For the past several years, Manhattan Media and the American Camp Association-NY have successfully worked together to bring New York City families camp fairs. The purpose of these fairs is to bring together families and camps so that people can explore the various choices concerning accredited summer programs for their children. The response from both camps and parents has been incredibly positive, and therefore we will once again be offering families a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with camp directors.
Many families trying to select a camp best suited for their child will schedule camp tours the summer before attending. Visiting camps allows you to see the camp “in action” by checking out the facilities, observing activities, seeing the interaction of the campers and staff and having an opportunity to talk to program directors and camp owners.
But for other families, summer is a busy time, and traveling to multiple camps in different states can be a difficult and exhausting task. Now that the summer has come and gone, many parents worry that they’ve missed out on camp tours and are at a disadvantage in their decision-making process. This is not the case, and here’s where camp fairs come to the rescue.
Manhattan Media and American Camp Association-NY camp fairs allow families to meet with multiple camp representatives, obtain written materials along with videos and ask questions regarding many different types of programs—all at one prime Manhattan location. The fairs are not only a wonderful time-saver, but a fruitful introduction to the many options that are available to your child. However, before you grab the kids and head out to the fair, it’s wise to be prepared. By asking yourself some of these questions, you will narrow your approach and not feel overwhelmed when you arrive.
• Are you interested in a day or overnight camp?
• If you are looking at day camps, do you need bus service and/or extended hours?
• How many weeks do you want to send your child to camp?
• Do you prefer a co-educational, brother/sister or single sex camp?
• What is your budget?
• What locations are you focusing on?
• Will your child prefer to pick his/her own activities at camp or do you want a structured program?
Having the answers to these questions before you arrive at the fair will give you a better idea of where to begin and on which camps to focus your attention. When you register at the fair, there will be a list of participating camps available for your review—the guide can be very helpful in knowing which direction to take. The map provided will indicate which are day camps and which are overnight camps.
Once you have selected the type of camps you want to consider, here is a recommended list of questions you can ask the camp representatives in order to make your interaction with them productive. Keep in mind, camps typically have two staff people in attendance, and they want to touch base with as many families as possible in the few hours they have, so having a list of questions prepared will help you make the most of your time spent with them.
• What is the camp’s philosophy?
• Is the camp accredited with the American Camp Association?
• What is the background of the director?
• What is the camper-to-staff ratio?
• What kind of training do the counselors receive?
• What is the percentage of returning campers and program staff?
• What is a camper’s daily schedule like?
• Is the camp equipped to manage special requirements (food allergies, medication, etc.)?
Be sure to bring a notebook, as you will probably be talking with many camps, and it will be difficult to remember each camp’s specifics. If your children are with you, have them get involved in asking questions. It’s important they feel involved in this process as well. Camp representatives will be happy to respond to any questions and can provide you with names of current camp families who can speak with you about their experience. Camps will also provide you with promotional written materials and videos/DVDs to give you a glimpse into their camp world. Manhattan Media will supply you with a goody bag to carry all of the materials you collect along the way. Some camps participating in the fair will also have camp-related gifts and treats for your children to make the experience a fun one.
If you have any questions, please look for ACA-NY representatives at the fairs as well. We would love to talk to you and help you make this important decision. We look forward to seeing you there!
Renee Flax, director of program services of the American Camp Association-NY, is a professional camp advisor for the American Camp Association. She works closely with families who are choosing camps for their children. She can be reached at 800-777-2267 or Renee@aca-ny.org.
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