Only about half of parents feel very confident that they can tell whether summer camp is safe and healthy for their child.
“Parents often end up supervising their children on long days, even overnight, in the summer,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clarke, MPH.
“But parents may not always consider that the camp they are choosing is geared to care for the needs of all campers and respond to health and safety emergencies.”
The nationally representative report is based on responses from 1,020 parents with at least one child aged six to 12, surveyed in April.
About half of parents say they are considering either overnight or day camp for their child, with more than half expecting their child’s participation to last a few weeks.
Logistics such as location, hours, and cost were high on the list of parents’ considerations, and for about two in five parents, the activity offerings were necessarily impressive. Less than a third of parents also said it was important that camps enforce limits on electronics and social media, and nearly one in six wanted to make sure their kids were outside.
When it comes to safety, three out of four parents say they look for information on the proportion of employees to children, while more than three out of five employees have first aid training and camp inspections or Interested in safety ratings. More than half are interested in emergency preparedness plans.
Most parents assume that if a camp is accredited, it has been inspected within the past one to two years and that staff have received safety training.
As families head into their third pandemic-era summer – and the first time children under 12 are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine – some say COVID precautions are essential to their camp decisions . But of those who do, three-quarters are in favor of mask and vaccine requirements, while a quarter prefer a camp that has none of these orders.
“Compulsory vaccination and masking can reduce disruption to camp activities from a COVID outbreak and also limit the risk that campers pass on COVID to other family members,” Clark said.
One in 12 parents report that summer camp will need to accommodate their child’s specific health issue, including allergies, medication needs, physical disabilities, or mental health concerns.
“Parents should talk to the camp director to make sure the camp will be able to meet their child’s health needs,” Clark said. “Parents cannot assume that health information about their child has been shared with all appropriate groups.”
Clark suggests that parents consider before sending their child to camp:
- If the camper will be in a remote area, such as a lake or forest, ask about the camp’s inclement weather policy and whether a safe haven is available near the campsite.
- If the camps include sports or other physical activities, make sure staff have basic first aid training and that supplies are readily available. If swimming is included in the camps, ask if a certified lifeguard will be present.
- If a child has health needs, meet with the child monitoring staff to answer any questions and make sure they have the parent’s emergency contact information readily available. Do not assume that the information has already been communicated.
- If the child has a food or other allergy, parents should ensure that emergency treatment (eg, Epi-Pen) will be available and that staff have been trained in its use.
- If parents are considering overnight camp, they should assess the child’s readiness to stay away from home. If the child seems concerned, parents can arrange for them to talk to a past camper or family friend who can share their experiences.
- Familiarize yourself with the camp’s policies on masking and COVID vaccination and whether there are quarantine guidelines in place in case of an outbreak or risk.