Parent FAQ

We encourage you to call us here at camp if you’d like to discuss sending your child to camp. We love to speak directly with parents. We hope these might answer some of your most common questions:

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Can I talk to my child on the phone while they’re at camp?

Generally speaking, no. We take no pleasure in limiting this sort of contact; rather, we believe that one of the important benefits of the camping experience is gaining independence and self-reliance. Telephone calls frequently defeat that goal. We encourage both parents and campers to write letters to keep in touch. Of course, we make exceptions in cases of emergency.

Can I visit my child at camp?

Absolutely, but you should not feel obligated to do so. We have some guidelines that we ask you to follow, which can be found in the Parent Account for all enrolled and waitlisted campers or here on this website.

How does my child get to camp?

We have lots of options. Of course, being on an island affects everything we do with respect to transportation, but we’ve gotten pretty good at helping families figure it out over the years.

For families from the Bay Area and from Southern California, we have group flights that we arrange through a travel agent. Information can be found in the Parent Account for all enrolled and waitlisted campers. For those flights as well as others from all over the world, we have staff at SeaTac airport to pick up campers at the gates as they get off their planes. From SeaTac, campers ride buses with staff to Skyline Marina in Anacortes, where we have chartered boats which bring the campers directly to the Four Winds dock.

We can also meet campers at the Woodland Park in Seattle and at Skyline Marina in Anacortes. Of course, if you prefer, you can simply drop your child off at our property.

There is a form in the Parent Account for enrolled campers only in which you’ll give us the details of your child’s travel plans. Of course, this is essential information for us in the process of getting your child to Camp safely and on time. Please fill it out carefully and feel free to call us with any questions.

Can I arrange for my child’s flight to land at Sea Tac after the prescribed time?

Our goal is to get all the children to Camp at the same time on arrival day, and have them all depart at the same time on departure day. This leaves us with a small window of time in which flights can land and take off. Sometimes these windows can present a challenge, especially for families coming from the East Coast or from abroad. If you don’t think you can find flights that land and take off within the windows listed on the travel form in your Parent Account, please give us a call. We’ve dealt with lots of complicated travel scenarios over the years, and we can probably help.

What about luggage?

We will send you tags in the mail for you camper’s bags. These tags help us identify Four Winds bags at the airport and are color coded so we can bring them to the right place in Camp. For siblings, it’s important to get the right tags on the right bags, or we often end up bringing the brother’s bag to Girls' Side, and so on. This isn’t the end of the world, but it does create a delay in your camper receiving their stuff, which can be a bit stressful, especially for first time campers.

If your child is flying to Camp, things are obviously a touch more complicated than if they’re being dropped off at Camp, the Museum of History and Industry, or Skyline Marina in Anacortes. The advent of airlines charging for checked bags has complicated things, but we manage. You can pay for any excess baggage fees on the way to Camp. On the way home, we’re happy to charge it to the Camp credit card and bill your account.

As anyone who flies a bit knows, checking bags with airlines is a percentages game, and with 100 kids flying to Camp with 2 bags each, it should come as no surprise that the airlines often lose one or two. If this happens to your child, we’ll make sure they have the essentials (underwear, toothbrush, and the like) during the day or two it will take to get the bag to the island. Luckily, our uniforms make this a bit easier.

Some parents choose to avoid the whole fiasco by simply shipping bags to Camp in advance. This is fine, and we are happy to store the bags for a few days before Camp begins and facilitate shipping them home at the end.

Can my child arrive a few days late, or leave early?

Unfortunately, no. Over the years, we’ve found that the first few days are critical to forming group dynamics and establishing norms within the cabin or tent group, and that the last few days are essential to wrapping up a camper’s experience. The first and last 72 hours of Camp are perhaps the most important times of the session and missing them affects not only the camper that’s gone, but the entire cabin or tent group. We recognize that this occasionally presents a scheduling challenge for families. We stick to this policy because we believe it’s one of the things that makes Four Winds a truly excellent Camp experience, and we appreciate your understanding.

Can I call the office to see how my child is doing?

Definitely. At Camp, we believe that people grow when they challenge themselves. Challenge is, by definition, hard. We recognize that the separation between parents and children that Camp represents is often at least as hard on the parents as it is on the children. If you need a little reassurance, just call. We're happy to give you a report.

Can I send a package to my child at camp?

Yes. Generally speaking, letters are more important than packages (more on letters in a minute), but a couple of packages over the course of the session can be fun. We encourage you to send non-electronic toys, magazines, games and the like in packages. Decorations for the cabin or tent for a birthday, the Fourth of July, le quatorze juillet, or Canada Day can be a great treat (Sorry, all the national holidays I could think of were during First Session.) In terms of frequency, two or three care packages over the course of the session is plenty.

We ask that you do not send food of any kind in packages. We have quite a raccoon population at Camp, and they don’t need any further encouragement. All packages will be opened in the camper’s presence, and food will be confiscated. In the past, we’ve had parents try to hide food in stuffed animals and so forth. Please don’t do this – it sends a message to kids that rules are meant to be circumvented, and while we're quite good at finding the hidden stuff, it's hard on both campers and staff to have to confiscate food.

What about those letters you mentioned?

