Summer camp safety: Tips for all families

Summer camp safety: Tips for all families

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With summer around the corner, it’s time to find activities that will keep our children busy. Summer camp registration becomes a high-speed race as many highly sought-after summer camps will fill quickly.

Taking appropriate precautions to ensure your child’s summer activities are safe can get lost in the chaos of registering, planning, and paying. Do you know everything you need to know about who will be watching, teaching, coaching, playing with and mentoring your kids this summer? Larger camp providers, such as the YMCA or those offered by local parks and recreation departments, run background checks on a routine basis.

But what about those camps that operate outside of that environment?

It is essential to be diligent about your child’s safety at any camp they attend. It’s also important to note that background checks only work for individuals who are known to have broken the law. Parents need to arm themselves with knowledge before camp registration, and children need to be empowered to recognize, avoid, resist, and escape danger, violence or harm.

Here are 10 things parents should consider before registering their child in a summer camp program:

Camp reputation. Ask for references. Read reviews or speak personally to parents whose children have attended.

Background checks. Criminal background checks (including the sex offender registry) should be performed on all staff. (If not, it’s a red flag.)

Accreditation. Does the camp have appropriate accreditations, and do camp leaders possess the required education or certification for the camp genre?

Staff members. Under what circumstances are staff members allowed to be alone with children? (The answer should be: never.)

Age groups. How are interactions between older campers and younger campers monitored?

Ratios. What is the ratio of counselors to campers? Ratios can vary per age group and activity, so be sure to research this.

Camp rules. What are camp rules and regulations, and who is responsible for enforcing them? What is the discipline policy if rules are not followed?

Overnight camps. How many adult counselors are assigned to sleep in each group or cabin? (There should be a minimum of two.)

Parental contact. When and how will your child be allowed to contact you? (Now is a great time to practice memorizing Mom’s or Dad’s phone number.)

Emergency procedures. How can you immediately reach camp leaders in an emergency?

Here are 10 things you can share with your child to help make their camp experience successful:

Safety in numbers. Develop new relationships if personal friends are not in attendance. If friends indeed are in attendance, stick together.

No touch. Your body is yours and yours alone. No one has a right to touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable. You have permission to shout, “NO! STOP!” And you have the right to stop anyone from touching you inappropriately, even if it means striking an adult.

No secrets. It’s never OK to keep a secret unless it has an ‘expiration date,’ such as a surprise party. Secrets that make you scared, confused, or make you feel bad are the ones you need to share with someone you trust.

Camp boundaries. Respect camp boundaries and don’t venture beyond them.

Swimming. Water is off-limits without an adult present.

Food and water. Don’t eat leaves or berries found in the woods. Take a healthy snack wherever you go. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, confusion, agitation and fainting.

Emergency procedures. Find out where to go and who to get help from in case of an emergency.

Be responsible. Always do the right thing. Don’t give in to peer pressure.

Be kind. There may be other campers that feel nervous or homesick. Be a good friend.

Have fun. Enjoy your independence, and make great memories.

Take the steps now to ensure your child is safe at camp so their memories are positive and something they will fondly remember for a lifetime. Happy camping!

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