Your child going to summer camp for the first time is a big step in his or her life. So how do you know when the right time is to send your child to camp? The American Camp Association, NY and NJ recommends families consider the following when figuring out whether your child is ready for camp and how to prepare your child for the experience.
Age - You want to consider your child’s age when considering camp. Day camps are designed for children three years old and up. Children can go to sleepaway camp at the age of seven. But families should keep in mind that just because a child is seven years old, doesn’t mean he or she is emotionally ready for sleepaway camp.
Interest & Readiness - Talk to your child and assess his or her readiness. How did your child become interested in going to camp? Is your child excited about camp? Is your child comfortable separating from you? Answering these questions will help you determine if your child is both interested and ready for camp. Remember, the decision to go to camp should be made together. Keep in mind that the more involved children are in the process, the more ownership they feel. This helps ease concerns about camp, and can help make a child’s camp experience more successful.
Day or Sleepaway - If you are considering sleepaway camp, make sure your child has had successful overnights away from home with friends and relatives. Were these overnights positive experiences? You want to make sure your child is mature enough to go away for an extended period of time and that that he or she can do certain things independently like showering, getting dressed and brushing their teeth.
Expectations – Lean about the camp program ahead of time and create positive expectations for your child. Talk about camp leading up to the beginning of camp. When you can, tour the camp before registering. Touring allows children to get a feel for the camp and can build a child’s excitement about camp while also giving them a chance to get to know the camp. Ask a camp director to do a home visit. This will allow you to get to know the camp director and for your child to get a feel for the camp program.
Positive Messages - It is important for parents to share positive messages about summer camp. It is common for a child to have some apprehension about camp, just like he or she would for any first experience. Encourage your child to talk about these feelings. Let your child know you are confident in your child’s ability to have a wonderful summer camp experience.
Need assistance in finding a camp? Families can contact the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey’s Camper Placement Specialist Renee Flax for free, one-on-one advice in finding the right camp for their child. Renee can be reached at 212.391.5208 or families can visit searchforacamp.org to search accredited summer camps.