YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

'90s Family

Camping It Up : Before You Make Your Choice. . .

April 21, 1996|The American Camping Assn

With thousands of day and resident camps in the United States, choosing a camp may seem overwhelming. Selecting the right program is often a matter of knowing your options and asking the right questions. It's important to know your child's personality and identify the camp programs that will benefit him or her best. Working as a family, you can help ensure an experience your child will cherish for a lifetime.

Trends in camp activities include in-line skating, fine arts and wilderness adventures such as rock climbing, mountain biking and cave exploring. New offerings on the scene are circus arts, windsurfing, archeology and videography.

Regardless of the type of camp you and your child seek, here are some important questions to ask a camp director:

* What is the educational and career background of the camp director? What does the director look for in hiring camp counselors?

* Are most of the camp counselors at least 18 years old? What percentage are return counselors from past years?

* What is the ratio of counselors to campers? Is it a ratio that makes sense to you, taking into consideration your child's needs?

* What is the camp's program philosophy? Many camps promote competition and friendly rivalry. Others emphasize programs that are inclusive of all campers and where performance is, at most, secondary.

* What are the safety and medical accommodations? If your child has special needs, are programs, accommodations and facilities adequate?

* How does the camp handle homesickness? Does the camp have recommendations for parents to help with the situation?

Also ask if it is possible to visit the camp before enrolling your child, and ask for names of camper families to contact for their impressions of the camp.

Finally, ask if the camp is accredited by the American Camping Assn. If not, ask what led to the decision not to seek accreditation and see if you're comfortable with the response.

ACA accreditation involves inspection of the camp while it is in session, and evaluation of health and safety provisions and program quality. The "1995 / 96 Guide to Accredited Camps" lists more than 2,000 day and resident camps along with information about how to tell if your child is ready to go to camp, how to choose a camp and how to pack for camp. The guide is $16.95, which includes shipping; it may be ordered by calling (800) 428-CAMP.

Many local offices of the association have free listings of camps in their region. They also offer referral services and provide schedules of "camp fairs" held in the fall and spring nationwide.

Los Angeles Times Articles