While selecting the right camp can be a daunting task for parents, Life Time - The Healthy Way of Life Company, which welcomes more than 65,000 kids to its camps across the country, has some key suggestions to ensure a positive summer for everyone. 'Safety, fun, health and variety are priorities for us and we've learned what it takes to create the best camp experience for kids and their parents,' says Jennifer Veres, national senior program manager for kids activities.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you look at camps:
* Safety. Ask questions in advance to ensure the camp has standard operating procedures in place to keep your kids safe. Are parents required to show their membership card or driver's license to both check in and take their children home? Every employee should also have a state-approved background check and those working with kids should be CPR- and first aid-certified.
'Parents should also know the counselor to child ratio,' says Veres. 'While many states and day camp programs allow for a 1:20 ratio, Life Time ensures a 1:10 ratio on-site and 1:7 ratio off-site. These higher standards help to ensure the safety and engagement of kids under our care.'
* Activities. Find a camp that excites kids, provides a routine and has a variety of healthy activities for kids to engage in. This is critical for parents who don't want their kids wasting away summer days playing video games for hours on end. Good information to learn includes what the balance is between a set daily routine and the type, level and variety of activities the camp has designed to keep kids interested.
* Counselors. It's important to have counselors who will keep kids engaged in healthy, active fun, and are committed to building relationships with kids throughout the summer and not just looking for a summer job. They should have previous experience with kids and/or experience in childhood education or other kid-focused programs.
* What will they eat? With the rise in childhood obesity and food allergies along with the overall importance of real food in daily diets, consider the food and snacks provided at camp. Find out if the daily menu includes healthy options free of artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners, as well as being free of trans fats and bleached flour. For those children with food allergies, parents will want to ensure the camp has guidelines for their child. 'Life Time collects detailed medical information from parents before camp starts and children with food allergies wear a colored bracelet that is checked prior to each meal or snack,' says Veres.
* Does the schedule work? While kids may have all the time in the world during the summer, most parents still have set schedules. Ensure that the camp times from start to finish work for everyone. Many camps have forced times for drop-off and pick-up, creating extra challenges. Life Time has extended hours to accommodate parents' busy schedules, and kids have the ability to participate in their swimming lessons during their camp day, creating one less thing to do and/or place to go. In addition, the LifeCafe within each club allows parents the option to start or end their child's day with a healthy meal at a reasonable price that can be enjoyed as a family - even after mom or dad has gotten their daily workout in.