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Choosing the Right Summer Camp

Updated: May 13, 2020

Written by: Morgan Lennon

For parents, the process of selecting a summer camp is overwhelming. You‘re bombarded with flashy advertisements promising incredible summers that are fun and engaging. You want to give your child the best experience, all while managing your budget and schedule. The process can be downright exhausting, and many parents don’t know where to start.

Many camps will deliver exactly what they promise, giving your child amazing memories to look back on. Unfortunately, others are more focused on profit than ensuring the safety and well-being of your child. While you are investigating camps, I encourage you to pull back the curtain and ask some important questions to keep your child happy, healthy, and safe.

If a facility is offering summer camp in NYC, they are required by law to obtain a Summer Camp Permit issued by the NYC Department of Health. While working with any city government agency can be challenging for businesses, this licensing process is vital to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children.  Not only is it the law, but when a program obtains an operating permit it means that they have met certain standards of safety and good practices.

When researching summer camp options, always ask the facility if they have a permit and ask for their license number. Never assume that just because it is a well-reviewed program, looks great, and is popular in the neighborhood, that it is in compliance and following best practices.

Here’s some useful information about the requirements for obtaining a permit and some additional questions you may want to ask:

Some things not covered by the permit but good to inquire about:

  • How often is your facility cleaned?

  • How often do you inspect your equipment/facility to make sure everything is functioning properly and free from hazards?

Some things not covered by the permit but good to inquire about:

  • While the law only requires a 1:40 ratio for CPR/AED & First Aid training, Industry Gymnastics requires all staff members to hold a current certification. A 1:40 ratio should be the bare minimum. Is my child’s coach/counselor trained in First Aid/CPR & AED?

  • If the camp is sports based, what kind of safety training or certifications does my child’s coach have in this particular sport?

  • If the camp is sports based, has my child’s coach been trained in concussion prevention, recognition, and treatment?

  • What kind of child abuse prevention training have staff members completed?

  • Is the staff trained on infectious diseases and how to prevent their spread?

Some things not covered by the permit but good to inquire about:

  • Will my child ever be alone with an adult?

  • What are your counselor-to-student ratios?

  • Pick any type of emergency and ask what their procedure is - “What is your procedure for a (insert emergency here, such as fire, lost child, etc.).” They should be able to give you a clear and coherent answer without even thinking about it.

If you take anything away from this article let it be this - ASK QUESTIONS! It’s unfortunate, but I know far too many camps in NYC that operate without a permit each year because they don’t want to deal with the time and expense of meeting the operating standards. Choose a facility that puts your child’s needs and safety above their personal needs and expenses. 


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