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The Most Important Questions to Ask a Camp Director Before Sending Your Child to Sleepaway Camp

Choosing the right sleepaway camp for your child takes more than a friend’s recommendation or a persuasive website. No matter how glowing the reviews, or how pretty the pictures, neither can really tell you whether your child will thrive and enjoy their time at camp. The only way to make this decision is to speak directly to the camp director. How they respond to the following questions should tell you everything you need to know about the camp and whether it’s a fit for your family.

What is the camp’s philosophy?

Ask about the camp’s values and goals. What is the camp trying to accomplish for your child and how does it intentionally do so? Do they emphasize competition or cooperation? Is there a religious component, and if so, is it mandatory?

Who is working with the children and what can you tell me about them?

Find out the camp’s hiring, training, and management practices. What are the age and experience requirements for staff members? Are there real adults at camp to help supervise? How does the camp recruit, screen and train its staff? What percent of the staff return each summer? What is the ratio of counselors to campers?

Who cares for the campers if they get sick and are there medical facilities nearby?

An overnight camp (or any camp) should have a licensed physician or registered nurse at camp every day. Ensure that the staff on hand can handle your child’s needs if he or she needs medication, has a chronic condition, or food allergies. And find out how far and how reputable the nearest hospital is in case of an emergency.

How does the camp approach misbehavior and conflicts between campers?

The camp directors and staff are your parenting partners, and you should make sure that their practices are in line with the way you parent at home. What are the camp’s rules, how does the camp enforce them, and what behavior would warrant a camper being sent home?

What’s a typical day at camp like?

How does the camp coordinate activities, by cabins or by individuals? Are activities pre-scheduled or is the camp elective based? Do campers choose the activities or electives by the day, the week, a month in advance, or a mixture of these things?

What does the camp do to help children acclimate and feel part of the community?

Is there a big brother or big sister program at the camp? Do staff members call home before camp starts to introduce themselves? Is there a gathering of new campers or new parents before camp? While we all hope that our children will adjust perfectly to camp, the likelihood of a smooth transition is improved when the camp is intentional about the process.

How does the camp handle homesickness?

If a camp director tells you that no children are ever homesick at their camp, you are beginning a relationship based on an untruth. For some children, homesickness is just part of the experience. And, unfortunately, this isn’t only true of first-time campers; sometimes experienced campers get homesick during the first few days of camp.  What’s important is how the camp handles homesickness and helps its campers successfully work through it.


Are you interested in sending your child to Camp Walt Whitman for the summer? Feel free to reach out and send me any questions you may have.