There are a lot of child care options available in the summer – a private babysitter, daycare, a community or church program, or an independently run program. Regardless of what type of care you choose there are options at a variety of quality levels. Here are a few key things to consider when speaking with a potential care provider:
1) Are children grouped according to their age, or are they lumped together?
Children should be with their peer group, in order to provide the most appropriate activities for their stage of development and for maximum social enjoyment. Ten year olds don’t want to be in the same group, doing the same activities as six year olds! Ideally, the range of ages in a single group shouldn’t be more than 2-3 years.
2) How are your staff trained (and for how long, and by whom)? What are their qualifications?
Regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer, they should receive training in activity programming and behavior management – not just first aid! They MUST have prior experience working with groups of children. The staff member(s) in charge should have qualifications that prove a sufficient level of experience to not only supervise children but also to lead and train other staff.
3) How big are the camper groups? What is the maximum ratio?
A large group of 20+ kids does not allow for individual attention, regardless of how many staff there are. The ratio of staff to camper should be low for ALL ages, not just the youngest campers. Also be aware of “overall” vs group ratios. Does the ratio include staff who are not working directly with campers?
4) Is there a schedule posted? What assurances can be made that this schedule is adhered to?
For example, are staff required to prepare and/or hand in their plans in advance? Does the schedule simply list a theme for each day, or an actual breakdown of what happens at each point during the day? (A calendar with one special item on it per day is not the same as a full schedule) Is there an overall daily schedule that provides consistency for campers?
5) How often do the same activities get repeated? If my child registers for multiple weeks, will they be doing the same things over and over again? How often do they watch movies (or other passive activities)? How much variety is in the program?
While its ok to repeat a type of activity (sports, arts & crafts, etc) campers should be provided with a lot of variety to hold their interest. Watching TV/movies on a regular basis is not high quality programming.
6) Do the children leave the property during the camp day? How are they transported? What safety measures are taken?
Anytime children are transported off-site, there is increased risk. How thoroughly a program prepares for and manages this is important. Also, how much time will the children spend in transit? Will they be spending a significant portion of their day sitting on a hot bus or walking long distances?
7) Can you provide me with references? Do you have a current customer that I can talk to about what you have to offer my child?
Any quality program should be able to easily provide you with several references.