Questions to ask before signing up for camp

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This time of year many parents are thinking about their child’s summer vacation plans. Summer camp is often high on the list.

But before picking a camp, parents should consider a few important questions, said Neva Baltzell, Florida 4-H state camping program coordinator with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

1. What opportunities will my child have?

Find out how a camp can have a positive impact on your child, Baltzell said. 4-H camps offer not only the traditional recreational camp activities, but also educational classes that are based on research.

For teenagers, camp can be a chance to take on leadership roles. Teens can serve as camp counselors and cabin leaders, and help teach classes and design programs.

2. Day camp or overnight camp?

Day camps and overnight camps each have their own pros and cons. For many, this is the first time campers are away from their parents for an extended period of time.

This gives youth more chances to build life skills, an opportunity to make choices for themselves and make friends. It also gives them opportunities to resolve conflicts that may arise  — with the help of an adult camp staff member.

Cons? Often the parents have a harder time being away from their children. Day camps, on the other hand, can help parents and children get more comfortable with being apart, said Baltzell.

While day camps can be good initial steps to gain independence, they don’t offer as many opportunities and campers may have fewer activities to choose from.

3. What safety measures are in place?

“Safety is a primary concern for parents,” Baltzell said. Parents should find out the ratio of supervisory staff to campers, as well as how much and what kind of training staff receive.

Certification in first aid and CPR is important for all staff members, and waterfront staff should be lifeguard certified or trained in relevant programs.

Parents should also ask whether all camp personnel — not just supervisory staff — have had background screenings, Baltzell said.

Finally, make sure that activities are age appropriate.

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