Many of us remember going to summer camp and having a wonderful time swimming, playing capture the flag, making intricate friendship bracelets, and lots of new friends. It was great to sleep in the cabin and roam through the woods and be away from our parents and siblings for a week or two.
Spending time away from family is a great way for kids to learn how to be more independent and resilient. It is also, for many children the only time that they have access to unstructured play. There are many known benefits to unstructured play including learning to negotiate cooperation between children of different ages and backgrounds.
Choosing the best camp and deciding when your child is ready for sleepaway camp can be difficult. Follow these tips for ensuring your child has the best summer camp experience possible.
How to know if my child is ready for camp
Many children spend several years going to day camp before heading off to sleepaway camp. Most children are ready for overnight camp at age 12. Some children are ready earlier as early as age 7, especially if they have an older sibling that is also going to the same camp. How your child handles sleepovers is a good clue for you to determine if they can handle a week or more away from home.
There are some other things to consider before you send your child to summer camp. If your child has food allergies or difficulty eating unfamiliar food you will want to prepare your child for what to do when facing food that they can’t eat. Many camps deal with these situations frequently and can accommodate food allergies and have backup sandwiches for picky eaters. If your child has occasional bedwetting, you can talk to a camp director about the best way to accommodate your child.
Choosing the best camp for your child
If you and your kid have decided it is time for sleepaway camp, choosing the best one for your family is the next step. You may have gone to camp as a child and want to continue that tradition which is a great idea.
If your child has a special interest, that can be something to consider. There are camps that specialize in many areas including circus themes, academics, rafting trips, horse riding, video games, religion, and so much more. Choosing a sleepaway camp that is themed with your child’s favorite activities in mind is a great way to help ensure your child has a good summer camp experience.
If your child has special needs there are many camps that specialize in accommodating children with developmental or physical disabilities. You don’t have to choose a camp that focuses on children with special needs, many camps can provide the right resources for your family and ensure your child has a wonderful time.
You can find out a lot about camps through website reviews, talking to other parents, and talking to teachers. You don’t want to risk sending your child to a camp that is unsafe or not run well. You can also do some research on camps that have been around for a long time. There are many camps that have been operating for decades. They are generally a safe bet because bad camps go out of business quickly. There are also a number of reputable organizations that usually be relied upon for a safe and fun camping experience. Think of scouts, YMCA, churches, and other local organizations.
How to get your child ready for camp
When your family has found an amazing camp and you are looking forward to the experience, there may still be some areas where you can help your child prepare for camp. Many kids don’t do well when unexpected situations arise, so you can help ensure this is less likely to happen.
Start by talking about your own good summer camp experiences if you have them. This can help your kiddo get excited about what to expect. Maybe take a short camping trip with the family before summer camp starts so your little one can get an idea of using latrines or camp bathrooms, using camp showers, and you can help your child learn to spot plants to stay away from like poison ivy.
Talk to your child about homesickness and some of the best ways to deal with it. Make sure she has lots of paper, stamps, and envelopes so she can write home if she feels homesick. It is also a nice idea to send a letter to your camper a couple days before camp starts so she gets it on the first day of camp.
Ask your child if he is nervous about anything and talk about ways to make him less nervous. This is a good time to talk about what you want him to do at camp, like participate in camp pick-up, making new friends, and trying new activities.
Sending your children to summer camp
Summer camp is a source of fond memories for many adults. Help ensure your child has the best summer camp experience possible by following these tips.