The other day, I got a brochure in the mail for a summer sleepaway camp. Firstly, I couldn’t believe it was February and I was already getting mail about summer camp! Apparently camp is one hot reservation! However, it looked like the camp would be lots of fun and had all the camping activities I remember from my own childhood: arts and crafts, swimming, campfires and hiking. I wondered if my daughter was ready for an experience like that. After all, the only time she’s slept somewhere else without us was at her grandparents’ houses.
Camp can be a great experience. It gives children a bit of independence from us parents, teaches them new skills, helps them make new friends and gets them away from all those video games. Not to mention, it’s nice for parents to have a bit of a break too! If you’re like me, though, you may wonder whether your child is old or mature enough to handle an extended period of time away from home. Here’s some ways to determine if camp is a good option for your child this summer.
Is Your Child Camp-Ready?
When it comes to the right age for sleepaway camp, the number can vary. The Child Development Institute recommends that children from ages 10 to 12 are ready for an extended camp stay, based on their maturity level. The institute suggests trying out a weekend away at a relative’s or friend’s house to test the waters first. For the most part, though, this age is an ideal time for a summer sleepaway adventure.
In fact, the Summer Camp Handbook says children as young as 7 may be ready for camp, but there is no “right” age that signifies camp readiness. It all comes down to how comfortable your child is with the idea and if she’s had experience being away from home before. My daughter is comfortable sleeping away from home, so that’s a good sign!
You’ll want to be sure the camp you are considering has programs appropriate for your child’s age range and therefore will attract other campers of the same age. A camp may say it’s for children from 8 to 16, but is actually geared mainly towards those older kids. This might not be a good option for a first-time experience. That’s why it’s important to peruse the camp’s website to see what the age ranges of campers are, or to call and find out how many children in your child’s age group have enrolled.
Benefits of Summer Camp
If your child is emotionally ready, summer camp fosters tons of benefits and provides many special memories. Most importantly, it encourages your child to be independent. After all, you won’t be standing over them reminding them to brush their teeth before bed or to be sure to rinse all the shampoo out. Attending summer camp is a great way to instill a sense of self-reliance and provide a boost of self-esteem.
According to the American Camp Association, children who spend time at summer camp develop their social skills, learn self-respect, build their character, and realize what it’s like to be part of a community. They learn how to effectively communicate with one another, develop leadership skills and take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Children learn resourcefulness (helping to build campfires, helping to make dinner, cleaning their own dishes) and what it means to be a good citizen (helping a fellow camper on that long hike through the woods).
Let’s also not forget that summer camp is fun! Who wouldn’t love to spend an afternoon swimming in a crystal-blue lake with new friends?
What Kind of Camp Is Best?
Today there are so many summer camp options: a scouting camp, a horseback riding camp, a science summer camp, a theater camp, etc. It’s not just about arts and crafts anymore! With this variety, your child will have a great opportunity to explore his interests and have hands-on experience doing something he loves. He may even be inspired for a future career!
Now that I’ve considered all the benefits summer camp can bring, I think I just may sign my daughter up. Hopefully she’ll love it as much as I did and have many fond memories of her own camping experience. Plus, my husband and I can enjoy a bit of a summer break too!
Savannah Marie is a mom and a writer. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading anything she can get her hands on and learning to balance work and home life.