Problems with one week summer camp - what to do? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 07-18-2012, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DD (4 1/2) is at a nature based summer camp this week. It is run through a local conservancy group. The camp is held at someone's home who is also raising a few farm animals. Think homesteading, not a farm. We are having a few problems, and I am not sure how to handle it. The age group is 4-7 year olds.

 

On Monday, DD came home with a tick. This didn't bother me. Kids are outside, they get ticks. If this was the only thing that happened this week, I wouldn't have given it a second thought.

 

Today, however, has my red flags going off. The camp theme of the week is fairies, and today's activity was going down to the creek. My concern right now is not enough supervision. This is what has happened to make me feel this way (with my biggest concerns in bold):

- At least two of the children (one was my DD) did not drink any water during the 3 1/2 hour camp. Both the other mother and I noticed it at pick-up, when our daughter's water bottles were both completely full. At her last camp (at a nearby nature center), they gave reminders to the children to take a drink of water.

- They were not given a snack today. A mid-morning snack was mentioned in the camp description as provided by the camp, and this is an expensive camp. I expected a snack to be provided. I saw the camp organizer get out a bag of grapes and offer it to the kids as the cars pulled in for pick-up at the end. DD also did not eat anything out of her lunchbox today. I don't know if they were given a chance to eat lunch or if she just wasn't feeling well. But when I asked if they offered her a snack, she said "No, and I was hungry too!"

- She had a meltdown in the car on the way home because she said she asked the 'teacher' three times if she could go to the bathroom, and no one took her. My daughter is a very quiet child; I asked her if the teacher was looking at her when she asked, and she said no. I'm thinking the counselor did not hear her ask (multiple times?). But should there have been scheduled bathroom breaks for this age?

- An hour after DD came home she had diarrhea. So far, it has happened twice. Maybe it's gastroenteritis. Maybe she drank the water in the creek. Maybe she has early signs of something related to the tick bite. Right now, I have no idea, and neither does hubby (who is a doctor).

- We were asked to bring along a change of clothes for after water play. When I picked her up, both sets of clothes, backpack, and lunchbox were covered in mud. Again, if this was the only thing that happened, I wouldn't care. DD said she changed in the middle of play because she 'wanted to wear her other outfit'.

 

So, what should I do? I plan on emailing the person organizing the camp. She is an older woman, and always acts extremely flustered at drop off and pick up. I feel like she might not be able to handle this age. She is not a friend, but I do see her frequently. She runs the kid's table at our local farmer's market, so I don't really want to jump down her throat. And I don't want to be a helicopter mom. :-)

 

Are my concerns valid? I'm somewhat tempted to take her out the rest of the week (and I will definitely keep her out tomorrow if the diarrhea continues). This camp cost twice as much as the one that we went to at the nature center (and these are my only two weeks during the summer that I can try and get a decent amount of work done). I'm really frustrated right now, but don't want to contact the camp organizer until I cool down and am less likely to stick my foot in my mouth.


 

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#2 of 8 Old 07-18-2012, 11:59 AM
 
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How many kids are there and how many adults?  And do all of the kids have some sort of school experience?  Does yours? 

 

I think all of these things could change your approach.  If your child is among the youngest or doesn't have school experience, then you might want to politely remind the director that she may not be used to working with a group of kids a one teacher.  Definitely ask for clarification on the rules for using the bathroom (some of the camps my kids go to have regular schedule, some allow kids to go at will with a buddy, some require adult accompany kids to the restroom...).  Ask about the schedule -- confirm how much time is allowed for lunch and when snack is given.  Confirm that snacks are included.  Ask about water -- maybe they are drinking from a fountain or water is provided and that's why they aren't drinking from their bottles.  These are all definitely reasonable questions and things you need to know before taking any other steps.  Of course, if the answers are not to your liking then you can say something about not working for your child and asking for a change.  Seems like its probably a pretty small group and that wouldn't be an unreasonable request.


