Evaluating Your Child's Summer Camp Experience
So, honey, how was camp??
The campfires, songs, and s'mores of summer camp have given way to the realities of school and home routines. Now that you've all settled back in, let's take a look at what your child's camp experience was all about.
As parents, we want the best for our kids at camp. Whether they've attended a week of day camp or 7 weeks of resident camp, we want our kids to come away from the experience with positive feelings and great memories. With the thousands of choices we have, we expect a lot from the camps we send our kids to!
A study by the YMCA of the USA in 2007 and 2008 of 10,000 camper families revealed that parents, moms in particular, are looking for these top 5 things in a traditional summer camp:
- Mature, well-trained staff
- Skill development/self-respect and self-esteem
- My child will make new friends
Campers indicated that the two main reasons they return to camp each year are the friends they made, and the things they got to do that they can't do at home.
So, how do we know if the camp we've chosen has met these expectations?
After your camper has had a chance to decompress from the camp experience, ask him or her, and yourself, some questions...
For your camper:
- What was the best thing about camp for you?
- What was something you would like to change about camp?
- Tell me about some of the friends you made
- Tell me about some of the activities you did
- Tell me about your counselors/instructors/leaders
- Would you like to go back to camp next summer? Why or why not?
For yourself and/or your child's other parent or guardian:
- What changes do I see in my child since his/her camp session? (greater or less independence, confidence, helpfulness, etc.)
- Did my child make friends that he/she keeps in touch with?
- Does my child speak positively about the camp experience?
- Does my child speak positively about him/her self?
- Do the stories my child tells about camp reflect a safety-conscious, organized, fun-and-friends-oriented camp that has my child's best interests at heart?
In my experience, camps want to know what parents think. Be sure to take the time to complete any surveys the camp asks you and/or your camper to do, and give the camp director a call if you have any concerns. This helps you and the camp to look at the bigger picture and make any necessary changes to ensure the well-being of all campers.
Camp directors also love to hear about the great things their camp is doing, so don't forget to give them accolades for a job well done, and tell your friends you'd recommend this camp!
You know your child best. Often it's as simple as the feeling you get when your camper talks about camp that is the best gauge of their camp experience. In any case, a good camp will have provided your child the opportunity to make new friends, try new things, and create memories that will last him or her a lifetime!