Your child’s summer will undoubtedly include a bit of enrichment, and summer camps offer a smorgasbord of choices, from riding camps to writing camps and everything in between. So, when it’s time to find the right fit for your child, wouldn’t it be great to line them all up and interview them one at a time?

Austin Family magazine’s annual Camp Fair is just that opportunity. On Jan. 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Palmer Events Center, you’ll be able to meet face-to-face with over 85 summer camp providers of all types. And in case you’re stumped as to what questions to ask, here are a few to get you started as you make the rounds.

  1. What does a typical day look like?

You’re asking this question so you can get a feel for what the camp focuses on. There are no right or wrong answers, but you’ll gain insight into, for example, how much time the camp spends developing sports skills or building character traits or fostering creativity, in addition to how much the camp values free time, water breaks and social time.

  1. Can you provide references?

There’s nothing immediately wrong with a camp that can’t readily provide you with a list of references, especially if the camp is in its first year of operation. But it’s a reasonable request to make, and the camp should be able to dig up at least one or two names for you to contact.

  1. How do you screen and train your staff?

This question gets to the heart of who will be working with your child, day in and day out. Ask whether the camp performs criminal background checks or requires first aid and CPR training. For those that transport campers, ask whether the camp reviews its staff’s driving records.

  1. How many campers attend?

Camps come in all sizes, and no particular size is inherently better than another. This question is important because you know what environment best suits your child. If you’ve got a social butterfly or an independent type, a large camp could be perfect. But if your child is more introverted or quiet, he or she might feel more comfortable in a smaller setting.

  1. Do you offer discounts?

Expect to hear a “yes” from many camps, because discounts are common. Following up with more questions will help you get a better understanding of how you can take advantage. Ask if there are promotional specials for signing up early, registering multiple siblings or attending multiple sessions. Ask about discounts for referring other campers. Ask about installment plans.

  1. Where is the camp located?

This question can start a conversation about setting, such as rural or urban, but also give you a chance to ask about shuttle service and parking. Some camps have buses that pick up and drop off at multiple points around town.

  1. What dates and hours are programs available?

You may or may not know your family’s summer schedule at this point in the year. But it’s important to note that not every camp operates every week of the summer. So, don’t assume that the camp will be available for the weeks you’d like to sign up. In particular, you should know that not all camps operate during the week of July 4. Some camps offer both half-day and full-day options. Many provide extra hours of supervision before or after normal camp hours.

These are just a few questions to get you started on your summer camp search. It’s an important decision, and we want to help you make the right one.

Sherida Mock is the editor of Austin Family Magazine and a mother of two.

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