But in general, I would expect a kid at camp to be independent enough to decide how much lunch to eat and how much water to drink.  I am really unhappy when camp counselors or teachers try to force (or even "encourage") my often-not-hungry daughter to eat.
 

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#3 of 8 Old 07-18-2012, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post

How many kids are there and how many adults?  6 kids, 1 adult. And do all of the kids have some sort of school experience?  No idea. Does yours? Yes, she attended Montessori preschool last year 5 days a week. Most of the kids are 4 and 5.

 

I think all of these things could change your approach.  If your child is among the youngest or doesn't have school experience, then you might want to politely remind the director that she may not be used to working with a group of kids a one teacher.  Definitely ask for clarification on the rules for using the bathroom (some of the camps my kids go to have regular schedule, some allow kids to go at will with a buddy, some require adult accompany kids to the restroom...).  Ask about the schedule -- confirm how much time is allowed for lunch and when snack is given.  Confirm that snacks are included.  Ask about water -- maybe they are drinking from a fountain or water is provided and that's why they aren't drinking from their bottles.  These are all definitely reasonable questions and things you need to know before taking any other steps.  Of course, if the answers are not to your liking then you can say something about not working for your child and asking for a change.  Seems like its probably a pretty small group and that wouldn't be an unreasonable request.

They did provide snacks on Monday and Tuesday. No water fountain, it is at someone's home/homestead farm, definitely no water was consumed today, I asked both my daughter and the organizer. Today, they were a 5 minute walk from the home's bathroom, they were down at the end of the property at the creek, which is why my daughter didn't just go and use the bathroom independently. Nor would I want her to wander through a strange woods trying to find her way back to the bathroom by herself.


But in general, I would expect a kid at camp to be independent enough to decide how much lunch to eat and how much water to drink.  I am really unhappy when camp counselors or teachers try to force (or even "encourage") my often-not-hungry daughter to eat.
My daughter forgets to drink water when she is super excited and having fun. I like it when they are reminded at this age. I don't care about the eating, but it is 97 degrees and 100% humidity here (we live in the South). It is just not safe to go that long outdoors without having anything to drink.

With that extra info, what do you think? I don't really want to pull her out of the camp, it is only 2 more days and she is having a lot of fun. I just want to make sure she is safe, too. I am super laid back, this is the first time her safety at a structured event has concerned me.


 

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#4 of 8 Old 07-18-2012, 12:58 PM
 
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With 6 kids, most of them pretty young, yeah, I think she should be a lot more hands-on in her approach to these things. 

 

I think I would stop at pick-up and say "I have some concerns.  Would you like to talk now or should I call you this evening?"  I think it would be perfectly reasonable for you to ask that she:

*  Schedule a group bathroom trip before leaving the house.  However, if there is only one adult and they are away from the house, I'm not sure what the right/fair thing to do is.  Seems a shame to drag 6 kids away from the activity for 1 to use the restroom.  That's one of the reasons that commercial daycamps always have at least 2 counselors regardless of group size.

*  Remind the kids to drink water every however often you think would be good

*  Keep a close eye on the kids around the creek and re-direct from drinking the water or any other unsafe activity

*  Provide the snack at a consistent time each day

*  Supervise lunch and encourage kids to each rather than play or whatever

 

This seems to be pretty close to a preschool class situation and it seems perfectly reasonable to expect it to be run like one - especially if it were a pricey camp!

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#5 of 8 Old 07-18-2012, 01:17 PM
 
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I agree with PP - all of your concerns are extremely reasonable and should be addressed.  The water and bathroom issues are also the biggest red flags to me.  I was a camp counselor for three summers during college, working with kids ages 5-16, and even with the teenagers, we were expected to at least remind them to drink water a few times a day and to use the bathroom before leaving for a field trip or scheduled activity.  With children younger than 10, we strongly encouraged them to finish at least one water bottle a day, and on top of regular reminders and scheduled bathroom breaks, we took them to the bathroom as soon as it was requested (if possible).  As PP mentioned, we always had at least 2 counselors per group, regardless of size.  Some of the other concerns sound like they could be the results of less-than-perfect supervision, but also seem like they could just be about the mindset of the program/counselor.

