trips.)
Check on the age and condition of the water sports equipment (boats,
docks, etc.) as well as the lifejackets in particular. If the
lifejackets are old or torn or not sufficiently numerous, buy one for
your child and clearly identify it as theirs. Have them protect it
during the week. This is not an uncommon tactic among leaders in the
Scouting and other movements -- or at least I've seen it before and
practice it myself -- who know that there are often not enough
lifejackets, particularly at least in their, uhm, larger size. :)
Ask if there is a nurse, doctor or first aider on site who is available
24 hours a day. Ask about proximity to local doctors, clinics and
C13. What about Protecting my child from predators?
>Do you have any suggestions as to how to protect our children when they
>go off to summer camps to ensure that they are not sexually abused by
>the counsellors. Are there any regulating bodies in this country that
>enforce background checks on everyone that works with our kids when
>they are out of our reach at a camp?
I checked with a friend who has been the director of a local summer camp
for years. Many of the things she told me are covered all over in this
document, but here they are:
- Many volunteer organizations have a screening process that include a
police check. Unfortunately this is not always 100% foolproof as "no-
prior-record" police check situations can't screen out potential
molestors. Ask if the organization running the camp has such a police
check system in place for their members or if they use it for the
applicants. Unfortunately this may not be perfect since many camps employ
youths (ie. minors) whose records would not be available.
- When interviewers meet their applicants, they obviously use common
sense and a gut sense when choosing their applicants; depending on the
camp, it is common that the interviewers know the applicants personally,
or if they don't they check up on references. You should also go about
selecting a camp in the same way; go through a system of a direct line of
trust with the camp organizers and checking up on references.
- Quebec standing camps are certified by a governmental agency. Offhand I
don't know what the process is, what the fees are, and so on; further,
some camps are one shot deals legitemately run by caring parent groups.
Ask around; perhaps if you start with a police check of your own, they
might be able to refer you to the appropriate body, or ask your local
member of parliament to refer you to it.
- Camps as a rule have rules about never allowing the counsellors to be
alone with a child -- when there's a situation when there would be a
child alone with counsellors, policy is usually such that there must be
at least 2 adults or at least 2 children when the adults are alone with
the children -- safety in numbers. Ask the camp if they do this not by
asking them directly but rather by asking a question that would expect
them to freely volunteer it.
- Camps usually have a minimum age for their counsellors if they draw
from youth, looking for a certain maturity level. Ask what the minimum
- Ask if they have pre camp training, meetings, whether or not the
organizers have met AND interacted with the counsellors-to-be before
the summer begins.
- get to know the organisers -- ie the organizers of the camp and
possibly the counsellors as well
- ask if the individual counsellors had references and if they were
called or if the organizers know the individuals
- Call the local police from the area or your provincial police to ask
if there have been any complaints about the camps you're looking into
- Unfortunately you can never be 100% sure that you can protect your
child. The idea here is to do your homework in researching camps,
asking around with parents of kids who have been to camps, asking
whether or not they've been satisfied. Trust your instinct and be very
careful but you can't live your life being paranoid.
My personal experience with parents visiting during a weeklong camp has
shown that the kids often want to go home because they're homesick, or
at least think they are. Usually they just miss their parents in
combination with their being bored at that particular moment. When
they're having fun they usually forget about such concerns and have
FUN, which is what their stay is and should be all about.
Now for longer camps, visits are a good idea, but this should be
discussed with the camp. Flip side is that if they discourage it, maybe
you should be looking elsewhere.
My personal bias aside, all camps should welcome parental visits. If
they don't, bring your business elsewhere. Period.
Find out the mailing address of the camp. Send your child a postcard
such that it will arrive somewhere in the middle of the week --
sometimes you may have to drop it off in the mail after you've
dropped your children off! Don't highlight big events they may be
missing. This will just add to homesickness some of them may feel.
Also, don't call in the middle of the week or send a postcard that
states that the dog/Grandma/Grandpa died or Mom & Dad are getting a
divorce. It serves no purpose during the week except to upset them. If
necessary, tell them when you are in the parking lot picking them up to
go home, but NOT BEFORE. (Remember in some cases, the timing of sending
your child to camp may have been dependant on these forseen
C15. So -- How much is this going to cost?
