Is my child ready for residential camp?
Going to summer camp is a wonderful and fun way for a child to build self-confidence, learn and increase skills in a variety of activities, and develop an open and accepting view of all people.
Of course, camp directors want every kid to attend camp, because a summer camp is an extension of a child’s formal education. They also believe all kids can be ready for camp. Many parents also want their child to experience the wonders of residential camp, but some question if their child is ready to leave home.
To determine if your child is ready to attend a residential camp, ask these questions:
- Is your child asking to go to camp or asking about camp?
- Has your child heard stories about camp from friends or family members and is now showing interest in summer camp?
- Does your child enjoy attending sleepovers with friends or family?
- Does your child show a natural independence and curiosity about life?
- Has your child gone to day camp and now wants a new experience at a residential one?
- Does your child learn more by doing instead of sitting in a classroom?
- The answers to the questions above will provide clues to determine if a child is ready to go to residential camp. However, sometimes a child still needs a gentle nudge in the camp direction.
- Start searching for a camp the moment the child asks about it, or if you think your child would benefit from the camp experience. If parents sit down with their child and investigate camps online, mutual excitement and education can be discovered together.
Teach your child about what summer camps are, talk about what type of camp might interest them, and explore camp options together. A more specialized camp may be perfect for one child while another may enjoy an all-around camp experience. Sometimes parents narrow down the camp choice, and give their child the final decision; sometimes a decision is reached together as a family.
If parents are still not sure if their child is ready for a residential camp or if the child is hesitant to go, start with a three-to-five-day session length and see how that goes. However, understand that it takes a child a few days to get acclimated to camp life, so the choice of a longer session length (two to four weeks) will give them time to truly be immersed into the camp environment, form deep connections, and want to go back the following summer.
Any age is a good age to start camp, but how quickly a child accepts their new surroundings at camp depends on how the child and family prepare for the summer. Attitude is everything. With enthusiasm even the shyest kid can blossom at camp. There’s a perfect camp out there for everyone.
Susan Chenet is the assistant director of Camp Wa-Klo, located in Jaffrey.