In simply reading the title of this article, I imagine there are two “camps” of people on either side of the spectrum (no pun intended).
One group is probably shouting, “Yay! Summer camp all the way!” While the rest is saying, “Nay! I’ll not be sending my kid to camp—now or ever!”
I suppose I’m one of those moms who waffles between “send ‘em’” and “keep ‘em.” I tend to have unusual amounts of anxiety when my kids are away from home, imagining all sorts of terrible scenarios like food poisoning from the mayonnaise packets or sleepwalking off of the top bunk. But I’m married to a guy who is much more even-tempered than I am and who would send our kids to camp every year without a second thought.
Admittedly, as I write this, my youngest son, age 14, is currently registered for “Paintball Bible Camp.” (Yep, that’s actually a thing.) However, the main reason I signed him up in the first place is because my oldest son, age 25, is leading the camp that week!
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that it’s okay to be cautious. In fact, I encourage every parent to be well-informed about any camp they are considering, whether it’s day camp, overnight camp, or a week-long adventure. So, let’s cut through all the hype, and get right to the summer camp “yays" or “nays.”
1. Camp safety is taken seriously and is a top priority.
Does the camp you are considering have strong safety standards? This is an absolute must! If you need help deciding, here is a six-point checklist from the American Camp Association. It includes everything from food service standards to staff qualifications. You can view more of their safety tips here.
2. The camp has a good shower/bathroom policy.
The rules have changed since we were kids. Nowadays, some camps even require kids to wear their bathing suits when they shower. Here is one camp’s policy on bathroom procedures:
“Normally staff persons who accompany a camper to the shower/bathroom should remain outside the bathroom while the camper is inside. If a camper needs assistance with zipping, buttoning, buckling, clean-up, wiping, etc., two staff persons need to be present… If anything unusual occurred during the assistance, a note should be written, which describes the help given and the persons present, and that note should be handed to
the camp director at the close of camping day.” (You can read more here.)
3. Camp staff is carefully screened.
These days, you can’t be too careful in choosing quality staff that has been properly screened. If the camp you are considering doesn’t have an in-depth screening process, you may want to think twice. Here is one company that offers assistance for background checks and staff screenings.
4. There are good reviews from other parents.
The internet has provided easy access to other people’s experiences and views. Search for good and bad reviews, photos of the camp, and general opinions about the camp’s services. This will help ease your mind or be aware of the potential negatives.
5. The camp is firm about “no bullying.”
This is a “must have” policy to ensure that your child will have a fun and safe time at camp. Bullying can not only ruin their experience, it can leave scars for a lifetime. Be sure to speak with the camp director about his/her policy on bullying.
6. The camp is prepared for children who have disabilities or social challenges.
Even though there are specialized camps for children with physical, mental, or social disabilities, you may want to integrate your child into a camp that includes all children. Make sure there are ramps available for wheelchair access, and ask how the staff is trained to integrate disabled campers into the regular flow of camp activities.
1. There is unsupervised free time.
If the camp doesn’t have adequate supervision, even during free time, you might want to reconsider sending your child. There is no reason why kids should be left unattended for any length of time. A well-run camp will have adult supervision 24/7.
2. The camp is understaffed.
Safety becomes a real issue when a camp is understaffed. Risks of injury are high when there are too many kids and not enough adults. If you are really set on a particular camp that is understaffed, one option would be to volunteer your time and accompany your child. If you aren’t willing or able to do that, a different camp might be a better option.
3. You have an uneasy feeling that just won’t go away.
Sometimes, you don’t have to have a specific reason for saying “no” to summer camp. Perhaps, the Holy Spirit is giving you that “check” in your spirit. It won’t be an easy decision, especially if your child has their heart set on it, but God’s answer is always the right one. Stand firm in what He is telling you about summer camp for your child.
4. You are sending your “problem” child to camp, hoping it will straighten him/her out.
I get it. Parenting is hard. But if you are in an especially tough season with your child, reconsider sending them off to summer camp. A better option might be to go to “family camp,” where you can still supervise your child, but also allow him/her to connect with others. Here is a list of family camps near you.
5. The camp doesn’t have a solid mission statement.
Apart from any physical hazards at summer camp, it’s just as important to consider the spiritual ones as well. Make sure you are able to easily find the camp’s mission statement, and are in full agreement with its doctrine. This is a huge factor to consider. What they teach can make a real impact on your child’s views towards God—for better or for worse.
Ultimately, sending your kids to summer camp boils down to personal preference. Strong, biblically-sound camps, with proper safety measures and well-equipped staff, can make for an outstanding experience. However, creating lasting memories with your kids outside of summer camp is also a wonderful way to spend the summer. So you choose—summer camp, yay or nay?
Jennifer Waddle is the author of the brand new kid’s book, Worst Summer Camp Ever. She resides with her family near the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain, which is her favorite place to be. More of Jennifer’s books, Bible studies, and devotions can be found here. You can connect with her at www.JenniferWaddleOnline.com.
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