 

Good camp counselors and programs will do these types of things, especially with younger children.  It sounds like your daughter can handle a lot of independence, which is great, and camps expect and appreciate that, but they can only expect so much out of young children.  Having been in the habit of reminding (but not forcing) all ages up to 16 to drink water in hot weather at the camps I worked for, it's a bit startling to think of a 4 year old not being encouraged all day.  I wouldn't pull your DD out, but I would definitely talk to the counselor/leader of the program about some of these really specific concerns.  Keep it simple and to-the-point, and she'll be hard pressed not to pay more attention to your DD.  I would also recommend saying something in the morning like, "I'd love to chat this afternoon about how she did today!"  This makes it much more likely that she'll pay special attention.

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#6 of 8 Old 07-18-2012, 03:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree with PP - all of your concerns are extremely reasonable and should be addressed.  The water and bathroom issues are also the biggest red flags to me.  I was a camp counselor for three summers during college, working with kids ages 5-16, and even with the teenagers, we were expected to at least remind them to drink water a few times a day and to use the bathroom before leaving for a field trip or scheduled activity.  With children younger than 10, we strongly encouraged them to finish at least one water bottle a day, and on top of regular reminders and scheduled bathroom breaks, we took them to the bathroom as soon as it was requested (if possible).  As PP mentioned, we always had at least 2 counselors per group, regardless of size.  Some of the other concerns sound like they could be the results of less-than-perfect supervision, but also seem like they could just be about the mindset of the program/counselor.

 

Good camp counselors and programs will do these types of things, especially with younger children.  It sounds like your daughter can handle a lot of independence, which is great, and camps expect and appreciate that, but they can only expect so much out of young children.  Having been in the habit of reminding (but not forcing) all ages up to 16 to drink water in hot weather at the camps I worked for, it's a bit startling to think of a 4 year old not being encouraged all day.  I wouldn't pull your DD out, but I would definitely talk to the counselor/leader of the program about some of these really specific concerns.  Keep it simple and to-the-point, and she'll be hard pressed not to pay more attention to your DD.  I would also recommend saying something in the morning like, "I'd love to chat this afternoon about how she did today!"  This makes it much more likely that she'll pay special attention.

 



This is really helpful information, thank you. You have also reinforced how much I loved the other camp that we did two weeks ago. That was also a one-week, morning only camp, and the same age group. They had 3 staff for 12 kids, and it was an absolutely wonderful program but on by the county's Nature Center. They did everything you referred to in your post. Ironically, that camp cost 1/2 as much as this one. It's a shame, I otherwise support the group that run's this camp, and I am very surprised that there is only one person there. I guess I have learned for next year a few of the questions to add to my list when checking out a camp!


 

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#7 of 8 Old 07-24-2012, 01:42 PM
 
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I think the real issue is that she is understaffed. She needs a second set of hands for potty breaks etc. at this age.

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#8 of 8 Old 07-24-2012, 02:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OP here with an update:

 

Actually, things did work out and get resolved. I ended up emailing her that night, and it turns out I was not the only parent with these concerns. The rest of the week she had a second person helping her. She also started communicating much more on the remaining days on what they did that day at camp. I think that day they spent at the creek was just a perfect storm of events. I doubt I would re-enroll her for summer camp with them next year, but everything was resolved happily, and DD had a great time the rest of the week.

 

Luckily DD's diarrhea didn't last more than 1 hour, I still have no idea what caused it, but it could have been that the lunches that day were sitting outside for a few hours. She had an ice pack in her bag, and two hardboiled eggs, but I'm not sure if that one ice pack was enough to keep the eggs from going bad in the heat of that day. For the rest of the week I only packed things that could withstand a few hours outside without spoiling.

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