At Camp W in Melville, we genuinely believe in a lot of one-on-one attention, and that’s why we make sure that we never have more than fifteen campers in a group, and just twelve per group for our Kiddie Camp Division. This allows us to maintain a relatively small camper to counselor ratio, and to give kids the individualized care in which to thrive.
I cannot overemphasize the importance of having the right group size. We find twelve to fifteen kids to be ideal: large enough so that campers can still play together and receive the benefits of collaborating as a group; but small enough to guarantee they won’t feel lost in the crowd. When a group is too large (as is the case at some Long Island day camps), it becomes unruly, difficult to organize, and not nearly as personally-oriented. When that happens, kids miss out on at-bats and extra turns, and they don’t feel as much a part of things.
Limiting group sizes also make it so that kids can benefit more from specialist periods. If a specialist has to observe twenty-five or thirty campers, he or she can’t give each the time and quality attention to each that they need to ensure that they are developing new skills and having a good time doing so. We want our specialists to be directly hands-on, interacting with kids and helping them strive and succeed. Whether it’s a major sport like softball or soccer; or a fun hobby, such as cooking, Arts & Crafts, or dance; we expect that specialists will know each kid well and what motivates them. If they’re busy trying to regulate a massive group, they can’t do that. But we don’t let that happen at Camp W: if you walk around the grounds on any given day, you’ll see kids getting direct instruction in everything from karate to rocketry to how to be a disc jockey. The kids are happier because they’re learning more and because their accomplishments are not going unrecognized.
We also have smaller groups because it’s just simply safer, and safety is our number one priority. Keeping the counselor to kid ratio down helps ensure that no campers are ever unaccounted for, that every group moves from one activity to the next as a unit, and that counselors can better monitor the kids and immediately identify any potential issues or concerns. We have kids who have allergies that require attending to and some that have specific medical needs. Keeping the groups smaller allows the counselors to stay on top of such things so that parents can rest assured that everything is taken care of and that nothing will be overlooked.
And then there’s the development of friendships to be taken into account. Camp W in Melville has always claimed – and very accurately so, I’d say – that we are Long Island’s premiere day camp because we are the place “where friendships are made,” and that’s true! Part of the reason for this, though, is because our small groups give kids a chance to get to know each other more. While at other Long Island day camps kids can go a whole summer without ever really speaking to one another, at Camp W we just don’t let that happen: by midsummer, all of the kids in our groups feel like they’ve known each other for years, even if they just met four weeks prior. Nobody ever feels left out and they never have to worry about who they’re going to sit with at lunch or whether or not they’ll have someone to talk to when they meet in the morning. It’s not a coincidence that Camp W kids tend to keep in contact long after the summer has ended: there’s a camaraderie that our small group structure helps establish that withstands the test of time.
This helps parents as well. Since the groups aren’t gargantuan, it’s easy for parents to get to know one another. Basically, everyone knows everyone else, and it makes for a fantastic community.
We’re dedicated to producing happy kids coming off the bus each afternoon, and our small group set up makes it easier to do so by giving kids the direct attention they need.