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What to look for at a Camp Fair

We’ve all been there. It’s 1:27am on a weeknight in February. You’re huddled under a blanket on the couch clicking through page after page of summer camps in the cold light of your laptop screen because, even though it’s not even Valentines Day yet, camps are filling up and you need to make some choices. But what choices?! How can I tell from a website whether or not this is the right place for my kid?! Are these Directors any good? What if one of them has a dead fish handshake? What if a majority of their staff think that “Careless Whisper” is the greatest song of all time?? I can’t have my kid around that kind of negativity!

Here’s the truth: It might be impossible to truly get a full picture of what a camp is like from their website alone. If you could, camps wouldn’t bother with the open houses, informational sessions, meet & greets, or…Camp Fairs! (But then, I suppose, we also wouldn’t have a reason to wear khakis in the off-season) (A travesty) We offer these opportunities to get to know us in-person for a reason, and it’s a great way to take some of the guess work out of picking the right camp for your wants and needs.

But let’s say you do attend a camp fair where many different camps have booths and are all super excited and enthusiastic about telling you why they are great (because camp people) (and freshly pressed khakis)- how can you ensure you’re getting the information you need to make the right choice? We have some tips on questions to ask to help you make this important decision!

You’ll want to start with general questions to make sure that, on a basic level, the camp fits in with your values and what you envision your camper getting out of the camp experience.

General questions about the program:

  • What is camp’s philosophy and program emphasis?
  • What does a day for a camper age (insert age of your camper) look like?
  • How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?*

*We like this question because the way a camp approaches behavioral issues tends to be very different than in schools. You will want to hear that a camp has a specific escalation policy and will communicate with parents early in the process.

Any camp professional will tell you that the staff are what make or break a camp. They are the role models, the tone setters, and are ultimately in charge of your camper’s safety and well being, so how they are hired and trained is important!

Staffing questions:

  • What is the camp director’s background?
  • What training do counselors receive?
  • What is the counselor to camper ratio? Are there any exceptions?
  • What are the ages of the counselors?
  • What does the camp look for when hiring camp staff?
  • What is the return rate of the staff?*

*If staff aren’t returning regularly, that might be a red flag for the culture or organization of the program.

Safety-based questions:

  • How does your camp handle code red weather days or inclement weather?
  • What kinds of safety precautions are taken at your camp? Trainings?
  • How secure is the location of your camp? Security guards? ID badges?
  • Does your camp have a trained health professional on-site at all times when campers are present?

Other questions to consider:

  • How does the camp accommodate special needs?
  • How does the camp communicate with parents before and during camp?
  • Is the camp accredited by the American Camp Association*? Why or Why not?

*Camps can be accredited by the American Camp Association in order to demonstrate that they meet certain safety and operational regulations. Some camps are not accredited for financial reasons, so if a camp is not accredited, it does not mean it is not a great camp.

Camp Fair season starts now!! A quick online search will tell you about the ones in your area. TIC is going to be at 5 camp fairs over the next 2 months! You can come see us at the following fairs:

Saturday January 11th– Alice Deal Camp Fair at Alice Deal Middle School (NW DC) 10:00am-2:00pm

Saturday January 25th– FCAG Camp Fair at McLean High School (McLean, VA) 3:00pm-5:30pm

Friday February 7th– Arlington Co. Camp Fair at Kenmore Middle School (Arlington, VA) 6:00pm-8:00pm

Saturday February 8th– KOJAM Camp Fair at Tysons Corner Shopping Center (McLean, VA) 11:00am-5:00pm

Sunday February 9th– Washington Family Camp Fair at Westfield Montgomery Mall (Bethesda, MD) 12:00pm-4:00pm

We hope you’ll check out TIC as a contender for your summer camp plans! The important thing, though, is just to get kids at camp. We firmly believe there’s a camp for every child and we’d be happy to help you find the right fit for your camper!

 

Yours in camping,

TIC