Day Camp Issue— Would You Say Something?

Updated on August 02, 2019
B.A. asks from Dublin, OH
19 answers

My 8 year old is attending a day camp this week at a local park. It’s run by a reputable national organization and we have had positive experiences in the past.

This morning he packed his backpack. He carried it out to my car and placed it in the trunk, along with his water bottle. When we got to camp, I got his backpack out and handed it to him. I filled out some paperwork and left. 30 minutes later, I stopped at the dry cleaners and realized that his water bottle had rolled between the dry cleaning and my own backpack. I wasn’t willing to let him go all day without water, so I called the camp director and told her I would drop it off. (The park doesn’t have water fountains, but the camp has several water coolers available.) She assured me that the had extra water bottles and cups, and she told me she would let his counselors know that he needed one.

When I picked him up, he immediately asked for water. He told me that he thought that I had put his water bottle in his backpack because he didn’t see it in the trunk. So at lunch he emptied out his yogurt container and used that for water. After lunch they were told to pack up all of their lunch stuff, so he obediently did so.

This means that on a 90 degree, physically active, day, he went for 8 hours and drank 1 carton of milk and about probably less than 16 ounces of water.

He said that he told the counselors that he didn’t have a water bottle and they kept saying that they would get him something, but they never did. They saw him filling the yogurt container at lunch, but during the rest of the water breaks he drank nothing,

I’m a bit frustrated. I know that it was ultimately my responsibility to make sure that he had his water bottle. But when I realized he didn’t have it, I was told it wasn’t necessary to bring it to him, and he ended up in a potentially unsafe situation.

Should I say something to the director? We now have a collapsible backup water bottle in his backpack so this won't happen again. I'm mostly concerned about their lack of judgement in not responding to him or to me. I'm not certain that there's really anything that the director can say that really is going to make me trust them again.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for your feedback. I looked at the parent manual, and it specifically says that kids will have access to fresh water at all times, will be given water breaks, and that during those breaks kids will be told to refill their water bottles and reminded to drink water. (Basically the equivalent of the old school 'line them up at the drinking fountain' method. Quite frankly, the thought of him getting to the point where he felt that he needed to drink from a yogurt cup makes me sad.

I touched base with the director and asked her what had happened that caused to him to not have a water bottle or cup that day. She looked genuinely surprised. She said that when I called her, she was on her cell phone at another camp location, and she called his counselors and asked him to get him a bottle for him. She wasn't sure what happened after that, but admitted that she should have followed up. I asked her what type of training the staff receives. She told me that she had actually just done a special supplemental training session with all of the staff two weeks earlier, because there was a heat advisory in the area and heat indexes in excess of 100 degrees.

We pulled my son in and she apologized to him. I talked with him about what to do if he's in that situation again. (He's still young and is trying to find the balance between being assertive and being rude.) Part of the issue is that they don't allow cell phones or electronic devices, so he couldn't call me, nor could I call him. I told him that if he ever feels like something might be dangerous and his caretakers aren't listening, he needs to insist on talking to the director. And if that doesn't work, he needs to insist on talking to me.

Featured Answers



answers from Detroit on

I would definitely say something. I wouldn't worry about being perceived as being a nagging parent when it comes to something like hydration. Poor kid must have been so thirsty!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Absolutely say something. This is dangerous - heat, summer, sun. And you warmed and the kid asked!! Absolutely.. in fact cause a bit of a stink!
They knew and did nothing!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

Well you and your son solved the problem moving forward so that's good. Yes I would say something to the director because she should have made sure he got a bottle of water just as she promised. The counselors are most likely young adults who may or may not have noticed but even if they didn't see this they should have responded to him telling them he didn't have water by actually going to get a bottle for him. Maybe the water needs to be moved to somewhere closer to where the campers are to its easy for the counselors to grab.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would say something for four reasons.
It was a dangerously hot day.
The director told you you didn’t need to come and she would take care of it.
There are probably some very quiet, shy kids that don’t have a yogurt container and may be too afraid to ask for water.
I sometimes still have to remind my teenager to stay hydrated on hot days!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Yes, say something to the director.

