SOP 006: 3 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Summer Camp and 14 Must Ask Questions

S ummer camp has many advantages for your child.  Being a proactive parent and knowing how to choose the perfect summer camp can make any parent feel a bit overwhelmed.  Would you agree that knowing what questions to ask would help you in setting up your child for a great sleep away camp experience? Eric and Marissa talk about 3 steps to choose the perfect camp and give 14 insightful questions to ask the staff based on Eric’s 15 plus years as a camp professional.

In This Episode All About Summer Camp

  • Three Steps To Consider When Choosing A Summer Camp
  • 14 Questions To Ask When “Interviewing” A Camp


  1. We are going to be at the Parenting Expo in Cleveland Ohio on April 26th 2014.
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Proactive Parenting Tip

Today’s tip centers on overt vs covert messages.

When you’re preparing your kid to go off to sleep away camp; what are you really saying to them when you say; “If you get homesick and can’t stay, just tell your counselor to call me and I’ll come and get you?”

Now, we know what you want to be saying with this statement.

  • I want you to know I care and I’m not abandoning you.
  • I want you to have a good time, if you’re not I want to help.
  • I’m always here for you, even when you can’t see me.

However, with kids (and adults) there are two types of message we send in our communications.

  1. Overt messages. These are the words people hear when we speak.
  2. Covert messages. These are the feelings people can have when we speak.

Our words: “…If you’re homesick, I’ll come and get you…” is the OVERT message.

The covert messages range from:

  1. I don’t think you’ll be able to make it, so I have to give you a way out.
  2. I’m not sure I trust the camp, so I’ll give you an escape route.
  3. In life, if you uncomfortable, the right answer is always run away.

Don’t believe me? Have you ever said something to any human being, and after they respond you have said, “That’s not what I said.” Have you ever been misunderstood? We bet you have.

Overt and covert messages deserve our time as parents.

More often than not we have time to consider the words we speak to our kids.

When you have some time, think about the conversation you want/need to have with your kid(s) and try the following:

  1. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen.
  2. Write down on the top of the page the conversation topic.
  3. Write a list of 3 or 5 things you want your kid to “get” from the conversation.
  4. Write a list of the things you don’t want them to get.
  5. Craft a statement that accomplishes number 3 and avoids number 4.

Do we think you have to do this forever…no. After a few times you’ll get faster at this and it can over time become second nature.

So, when it’s time to talk to your kids about what happens if they get homesick at camp, try this.

“I want to talk to you about camp. Most people feel homesick at some point. That’s totally normal. How you choose to handle it is important. What do you think you could do at camp if you start to feel homesick?”

Here is where you want to land with them at the end of the conversation. “If you feel homesick, talk to your camp counselor. I trust them.”

Would you like to hear more about covert and overt messages? If so, send us an email or let us know in the comments.


Featured Segment: Choosing The Perfect Summer Camp

In today’s episode Marissa and Eric share their presentation from the Parenting Expo’s they spoke at in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Three Steps To Choosing the Perfect Summer Camp

  1. Start With Your Kids: what do they like/need? Do they have any additional needs to take into account?
  2. Know What You Are Looking For: Do you want an overnight camp, if so how many days? Do you want a Christian camp, a sports camp, drama, fun?
  3. Ask The Right Questions:Once you choose a couple camps, use the following list to “interview” the camps.

14 Questions wrote by a camp director for parents to ask when choosing a summer camp.


14 Questions To Ask When Interviewing A Camp


  1. Who is directly supervising staff? May not be the camp director. Talk to them.
  2. Is the camp ACA accredited? Why not?
  3. What’s motivating the staff? Vision, mission and core values? or What seems right at the moment? HOW about competition.
  4. How long is real staff training? (Minus out pre camp set-up) Critical for day camp. Can’t rely on “has been a camper for years”
  5. How are staff trained to handle bed wetting?
  6. Does the staff practice emergency procedures? Specifically missing camper procedure.
  7. What’s the staff recruitment and interview process?
  8. Has the director ever ran or started a summer with open staff positions?
  9. What does a camper do at night if they have to go to the bathroom?
  10. How does the camp deal with special dietary needs? Are they willing to be 100% peanut free if asked?
  11. Ratios of staff to campers? Dig for the real number.
  12. How will the camp deal with a homesick camper? Do they have pre camp recommendations?
  13. How often and in what ways are staff evaluated by a supervisor?
  14. What training does the supervisor have?

Some of the links mentioned in this episode:

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Question: What question do you ask or plan to ask when interviewing a summer camp? What question do you have about sending your kid to camp?