Fees will start from $130 (Canadian funds) and up for a week -- I would
guess that this would be a universal absolute mininum -- with some Scout
Groups for a week, and can go up to several thousand dollars for two
weeks or the length of the summer, depending on the type of camp,
programs offered, camp running costs, nature of the accomodations and so
Equipment may start to add to the costs of sending your child. What do
you have to purchase to send your child? Check the gear list supplied,
and ask the camp and others who've sent their children to the camps
Take into consideration transportation costs -- can you drive there,
arrange carpools, or do you also have to pay for bus, train or airplane
fares? If you send your child by bus, train or airplane, are these
included in the camp fees?
There will also be obvious extras -- canteen money for your child (tuck
shop; basically snacks composed of soft drinks and candy, shirts, mugs,
some crafts) extra trips, some craft projects, do you want to buy
your child a shirt or hat from the camp? Usually the kids don't need
any cash, though that depends on the camp's canteen system (bill you
later, debit system from an amount deposited in advance, cash & carry,
included in camp fees, or non-existant canteen.)
Generally the counsellors don't expect a tip, but that depends on where
you go and PRIMARILY whether or not you feel it's worth it. Don't ever
feel you need to tip them.
C16. List of Questions to ask:
- My child is a poor swimmer. How are you equipped to deal with poor
swimmers? (look for plenty of lifeguards, buddy system, a system of
identifying poor swimmers, a shallow section)
- How do you implement the buddy system?
- What are the transporation considerations?
- What kinds of costs may I expect above the camp fee?
- How may I be assured that my child will be safe from injury or attack?
- Do you have at least a nurse or dedicated first aider on site?
- How far away is the nearest doctor and hospital/clinic?
- Do you have an emergency vehicle onsite dedicated to your use?
- May I see the week's menu?
- Are you able to deal with my child's allergy to this kind of food? How?
- How will you be dealing with other allergies?
- May I have the names of at least 4 parents of previous campers and
their phone numbers whom I may call to ask questions of?
- Have you ever had any complaints?
- May I come up to visit my child at any time? Are there times when you
might be offsite?
- What are the accomodations?
- Are there facilities for washing my child's clothes?
- When may I go up to visit the site beforehand?
- What are the adult to child ratios in the various situations the
campers will be in?
- Is there anything else beyond what's on the list that my child should
bring? Is there anything they should not bring?
- What is the camp's address? What is the camp's telephone number?
- May I see the program for the week?
- What happens if my child isn't enjoying him/herself? Are there extra
programs they can get into? Can they transfer from one to another?
- Do you use police checks for your staff and/or check their references?
- What kind of training does the staff have? Lifeguards? Counsellors?
Organizing a camp -- on a small scale
Read the section on "Choosing a camp for your child". Lots of valuable
advice is there just by looking at the other point of view.
Choosing a site
- looking for a place that suits your needs, ie in the country near a
lake, close enough to home (ease of driving the kids, no marathon trip,
consider that the parents have to drive home after dropping off their
kids, also having to get the kids home in an emergency)
- Program may dictate whether or not you're near a town that provides
services you may need at the last moment, ie. grocery stores, craft
supplies stores, department stores, sports equipment, laundry facilities,
- Program will heavily dictate your site requirements. A computer camp
requires computers, electricity, a building, sports camps large outdoor
fields and/or gymnasia, etc.
- Number of kids going may determine site requirements. Ten kids may
allow you to piggyback onto another organization's camp facilities and
some services (water and food, etc.), or you can use your uncle's
spare lot up north, while thirty or more may require a dedicated, large
- Age may determine the program and affect site. Five year olds are
better suited to full service sites -- if only to ease your stress
levels with respect to camping problems and food, while a bunch of
teenagers can be brought to a far off canoe camping adventure several
days away from anything, other safety concerns may be augmented with
younger children, etc.
- Availability of medical facilities (such as a full service clinic
with at least a doctor on call)
- If appropriate, you may wish to invite clergy to visit and perform a
short mass on Sunday.
- extra garbage bags to replace nonexistant raingear
- replacement adults in the case of no show due to illness or job etc.
- spend time if possible a couple of days before the camp to check that
everyone has all the required gear. This can really help out with not
having kids who show up missing a lot of items. You should also have a
small supply of "typically" forgotten items -- often things like
raingear, boots, shoes, socks, tableware, soap, hats, sunscreen, balls,
games, books, etc.
- garbage disposal considerations
- fee imposed by the camp (if you're bringing a small group to an
established site), or food and lodging, and transport if applicable
(at least the gas of the organizers' cars.)
