Summer’s just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about where your kids will be spending their break. But with hundreds of options to choose from in Miami-Dade County – many of them funded by The Children’s Trust – how do you find the one that’s right for your family? To help narrow your search, here’s what you should look for:
Staff According to the American Camp Association (ACA), day camp programs should provide one staff member for every: six campers ages 4-5; eight campers ages 6-8; 10 campers ages 9-14; and 12 campers ages 15-17. Counselors should be extensively screened, trained and certified in CPR, first aid and automated external defibrillator (AED) safety, and well versed in the camp’s specific safety regulations, emergency procedures and procedures for supervision, whether kids are playing indoors or outside. Be sure to ask questions like “What training does staff receive and what are their credentials?” and “Are they background screened?”
Safety Established and consistently enforced protocols for monitoring when children arrive and leave, and with whom, are a must. If your child will be transported to and from camp via bus, ask about the driver’s credentials, and whether or not there will be a staff person riding along with the kids. Lots of outdoor space should be available, as well as shaded areas where kids can take regular breaks out of the sun. Confirm that only healthy snacks and beverages will be served, and that plenty of water will always be readily available to help keep kids from overheating.
Swimming & Watersports All swim areas – whether pools or lakes – should have a safety-float rope separating the deep end from the shallow area, advises the ACA. Swimming instructors and lifeguards should have successfully completed a national YMCA Lifeguard and Swim Instructor Certification, or Red Cross aquatic training program. In addition to protecting and teaching kids to swim, they should also teach them how to be safe in and around the water.
Children with Disabilities Inform camp directors and staff early if your child has a disability as well as any specific challenges your child may experience and how to best address them; most will do their best to accommodate you and your child. Ask about policies for inclusion, where kids with special needs interact with typically developing peers. These types of shared environments are mutually beneficial because they encourage a more individualized approach to learning and socialization for all children.
Special Interests Looking at camps that cater to a particular passion, such as science, sports, art, music, dance or theater? Ask what activities will be made available to your child outside of the program’s general focus; being able to take part in other activities makes for a more well-rounded, enriching camp experience.