The dying art of letter writing is alive and well at Four Winds in the summer. Kids love getting letters, and we encourage you to write them. It’s a good idea to talk with your child about how many letters you’ll write before Camp starts so they have a good idea of what to expect. Many parents write a letter to their child and mail it a day to before the session begins so the camper receives a letter on the first day.

In terms of what to write, we encourage you to keep your letters newsy and upbeat, especially if you are concerned that your child might be experiencing homesickness. It’s also a wonderful idea to ask questions about your child’s camp experience in letters. Feel free to call us if you’d like some more advice on this.

We also recommend that you talk to your child about how many letters they will write to you while they’re at Camp. We make sure all the campers write you a postcard on the first night of Camp to let you know they arrived safely, and we do our best to make sure they write at least one letter a week, but we can use your help on this. If you haven’t received any letters in a while, you can call us and we can remind your child to get writing.

Sometimes parents receive a letter from their child that concerns them. A camper might report a dispute with a cabin mate, homesickness, or some other problem. Please call us if you receive a letter that concerns you. Most times, we’re already aware of the issue and it’s resolved or on its way to resolution by the time you receive the letter. Occasionally, we discover an issue we weren’t aware of this way, and a parent’s call enables us to get on the problem.

What if my child is homesick?

Children are at camp for a long time, and homesickness does occur from time to time; it is only natural. It’s a wonderful growth experience when children, with the help of parents and counselors, are able to overcome those feelings and have a great time at Camp. Our counseling staff members are certainly sensitive to this important issue, and are well prepared and able to give support, comfort, and encouragement to your child should they begin to miss home. If this is a concern for you, please feel free to call us at any time before or during camp.

There is one strategy that we’ve found over the years is bound for failure – we call it the “If you don’t like it after a week I’ll come pick you up” strategy. This sets up a situation where the child views the end of the first week as the finish line. Kids who know they are staying at Camp for four weeks are much more willing to let go of homesickness feelings and have fun, whereas kids who believe that they can go home in a week if they’re still homesick will try to hold onto those feelings of homesickness so they can go home. When the end of the week comes, parents are met with a brutal choice between betraying the deal they made with their child and sending them a message that they’re not capable of being away from home.

In place of this strategy, we suggest the “We know you can do this” strategy. Whenever the issue of homesickness comes up, tell your child how confident you are in them. Keep this up when you’re writing letters during the session. We’ve found that when parents are sending this message and our counselors are giving encouragement and support, some 99% of homesick kids feel much better by the end of a week or so, and are dying to come back to camp the following summer.

If you feel you must make the “I’ll pick you up” bargain in order to convince your child to come to Camp, please call us. Chances are, it’s better to wait a year to send that child to Camp.

Can my child be in a cabin with their friend?

We do everything we can to place first year campers with one friend of the same grade and gender. There’s a place to make this request on the Camper Profile form that can be found in the Forms & Documents section of your Parent Account. After the first year, you are welcome to make requests, but we do not make promises about fulfilling them. We fully embrace the adage, “Make new friends, and keep the old.” We’ve found that when we place the same friend group in cabins and tents together year after year that the social fabric of camp becomes cliquish and stagnant, and so we mix the kids up from year to year.

How does my child select their activities?

For our four week sessions, in four ways. First, there is a form in the Forms & Documents section of your Parent Account listing our activities on which you should make requests. Half of your child’s schedule will be created before the children arrive using this form. If there are activities that you or your child place a high value on, we encourage you to request them on this form and submit the form as early as you can, as some of our classes do fill before the children arrive.

The second of half of your child’s schedule will be created based on the requests they make at the end of the first full day of camp, which is called Rotation Day. The campers will have an opportunity to see what’s offered and make their requests with the help of their counselors, and our activity area heads and office staff work furiously to have completed schedules ready by breakfast on the second full day of Camp, which is the first day of classes.

After two full days of classes, we have the “Gypsy Switch,” in which campers have an opportunity to trade classes they don’t like for ones that they do.

Lastly, every day we have fourth period, which is an unscheduled period in which campers can go to any activity area they choose.

Our Junior Session is designed to be an introduction to the full session, and we want those campers to get a taste of everything. So, we schedule Junior Session campers such that every camper gets to every activity two or three times over the course of the week.

What should my child bring to camp? And where does all that stuff go in their cabin or tent?

You can find our packing lists in pdf format for the four week sessions here, and for the Junior Session here. Because we provide uniforms that the campers wear daily, kids need to bring less stuff to camp than they might for another four week experience, though it's our sense that veteran campers tend to fill that space with crazy costumes to be worn at Folk Dances. In terms of where it all goes, we provide each camper with what we call a "sea chest." It's basically a foot locker that's about 2 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet.

What's the story with bathrooms and showers?

We have shower houses dispersed throughout the cabins and tents. The closest shower house is no more than about 50 yards from each cabin and tent. The shower houses have hot running water and electricity, unlike our cabins and tents. Because we conserve water at camp, showers are taken every other day. They are taken in private stalls, with a private changing area attached to each shower stall.

Are you accredited by any outside organization?

Funny you should ask. We are accredited by the American Camp Association. As part of our commitment to a safe, quality program, we undergo a systemic check of over 200 standards set by the ACA, covering a wide range of topic including activity safety guidelines, staff/camper ratios, facility, health and wellness, transportation, and food safety.