- program costs -- crafts, cost of equipment rental/purchase
- Always budget a small "profit" -- not because you're out to make
money, but so that you won't end up paying out of your own pocket for
those unforseen expenses. Any leftover money can be split evenly
amongst all the parents, carried over to next year's camp, donated to
charity, used to subsidize a small reunion party, etc.
- fee if child has to be returned home for misbehaviour, or no refunding
a balance of the fee paid for the part of the camp not used
- camp fee not returned after a cutoff date unless you can get a
- have a nurse onsite
- a clinic or hospital should be nearby, and accessible
- finding out what the kids' allergies are -- foods, drugs, others
- depending on the ages of the kids, keep their medication and medical
cards in one place, and have one person responsible for administering
the medication according to the instructions on the labels and the
- find out any relevant medical history that may affect your program
and the child's limitations
- as many people as possible should know how to administer an "epi-pin",
those allergy injections that are administered by jabbing it into the
leg. Those who may require their use, however rarely or unlikely their
need, should always be carrying them around with them.
- asthmatics should always be carrying their puffers.
- Have a spare vehicle at camp for full time use
- first aid kits
The registration package
- include site, dates, price, how to get there, need medical card, exact
times when to drop off their child and pick them up.
- ask for certified cheques -- avoids a lot of problems, expecially if
you're using an established camp that provides many of your services to
which you have to pay money. If you're allowing payment in parts,
ask for postdated cheques. Solves many financial headaches.
- phone number of place going to -- a way for parents to contact you,
and for you to be able to call out as well.
- make sure that it answers typical questions, including full gear
lists. Make sure your list includes items like backpacks, sleeping
bags, pillows, extra shoes, sunscreen, bugspray, personal items
- always be complete with all information, and make sure all parents
receive copies. Having a full information kit in the parents' hands is
a good start to full communication. Encourage them to photocopy the
filled out form before sending it back to you so that they may have a
- develop your general rules sheet the campers are expected to follow.
Include it with the registration form.
- include a typical program sheet with typical program descriptions.
Seeing that this is about organizing smaller camps that are expected to
have small numbers of kids, try having an organizer who is prepared,
able and authorized to answer all questions to meet one on one with all
the parents before the camp starts. "Authorized to answer all
questions" means that since sometimes a question will be asked that
hadn't been considered beforehand and for which you may not have an
answer, he may need to improvise. The person should in some way be able
to give an answer both satisfactory to the parents and which all of the
organizers are willing and able to follow through with. If a one on one
encounter is not possible, having a meeting with the parents should be held.
- either parents are responsible, or,
- organizing it (cars, vans, buses, trains, planes, etc.) realize there
- considerations should be made for an one or more equipment vehicles
- there should be a car exclusively available to your camp at all times
for emergencies and other transporation needs.
- have a dedicated emergency vehicle for your sole use available
- menu -- make it varied. You can have roast beef! (Even out camping
in the woods. Be creative.)
- avoid simple "hot dog" variety menus -- while of course hot dogs are
fine once or twice over a week's period, you should of course vary your
meals, put some effort into them, make them nice, eat like you would at
home, and even splurge big time on one or two of the meals.
- make a food allergy list -- post it in the kitchen area, or give it
to the kitchen staff
- problems with getting a dedicated person/staff to do cooking as
cooking responsibilities and program need to be done separately -- you
can't do both ie. on your staff you need a cook
Replacement kids in the case of illness, injury -- remember, losing
one kid could really put a strain on your finances and program
considerations, especially when you have a very small number of kids.
Also, if you're willing to bring ten kids, and one space opens up at the
last minute, you may still have a waiting list of kids who want to go!
Try to be familiar with the site -- make a large site map, available to
all to consult at all times, that the children can understand. If
necessary, name the major places for the purposes of your camp.
- regular programs should be kept very full -- "Idle hands are the
- rainy day programs will likely prove to be a lifesaver as the longer
your camp, the more likely you'll have to spend some time stuck indoors.
Put together a box of fully prepared indoor activities such as games,
crafts, stories, and songs which will ONLY BE USED in the case of rain.
- any activity that can be done in somewhat cramped quarters -- not
just colouring (legitimate activity that colouring is!)
- you should plan more than you can possibly accomplish as you're
likely to find that you've accomplished it all by the end of the week.
- the flexibility to choose program items at the last minute
depending on circumstances will make your camp less stressful
- you might find that your program will go faster than anticipated;
having the extra programs will be a lifesaver at 2:00pm when you've
just finished all the programs you'd expected to last beyond 5:00pm.