I was a camp counselor once, in the days before everyone carried around water bottles, and we lined the kids up at drinking fountains regularly.

It's possible the director never followed through. It's also possible she did tell the counselors to make sure he had good access to water and they didn't follow through. In any case, she should know. She is the director, and if water on a hot day isn't a priority for the camp counselors, it should be, and I would hope they would be grateful to have it brought to their attention so they can earn your trust back.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

yeah, i would. yes, you do have a responsibility, as you freely acknowledge, but if they weren't willing to take on that responsibility under these circumstances when your son was in their care and you offered to correct it, that's not okay.

i wouldn't go in with guns blazing, but i would ask for a private conversation with the director and i'd be very, very serious about it.


6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Be that parent. I’m not kidding. Your son could have ended up in the ER. If that had happened, would you be ok being THAT parent then?

All they did was give you and your child lip service. DON’T settle. Your child AND other children are depending on someone standing up and being THAT parent when it’s called for it. And this calls for it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I would approach this by asking what the policy is in general about making sure campers stay hydrated, take rest breaks, etc, especially during hot or stormy weather. Are counselors trained to observe basic signs of overheating?

When I was a camp counselor (admittedly, way way back in prehistoric times) the director would inform the counselors about what to watch out for that day. For example, she would say that temps were expected to be near 100 degrees, and some activities that were likely to produce a lot of exertion and overheating would be changed. Or she would tell us that storms were expected and to listen for an announcement if lightning was in the weather warnings. Counselors were told to have rest periods of a few minutes in the shade in cases of activities in the sun with lots of running around by the campers. I remember one day when there was a mandatory swim instead of free swim. Kids didn't actually have to swim, but everyone needed to at least wade and cool off - that was during an unusual heat wave. Counselors were taught some very basic signs of overheating - they weren't expected to be nurses but they were expected to be vigilant and know when to summon help for an overheated or dehydrated camper or how to take some basic steps (sit in the shade, drink water, etc).

I would just want to know what your son's camp's policy is regarding basic hot weather or stormy weather safety. I wouldn't dwell on this one water bottle incident, I'd just tell the director that it got me thinking about hot weather safety in general, and how counselors were prepared.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

She should have brought it out to him directly herself. Camp staff are usually too busy to go hunt one down themselves - from our experience, and my kid has been a camp counselor.

So - I think this falls on the camp director. The teens may have observed it but unless they had some readily available (assuming they didn't otherwise would have handed him one) they wouldn't leave supervising the other kids to go track one down until they had an opportunity. The director should handle parent concerns like yours personally - to make sure followed up on.

I would call - I wouldn't blame the counselors - they have a lot going on. My kid just came back from camp. Sunscreen not opened once (was on list of what to bring). This is standard - none of my kids at any camps have ever had counselors apply it. Same with bug spray, being told to wear hats, or even to drink water. My kid hadn't eaten lunch all week - none of the kiddos had, and some were as young as seven. They were having too much fun. I think they just ate some of their fun snacks, but mostly left untouched.

I let a lot of this go - because it's pretty standard for camps. However, you had the director say she'd handle this personally and she didn't - so I would call and follow up. I wouldn't be accusatory more as a question - just following up, he was not provided with one... thought you should be made aware. I have concerns my son wasn't drinking water throughout the day. Would have brought his water bottle down had I know you wouldn't follow through. Not pleased.

I think you handled it well and good for you, in case this prevents another mishap.

I asked my son (the counselor in past) how this would have been handled when he was one. He said they would have sent a helper to run and fetch right away if a kid needed/asked for water. Staff were always circulating. It wouldn't have happened. His is the top camp in the region, and very outdoorsy. Kids would drop if not hydrated.

One of my kids just camped (indoor) and their policy was "Encourage kids to drink 5-8 cups of water a day". That's at a college.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Yes, I would definitely say something!
This happened to me once.
Our school even did this to us once in a different scenario.
Something I've learned.....I don't care what kind of organization you are not holding my child captive. I pay for these camps and I have every right to go in and drop off something for my child.
And for the school, shame on you as you are an educational system (that we all pay for might I add).
Good for you for putting in a collapsible cup in case of emergencies. Shame on these institutions.
I have had to put in place emergency measures such as you have....and I shouldn't have to. Some places treat kids as their captives in the ruse of safety measures. I no longer let that take precedence over taking care of my child. I will say I still follow all rules but I ensure my children have what they need. So absurd of these organizations. A side note: most of these camps hire teens to help out so there's a lot lost on these young kids.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would definitely say something!

