Local Camp Director Gives Pointers on How to Select a Summer Camp

Thinking About Camp?
Questions for the Camp Director.

If you’re thinking about summer camp, there’s a wide range right here in Western MA to match everyone’s interests, schedules and budgets. As a seasoned Camp Director and parent, I believe that talking with the Camp Director is key to feeling comfortable with your decision. When first time parents call me, they often admit that they don’t know what to ask. So I wanted to give you questions that will help you make the best choice for your child…

The Director: You’re placing a tremendous amount of trust in this individual. It’s appropriate to ask about his/her background and experience. I would want to know if he/she is a parent themselves because parents have different eyes and think differently about children. Ask how long the camp has been in business. Some camps will say that they started in 1928, but what they don’t say is that there have been four different owners/directors in that time period. Find out when this director took over. Who owns the program? Is the owner: the Director, a Board or off-site corporation? It makes a big difference. Ask the Director to describe the types of children at the program. Finally, how will the Director interact with your child?

Program: Next to the Director, the program specifics are what you need most. Ask about the goals and structure of the camp program. How are schedules/class choices determined? Is anything required? Are classes put together by age? Skill level? You’ll also want to know if there are any class restrictions based on age or gender. What is the typical class size and instructor-camper ratio? I’m betting your child will have specific program questions too.

Living Arrangements/Grouping: Friends are what camp is all about. So who your child is with can make or break the entire experience. Find out how they are put together. For resident camps, do the campers live in cabins, tents, or dorms? Are new campers placed with returners? Are ages mixed?

Staff: Camp staffs are made up of amazing, passionate young adults. Their success depends upon their skills, training and supervision. I’d want to know the average age, teaching experience and who guides the counselors. Look for more supervision at the younger ages and lots of eyes during downtimes. Be sure too that background checks are conducted.

Policies and Safety: Safety is paramount at camp. Find out how you will hear if there is a problem, an injury, or if your child is very homesick (How will you feel if your child says “I was miserable, I told them and nobody did anything!”?). Ask about medical coverage and general communication procedures.

Your Child: Success at camp is about matching your goals and child to the camp. To do that, you should tell the Camp Director all about your child and ask how that fits with the other campers and program.

References: I recommend speaking with two or three families with children of similar age. Find out what their child has gotten out of the experience and why they are returning.

There’s a lot of information to take in. So the last question is one for you, “Does this feel like a good fit? Does your child say, “I could see myself there”? Now that you have all the facts, you and your child will know best.


Sue Lein
Sue is Owner/Director of Camp Emerson a residential camp in Hinsdale, MA for girls and boys age 7-15. Sue happily gave up the corporate HR life over 20 year ago to run her family’s camp where she lovingly empowers children every day. She lives in Ridgefield, CT during the winter with her husband and teen boy/girl twins.

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