- overprogramming will likely avoid homesickness, often a symptom of
- My personal philosophy, particularly for younger kids, is to push
them for as long as you can. Actually, that applies to all age groups.
Push them through a very full program. And I believe that many
behaviour problems (from homesickness to bullying) can be avoided or at
least minimized by having the fullest possible program.
- Evening programs can be as full as you can put in. Outside games
gain a whole new perspective played at night.
- always insist on the buddy system -- do a "Buddy up and no talking"
check often during swimming periods
- lifeguards, first aid equipment, lifesaving equipment such as pool
hooks/reaching poles, life rings, etc.
- safe equipment -- check it out yourself
- roped off swimming areas that are checked often for problems at the
bottom (rocks, glass, metal, etc.) There should be at least two
sections -- a shallow and deep area. The shallow area should be no
deeper than mid-abdomen level of your shortest camper, unless this is
completely impractical ie. this would happen 100 feet out (I've seen
it!) or if there is a very steep drop off point 10 feet out, in which
case this may be a bad area for swimming. If it's impractical because
there is a sharp drop immediately at shorline, you shouldn't be swimming
there unless the "sharp" drop is only to about 10 to 15 feet MAXIMUM depth
- rake the beach area for glass
- make sure there are sufficient life preservers for each participant
and meet current standards. The ratio should at the very least be very
close to one jacket per person plus a few extra, all people children
and adults on site included. This minimum should be increased
depending on your program and its needs, and whether or not you expect
all participants to be using the water at the same time.
- as necessary, use a colour-coded bead system (poker chips are ideal) or
better yet plastic wrist straps to designate swimming abilities -- using a
hot nail make a hole in poker chips and use string to attach around the
- have a full, fun! program
- make sure everyone knows and agrees to the rules in advance -- both the
children and adults alike. Note that as long as they're reasonable and
enforceable, they don't necessarily have to *agree* with or like the rules
-- they just have to agree to abide by them. Having the adults agree on
these in advance is particularly important since adults squabling over
whether the rules are reasonable during the camp is a surefire way to have
- sometimes use a bribe system (ONLY AS A LAST RESORT) and negotiate on
some minor point where it's reasonable but expect other rules be followed
- use a positive reinforcement system such as extra privileges or a
type of "funny money" system that can be used to "purchase" privileges,
extra program items such as a trip to the lake's island, extra swimming
or boating, possibly for canteen items if you can budget for it
- give high praise in public for even those little things like a child
really being helpful or always participating
- have a calm, quiet and PRIVATE conversation to deal with problems.
Find out if the child is enjoying themself, what they like or dislike,
whether they're being bullied, having other problems and try to help
resolve any problems.
- try to put children into groups in which they all would likely get
along well, and in which trying to impress each other wouldn't be an
issue. Think of the idea "A 'computer nerd' at a computer camp isn't
among other 'computer nerds', they're among friends". This may help to
avoid problems with lying to impress each other or having to deal with
Money held by kids onsite
- decide on whether you want a canteen (tuck shop) and how you want to
administer it -- cash and carry, debit system (encouraged -- deposit money
beforehand, when it runs out, too bad!), bill the parents later
(discouraged!), what you want to offer -- shirts, mugs, hats, candy,
drinks, fruit, other healthy snacks
- a debit system for the canteen (tuck shop) is probably the best, as
it allows you to not be concerned about pricing issues -- ie. it's
easier to debit an account for 67 cents than to make change, and solves
problems of whether to mark up or down prices to $1 or $0.25 increments
while avoiding having to get rid of items that don't work well within
- a debit system also solves problems of A) kids losing money B)
accusations of theft -- all pocket money for things such as the canteen
are already in the camp's hands, remember?
- use a limit system -- such as only two candy items and one or two
drinks. It need not be based on a strict monetary maximum; this way
the kids can still choose two chocolate bars or two strips of licorice.
- you may want to include a tuck shop in your fee, such that you budget a
certain amount of money to buy a small selection of candy bars & other
snacks then allow the kids to choose according to whatever system you like
or the two items limit, etc. This way it's also easier to incorporate
things like fruit into your tuck shop.
- most expenses for outside trips should be included in your
registration fee. Visits to museums, movies, theme parks and so on
should be in this fee. Meals and snacks will depend on whether or not
they're organized (if so, then included; if the children are on their
own, then not.)