With summer just a few short months away, it’s time to start thinking about how to fill those long, school-free months. If you haven’t considered outdoor adventure camps, you might find they offer uniquely empowering experiences for kids—getting them out from behind their screens to explore the natural world and teaching them the lasting confidence that comes with taking on new challenges.
At Avid4 Adventure (www.avid4.com), we have more than a dozen years of experience operating Colorado’s premier outdoor adventure camps for Pre-K – 12th graders. With an American Camp Association accreditation and a highly credentialed staff under our belts, we’re often tasked with reviewing and accrediting other camps. That experience has given us some helpful insight into what separates great outdoor adventure camps from the merely good.
6 Tips for Finding the Most Amazing Outdoor Adventure Camp
Here are some areas to cover with potential providers to make sure you’re sending your kids to one of the best:
Camps accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA) have to comply with over 300 safety and youth development standards as assessed by outside reviewers. State licensing (required for camps in Colorado) mandates that camps meet specific health and safety guidelines. If the camp you’re talking to doesn’t have these bona fides, ask why. Finding out how well your camp is qualified to handle health and safety is job one. And speaking of which…
Does your camp have a crisis management plan in place? How do they keep kids adequately fed, hydrated and rested throughout the day? What are their hand-washing procedures? Don’t be afraid to ask about the nitty-gritty of keeping your kids safe and healthy when they’re away from home. If your camp hasn’t thought it through, it might be time to rethink your camp.
Ask some questions about the people you’re entrusting your kids to. How old are your camp’s counselors? How are they hired and trained? Are they background checked? Trained in relevant fields like recreation, education or child development? High-quality camps will hire adult counselors, thoroughly screen them (the industry standard includes personal reference checks, fingerprinting and screening through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation) and train them for at least 3 – 5 days in technical skills for activities, the camp’s philosophy, emergency guidelines, age group management and activity modification. Ideally, your camp counselors will be much more than just teenagers looking for a way to pass the summer.
A camp’s child-to-counselor ratio will tell you a lot about how much individual attention your kids will receive. Ask if their staff numbers include just counseling staff (who are hands on with campers) or support staff (who aren’t) as well. You can also find out whether ratios change during more specialized programming, such as swimming or rock climbing, and if they vary from age group to age group.
Once you’re sure you’ve found a high-quality camp in general, be sure it meets the needs of your kids specifically. If your child has a special learning, behavioral, nutritional or medical need, ask expressly about individualized plans and procedures for addressing it. If he or she is prone to shyness, homesickness, overzealousness or accidents, feel free to ask about that, too. A great camp should be a good fit for—or at least prepared to address—every kid’s needs.
On top of being accredited, safe, well staffed and well prepared, your summer camp should be a place for kids to learn, explore, meet new friends and try new things. It should be fulfilling and memorable and an awesome way to spend the summer—in short, it should be fun.
Finding a great camp takes a little legwork, but the benefits are well worth your time. If you want to put Avid4 Adventure’s camps to the test, including our new day camp location at Soaring Hawk Elementary in Castle Rock, you can reach us at www.avid4.com, 800-977-9873 or [email protected]. Our camps fill up fast, so register soon to secure your first-choice dates for the summer.