For millions of kids, summer camp is a great adventure, filled with exciting opportunities and new places to explore. Approximately 10 million U.S. children attend overnight or day camps every year, according the American Camp Association, and in most cases, they suffer no more than a mild sunburn or a skinned knee. However, no environment is completely risk free, and on rare occasions, accidents happen. When sending your kids off to camp, follow these precautionary steps to ensure their wellbeing.


Know the Risks

Of course, most children are susceptible to mosquito bites, poison ivy, and the occasional upset stomach, but other issues, such as homesickness, can occur. By knowing the risks, you can better prepare yourself and your child.

  • Illnesses.
  • The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that 68 percent of camp infirmary visits were due to illnesses, 11.8 percent of which were communicable and seen in multiple children at camp. Since most kids sleep in close quarters while they're at camp, illnesses can spread quickly and easily. Make sure your child has received all recommended vaccines, including the meningitis vaccine, before going to camp.

  • Injuries.
  • The same study concluded that the remaining 32 percent of infirmary visits were the result of injuries. Of those, scrapes and cuts accounted for 33 percent, fractures 14.6 percent, and sprains 10.4 percent. Horseback riding and capture the flag caused the most injuries.

Ask Questions

While no one wants to be considered a pushy parent, there are a few questions you should ask the camp's facilities and accommodations:

  • Is the camp accredited?
  • If a camp is accredited (by an organization such as the American Camp Association), that means it will have passed an initial safety assessment, and you can be assured that they are assessed continually.

  • Does the camp screen its staff?
  • Find out what the camp looks for in counselors and what its screening process involves. Knowing that the staff have passed a thorough background check will give you some peace of mind.

  • What's the staff-to-camper ratio?
  • Normally, the counselor-to-camper ratio varies due to the age and needs of the children. Generally, more counselors should be available to supervise younger children. For overnight camps, the ACA requires a ratio of one staff member to every five campers ages 4 and 5 and one staff member to every six campers ages 6 to 8.

  • How can the camp ensure the safety of your child?
  • It's a difficult task for camp personnel to prove safety over the phone, but it's an important question to ask nonetheless. Whoever you speak with should be able to answer your questions-including what safety precautions are taken during activities, what happens if there's an accident, and what are the qualifications of the staff-with confidence and assurance. What are the discipline procedures like? If your child or other campers are acting up, what policies does the camp have in place to discipline them? Are they fair? Will the counselors provide adequate supervision?

As a parent, you have the right to know who will be working with your child, their qualifications, how old they are, and so on. Make sure the counselors are giving you direct and thorough answers to any follow-up questions you may have, and consider this an indication of how much attention the camp will give your child. If you don't like the answers you're given, it's okay to look for another camp.

Be Upfront

Many children have individual needs, and it's smart to inform the camp about any medical conditions or behavioral problems your child may have.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that parents provide the camp with the following information:

  • Previous illnesses;
  • Any surgeries;
  • Injuries;
  • Immunizations;
  • Allergies (food, insects, animals);
  • Present state of physical and psychological health;
  • Medications; and
  • Emergency contacts.

If your child has a serious disability or ailment, provide the camp with information about how to deal with special situations. Keep the information short and to the point.