Summer Camp Safety 101
Tanni Haas, Ph.D.
As you’re getting the kids ready for one of the year’s absolute highlights – summer camp – teach them how to stay safe while they are having fun. Based on my own experiences as a parent of summer campers as well as conversations with other parents, I’ve pulled together a list of some of the most important safety concerns.
Few things are as important as teaching your kids to stay properly hydrated all day. It is hot outside, they sweat a lot, but they are having fun so they often forget to drink at all or as much as they should be drinking. You do not want them to get dehydrated or, worse, get a heat stroke so shop together for a water bottle that they like and remind them to fill it up throughout the day. Find out what the camp counselors do to ensure that the kids stay hydrated. Do they remind them to drink? Do the campers have regular water breaks during the day?
Sun safety also means teaching your kids to put on sunscreen whenever they are about to go outside and to reapply it throughout the day. Buy some sunscreen before camp starts and make your kids try it to ensure they do not have any adverse reactions to it.
Most kids love to splash around with their friends in the camp swimming pool, if there is one. It is a source of endless fun, but it can also be dangerous if they do not know basic water safety and how to swim. If your kids are not already proficient swimmers, sign them up for swimming lessons before camp starts and encourage them to never engage in dangerous activities like holding someone else’s head under water. Ask the camp what it does to enforce water safety? Is the pool always supervised by lifeguards who are trained in CPR? Does the pool have rescue equipment like life jackets and a shepherd’s hook to grab kids who may be drowning? Is play time organized by proficiency level so that beginners and advanced swimmers are not in the pool at the same time?
Another popular activity in many summer camps is hiking. Summer camps are often located in beautiful surroundings, so it only makes sense to take the kids on a hike. To avoid that your kids slip or fall, pack a pair of hiking boots with good traction so that their feet stay steady on the ground. Remind them not to take any unnecessary risks, like walking too close to cliff sides or run where they should be walking. It will get the other kids’ attention, but it is dangerous and not worth it.
Kids do get sick at camp. Hopefully, it is not going to be anything serious. But to be on the safe side, provide the camp with a detailed health history, including illnesses, injuries, operations, allergies, and current medical problems (if any). Review the facilities and activities for anything that might trigger medical/allergic reactions. Give the camp copies (front and back) of your hospital, medical and dental insurance cards. Finally, make sure that the camp has a well-staffed and well-equipped medical station, know their procedures for dispensing medication, and explain to your kids who to alert if something is wrong with them.
Many summer camps take the kids on day or overnight trips, which can be great fun. To avoid any accident driving to and from their destinations, teach your kids proper behavior while on board a vehicle – stay seated at all times and buckle up – and ask the camp whether the vehicles are inspected regularly by qualified mechanics.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College
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