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Keeping Kids Safe at Summer Camp

More Food for Thought continued...

Gardner says any food allergies -- or anything the parent does not want the child to eat, for religious or other reasons -- should be clearly communicated to the camp staff. For instance, if a child must avoid sweets because of diabetes or a weight problem, the parents should make sure the camp can handle those requests.

The American Camping Association also advises parents to ask about the type of transportation used at the camp (vans, buses, etc.) and how often those vehicles are inspected by qualified mechanics.

Finally, if you think about it long enough, you can probably come up with dozens of different things that could happen to your child while he or she is away at camp. But Gardner says if you do your homework and feel confident with the level of experience and training of the camp staff, you will be much more likely to relax and let your child enjoy the summer vacation.

"Camp is a wonderful experience," he says. "It's great for kids, and they need some slack in the summer."

But Is Your Child Ready for Camp?

Just because a child is old enough to go away to summer camp doesn't necessarily mean he or she is emotionally ready for it. To ensure that the experience is healthy for both children and parents, the YMCA provides the following tips for parents trying to determine when and if their child is ready for camp:

  • Have they asked if they can go away to camp? Most kids are ready for overnight camp if they hear friends talking about it and eagerly ask a parent if they can go, too. Typically, even though friends are going, if a child isn't ready, he or she won't bring it up.
  • Have they had other overnight experiences away from home, without a family member present? If so, how did it go? Were they anxious? Did you have to pick them up before the activity was over?
  • Do they appear uncomfortable or nervous in large public restrooms at shopping malls or sports venues? This can pose a problem at resident camps where group bathroom and shower facilities are the norm.
  • Do they feel pressured because an older brother or sister is going to camp and they don't want to "feel like a baby"? Younger siblings should go when they're ready.

For more advice and helpful tips about summer camp, parents can call (800) 428-CAMP to request a free copy of the American Camping Association's "Summer Camp Answer Book."

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Reviewed on May 07, 2001

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