Summer Camp - Due Dilligence

Updated on December 20, 2016
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
12 answers

Mamas & papas

Our son will have aged out of his day care summer school this summer. We both work and need to find a daycamp. There's a place nearby called "thinking cap", with a summer camp program. I'm not sure though what to look for before enrolling. Off the top of my head comes questions on staff ratio, safety protocols for off premises trips, schedule info. I've seen the kids in the neighborhood. Seems like they have the kids in bright orange shirts and pair 6-8 kids with two early college aged teens.

What would you want to know? Where do I look for licensing or reviews? I only found two reviews on yelp.

The center runs year round as an after care and tutoring center. It is affiliated with a local public school.

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answers from Springfield on

Staff/camper ratio is important. The questions you mentioned are good.

I'd be asking what their schedule is like, what activities they do, do they do field trips, how often. The real concern I have with a camp that goes all summer long is the monotony. It would be good to know that they have a variety of activities planned so that the kids don't get bored.

Also, ask around. Do you know anyone who sent their kids there? What did the kids think. I'd really be interested in their experiences.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

I think your best bet is to connect with other parents in your area, specifically your sons' friends' parents. Find out where they go, what they do and recommend.
Most working parents I know hire a college student for the summer, and only sign kids up for a few weeks of structured camp. Partly because camps are expensive but also because they want their kids to have some down time during the summer. The college kids are fun and able to take kids to the park, pool, museums and whatever lessons or classes they have. They also do plenty of play dates.
Is that an option for you?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I would want to talk to parents whose kids go the the camp. What is the cost? Are there field trips? If so, how many and how often? Those usually cost extra, so what is the cost of those? What is the ratio of kids/adults? What is the ratio on field trips, which can be more chaotic than non-field trip days? Do the kids swim? Are there swim lessons? What kinds of things does your child like to do? I know he's still little, but I'm sure you have a sense of whether he'd rather be running all day or doing arts and crafts.

I have several friends that send their kids to themed day camps - one is a sports day camp where they play team activities (soccer, wiffle ball, etc) in the morning and go swimming in the afternoons. Another sends her child to an arts and music camp. Some do both, because the camps are in 5 week sessions, so they can do 5 weeks of arts and music, then 5 weeks of outdoors activities. Usually the "camp" is from 9-3, but then the organization has before and after programs so you can drop off early and pick up later to fit working parents' schedules. Local colleges/universities and the YMCA run themed programs here.

Personally, I get a college student to come to my house every day in the summer and I get family+babysitter passes to the closest pool and the local museums/science center. Every day the kids decide between those things, going to the local park, or just staying home and playing and baking cookies. My kids LOVE the lack of structure in the summer. It's a little more expensive than day camp for 1 child, but not much. And once the baby is a little older, it's less expensive than summer camps for 2 kids.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If it were me, I'd make an appointment to go in and just meet the director. I find that's the only way I can get a sense/vibe of what it's like and whether I'd be comfortable sending my kids there.

I think your questions are very good. Personally I find that they need to change things up with kids as they get older - school age. Otherwise kids find it boring. So I'd ask what field trips they have planned, any themed weeks, that kind of thing.

One thing I always liked to know is how they dealt with issues that might come up. What's the communication like between leaders/teachers and parents? That sort of thing.

I like the idea of talking to teachers or parents you might know from the public school that it's affiliated with. Good to get others' impressions.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Binghamton on

Can you ask friends what they plan to do? Some may have older siblings than your son and sending him with a friend can be a great help. All day with all new kids at a young age seems like a big undertaking so friends should help him be happy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Look on their website or call and ask to speak to the director.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I would want to know what the official policy is on their counselors using their phones and other devices. If my kid is being supervised anywhere, but especially at a pool or something, I want to know that the people in charge aren't allowed to be surfing the net! :)

I know quite a few kids who do those type "camps" in the summer and it works out fine. They do lots of field trips and pool time so the kids seem to enjoy them. If hiring a summer nanny is an option, I would look into it, but if not, I wouldn't worry.


answers from Chicago on

How long are the days, and when can you pick up?
What about food, snacks...and schedule for those? (do you pack, do they provide?)
What is the daily agenda like?
Is there air conditioning available for when it's super hot?
Indoor plans for rainy days?
safety/first aid training? closest emergency room?
what does the check-in/out process look like? Authorized list of people for access?



answers from New York on

I'd ask a few teachers what they think of the program since it is affiliated with a public school. Also, most reputable places will have some good references from other parents they are willing to hand out or give you the phone numbers for. Just make sure they are recent clients and not from a year or two ago. Also, your child is old enough to tell you if something is wrong if you sign him up . . . if he is old enough to have aged out of the other program, he should be able to let you know how it is going each day.

