- Two girls first attended camp for 3 1/2 weeks as 6-year olds, and returned to camp enthusiastically for many years.
- A 7-year old came for a week and was exceedingly homesick. She returned 2 years later and flourished.
- A 6-year old camper was not at all homesick, but wasn’t able to participate in a large group setting where she needed to follow rules. She returned at age 8 and enjoyed an outstanding summer.
- An 11-year old came to camp for the very first time for seven weeks. She appeared timid when she arrived, yet after one week in a cabin she wholeheartedly embraced all aspects of camp and thoroughly enjoyed camp.
- An 8-year old came to camp knowing only minimal English. The girl was homesick the first two nights, but otherwise smiled broadly, made friends and her English improved dramatically.
The success of each camper was less age-dependent and more aligned with the child’s independence, his or her ability to participate in a group and the signals a parent sent to his or her child.
Mull over these four questions as you consider if your child is ready for summer camp:
- Has your child successfully completed a sleepover away from home?
- Can your child participate in a group without having attention focused solely on him and his needs? Camp is a place where everyone takes turns clearing the dining table, each camper helps keep the cabin neat, swimming is only allowed at designated times and other group norms are necessary.
- Can your child be reasonably quiet for an extended rest time and after taps?
- Are you as a parent comfortable supporting your child and letting her try out her own wings without your constant vigilance?
These aren’t meant to be yes or no questions, as each can be enhanced just by being at camp. But if your child has gone to several sleepovers and each time the host parent has called at 11 p.m. for you to pick up your son, he may not yet be ready for camp. Or if your child is 6 or 7 and hasn’t yet learned how to participate as a member of a group, then you may want to wait a year before you register her.
A family who offers positive encouragement and a child who is able to learn how to cooperate in a group is ready for the gift of sleep-away summer camp.