As the largest provider of summer camps in the U.S., the YMCA makes sure that kids have fun but also learn to socialize, share and develop new interests. All camps of the YMCA of Greater Seattle nurture the healthy, successful growth of every camper by emphasizing values such as caring, honesty, respect and responsibility. And we make sure you know about and are comfortable with the activities your child takes part in every day.
YMCA Camps - Essential Ingredients
There are five essential ingredients of quality summer camps, all of them incorporated into YMCA camps:
- Positive and healthy relationships
- A spacious and appropriate environment
- Engaging and diverse activities
- Emphasis on safety and health
- A highly effective administration
Human Relationships: The Heart and Soul of Quality
Positive relationships among campers, staff and parents are critical for each child's healthy development and social growth. A small ratio of campers to staff enables each YMCA leader to engage in activities and conversations with each camper every day.
In a quality program like the YMCA's, staff are upbeat and interact with campers with warmth, patience, understanding and fairness. In addition they:
- are responsive to a wide range of camper's feelings, needs, cultures, abilities and languages
- encourage leadership skills in campers by letting them offer ideas to expand or enrich an activity and suggest and initiate activities
- allow campers - as a key part of learning - to make and learn from their own mistakes
We also make sure that there are positive relationships among staff. We know that campers look to camp staff as role models, watching and learning as they cooperate, communicate and solve problems with each other.
Our camp leadership staff spend time developing positive relationships with families - making it possible for busy, over-extended parents to become engaged in their camper's experience. We understand that open communication between staff and parents is critical for the well-being of each camper.
A Great Environment
The physical environment of YMCA camps creates learning and growth opportunities as campers interact, discover and play. Whether outdoors at a local park or campground, or in a classroom setting with access to the outdoors, we make sure that every camp provides a safe and interesting environment. Sometimes you may drop off at one site, with your child spending the day at the main camp location. In this case, we ensure that each site meets specific needs - a drop off location with space for structured activities (often indoor play, individual choice) and a main camp with many activities to offer campers all day.
The Right Camp for Your Child
When assessing any summer camp consider these basic questions:
- Does the camp location and setup offer the proper environment for the camp's focus?
- for a basketball camp, this may be a gym,
- for an outdoor camp, this may be fields and forests in a local park,
- for a specialty camp this may be a classroom with access to program space for skill development
- Does the physical environment allow for a variety of age-appropriate activities to be conducted simultaneously?
- Does the location include adequate room for big games and activities, crafts, eating, and small group work?
- Is there a variety of diverse and engaging activities for both large and small groups?
- Are there activities designed to develop camper's social skills such as small group games, skits, songs or team development?
- Are there active games and other play that help develop physical coordination and growth?
- Are there opportunities for campers to learn new skills and awareness?
- For older youth, are there purposeful opportunities to develop leadership, special skills and enjoy a positive group environment?
- Is the camp FUN?
Will My Child Be OK While I'm at Work?
For many families, YMCA summer camps provide care while parents are at work. At the YMCA, the safety and health of campers are our top concerns. Look for:
- Equipment & environment that is safe, clean and appropriate for the ages and abilities of the campers using it
- A staff member who is trained in CPR and first aid and always available and a basic first aid kit that is nearby at all times
- Emergency plans and procedures and staff who are trained to respond appropriately to any possible emergency
- An appropriate number of staff for the number of campers
- Constant supervision of campers
- Procedures to screen visitors and to ensure that no one other than an approved adult leaves with a camper
- Staff who are responsive to the individual needs of each camper
- Nutritious and plentiful snacks and other food
Good Administration - The Backbone of Quality
As mundane as it may sound, solid camp leadership establishes and maintains stability for quality camp programs. It directly affects the comfort, security and development of campers and youth.
Effective Camp Leadership makes it possible to:
- Have staff stay focused on the fun activities and developmental needs of their campers
- Keep communication open and parents updated on camp programs and plans
- Build a fun, positive camp environment for all staff & campers to enjoy
- Provide staff training. Quality camp programs employ highly qualified staff who have the necessary training.
- Deliver camp in a manner consistent with the American Camping Association standards (or those of other governing bodies where appropriate)
- Staff who interact with each other and campers in a positive way
- Written parent communication, including a handbook and schedule of activities for each camp
- Signage or notice of the camp's accreditation with the American Camping Association or state license (where appropriate)