Generally, these summer camp counselors are high school or college kids. They're in charge of a number of kids and it can get chaotic. Same with camp directors. There's usually multiple things going on and they can get distracted and inadvertently forget to do what they said they would do so I would be cautious about relying on them. Next time, I would drop off the water (or whatever) in these situations. Glad to hear your son's okay.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

It actually IS the job of the counselors to make sure your child gets enough to drink. That is definitely not asking too much, and I'm shocked anyone would think it is.

Staying hydrating is very serious. It doesn't take much for kids to get dehydrated or even get heat exhaustion. It absolutely IS the responsibility of the camp to make sure kids drink water. It's not even difficult to just be observant and gently remind any kid you don't see drinking.

The counselors should have been able to do this whether you called the camp or not. Could you imagine how much trouble they would be in if I child passed out or needed paramedics? That's not crazy if kids are outside in the heat and not drinking enough water.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I would say something.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Whether you forgot the bottle isn't the issue.

They told you they would take care of it. They did not. This is a health hazard. I'd go right to the director and ask what should happen, and what you should have done if you were given certain assurances. If the counselors aren't properly trained, that's a huge issue - ask what the director does about training for safety, and how Board of Health mandates are met. Letting kids drink out of used yogurt containers is ridiculous. Ask what the hierarchy is - who's responsible, who reports to whom, at what point they take campers' temps if there's no water (that'll wake them up!), etc.. Then have the director sit down with you and your son about how he should advocate for himself, where he should go to discuss a problem when counselors don't keep their promises, where the designated cooling station is, where the infirmary is for a kid in trouble, etc. Your kid was way overheated, but I can imagine this could have been even worse with any child with a medical problem or if the day had been even hotter.

I'm not a nervous mom, but my kid had a problem in a situation like this, and it was awful. I raised holy hell after they had no choice but to put him in an air conditioned office to bring his body temp down. He had a water bottle but not opportunity to refill it. I was livid.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Hang on - what is the definition of a “water break” at this camp? I’m guessing it is just cool-off sit down time, right? Not the counselors going from child to child saying: “Are YOU drinking water? Why not?”

It’s one thing if you child said “I need water, please bring me water now”, and they ignored him.

But I bet this was more in the category of “a misunderstanding”.

Your son told them he had no water bottle, and the response was probably: “We will get you something IF YOU NEED IT”. I bet they were not aware that your son felt a need for water. (And, since they are not Mom, they might not press the issue of “drink some water now please”.)

It sounds to me like your real complaint is that you want the counselors to be “Mom-ish” and make sure that your son is drinking water X times each day. (Which then would have caused them to notice his lack of a water bottle.) And, I’m just not sure that is realistic. It depends on the camp’s general practices and the way they run their “water breaks”.

ETA: As Michelle S says above, it sounds like you want the camp to “remind” your son to stay hydrated. But I am just not sure that you can expect that level of “parenting” from camp counselors. As Margie G notes below, too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I would. My daughter has kidney issues and something like this could land her in the hospital. It's not right for the director to tell you not to bother coming to drop off the bottle, because they will ensure they keep him hydrated, but then not follow through. They should have spare empty water bottles at the very least, for cases like these. I'm sure he's not the first kid to have forgotten his water bottle, and he certainly won't be the last.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Definitely say something...that is terrible. I would be mad.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Absolutely say something to the director and to other parents. He could die from Heat stroke and exhaustion. The camp is responsible to ensure the saftey of children and that they have water. What if your son had the water bottle but no water was available.


Absolutely say something to the director and to other parents. He could die from Heat stroke and exhaustion. The camp is responsible to ensure the saftey of children and that they have water. What if your son had the water bottle but no water was available.


answers from Los Angeles on

You could ask the director if he or she has extra water.

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