When will I know my child is ready for overnight camp?
Assuming you are ready for your child to go to camp, here are some questions that will help your family make the right decision.
So much goes through the minds of parents as they consider sleep-away camp for their children. While it’s different for every child, the first question we ask parents is: Are you ready for your child to go to sleep-away camp? Our children know us; if we are showing signs of anxiety or reluctance to send them off, they may pick up on it. Assuming you are ready for them to go, here are some questions that will help your family make the right decision.
Who brought up the idea?
Did your child ask about it, possibly because they have friends, or older siblings, who go to camp? Or did the idea come from you and, if so, how did they react? It’s completely normal for children to
have hesitation about attending sleep-away camp. Allow time for the idea to settle with them, and include them in the decision-making process.
Can your child follow directions?
Camp is filled with opportunities to learn new things, make new friends and experience a new level of independence. At camp, we live as a community and setting boundaries with established rules helps everyone get the most out of their time with us. Many times throughout the day, campers are given directions that will set them up for success; having the capability to follow those directions is important.
How are they with caring for their personal hygiene?
At camp, campers will be required to take care of their bodies. Can your camper brush their own teeth? Shower independently? We train our staff in supporting your campers in these endeavors and provide reminders when it’s time to do these important tasks. Camp is a great place for campers to master some of these skills that they are just starting to learn. If your camper can shower on their own but needs help adjusting the water temperature or sometimes uses too much shampoo, they’re ready for camp!
We highly recommend that you don’t put too much emphasis on whether your child has been able to sleep in places other than home. Camp isn’t a sleepover at a friend’s or relative’s house. When our children go on those outings, they don’t have any space that is specifically theirs; they’re a visitor in someone else’s home. At camp, everyone is in the same position: Everyone has the same type of bed, everyone is away from their parents and everyone has the same space. Camp is the great equalizer. We’ve seen campers thrive in the camp environment even when they haven’t thrived at sleepovers back at home.
We also recommend not putting too much weight into whether they are the oldest/middle/youngest child in the family. Every child becomes ready for camp when it’s right for them. Just because their oldest sibling went to camp at age 7, doesn’t mean that everyone in the family will be ready at that same age. At Emma Kaufmann Camp, we treat each child as the unique and special person they are, and we encourage you to evaluate your children on their own abilities.
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Finally, children are incredibly adaptable and sometimes we underestimate what they are capable of since we’ve been taking care of them their entire lives. PJC
Aaron Cantor is director of Emma Kaufmann Camp, a program of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.