Good luck.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Once your child has aged out of child care it's pretty much a given that they are old enough to be home alone or with little supervision. I know it seems crazy in a lot of ways but it's how child care works. Programs NOT child care aren't licensed or inspected or anything. They are no longer part of child care in any way.

In Oklahoma a lot of child care centers stop at age 10. They leave elementary school and move up to middle school/junior high at that point, so technically they're only a couple of years from high school. They can legally babysit at age 12 and be responsible for another person's they "should" have experience taking care of themselves already, right?

I know my girl would have been completely able to manage herself at age 11 but not our boy. He probably won't be home alone all day until he's I think maybe 12 or 13 might be okay but certainly not at age 10.

Home alone time is something that has to be learned and earned.

In developmental disability jobs our goal is for the person to live in the least restrictive environment. To not have restraints on them where they don't need that support or help. For instance, if a person is capable of bathing themselves very well then they don't need a person to stay in the bathroom with them reminding them to wash their neck and nether regions. They were taught and have it down now.

I have taught a lot of adults who've never been home alone how to manage it. With good success. It is step by step, learn to be alone for a few minutes, then half an hour or so, then maybe an hour to two hours. Then try the whole day. Having a support system set up with family/friends, around the home area, is a good foundation too. It gives him someone to go to if he needs help or gets tired of being alone all day.

If you take it one step at a time and teach your child what being home alone is all about then by summer he should be able to do this at least okay.

We live in a semi country setting but have various family members nearby and 7 neighbors within sight and shouting distance. We've left the girl home alone a few times but notified a couple of neighbors that were going to be home during that time so they'd have their eyes on our place. To notice if anything was wrong, like a strange car or something like that. They weren't asked to go and check on her or anything like that, they were a support for her if she needed it.

But she didn't get that home alone time just because we thought up the idea she could be home alone. She was allowed to be home alone while we were outside doing gardening and stuff. When we'd go to a neighbor's house for a bit, run to the gas station to fill up, not for more than half an hour to an hour.

This was so she could get used to being alone in the house. Hearing the normal noises, feeling alone. We were nearby when this time started so if she felt afraid she could be with one of us in a few moments.

If I were going to go to work and be gone for the normal 11 hours per day I would make sure my family and my neighbors knew she was there. Again, not to check on her but to have an awareness to keep their eyes open for anything that was out of the normal situation. 8-5 is a 9 hour day, then travel to and from work can be time consuming if there is rush hour traffic. It can take half an hour to an hour to get to and from work. Hence the 11 hours home alone. Unless you and hubby work offset shifts where one leaves later and the other comes home earlier?

I don't know how your camp thing would work out. Sounds like a good thing but is it teaching your child how to be independent and able to be on his own eventually?

How many more years will you be needing someone to babysit him? How old will you allow him to stay home without you being there all day?

My final thought is what about his friends? What are the other kids his age doing when they're out of school? Do they stay home alone? Do they have a nanny? Do they do the camps? Would they each take him one day per week and let you pay them a little bit and he could go spend the day with his friend? That might be an option.


answers from Washington DC on

We always hired sitters to come to our house to watch our kids. They had a couple of fun camps during the summer, but that was it.

However, we did talk to parents of kids who attended the fun camps anyways. Was it worth it? Did the kids get anything from it? Were they outside all day or in ac? Was there a set schedule? What did they love/hate about it? Etc...


answers from Los Angeles on

I would suggest that you don't do one camp for the entire summer. That sounds terribly boring. How about do a couple of weeks of sports camp, a couple weeks outdoors camp, a couple weeks music camp and a couple weeks arts camp? That's how people do it around here. Maybe it is different there, but here kids age out of daycare at 12 because they can stay on their own at that point. Most important to me would be that the kids get enough time outdoors, and aren't stuck inside for most of the day.

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