At this time in the year when camp fairs are springing up and parents are trying to nail down summer plans for the whole family and individual kids, the question often arises about whether a child is ready or not for sleepaway camp.
One reason we offer our Mini Camp is for exactly this reason — a short stay of a few days feels more like an extended sleepover, giving a camper time to try her wings. It also gives mom and dad time to find out if they’re ready, too. What we find more often than not is that girls are ready and begging her parents to stay on for first term.
Yea or nay?
But every child is different, as is every family and parent. That’s why it was helpful to see an article in a recent edition of The Washington Post in the On Parenting section titled, “When is a child ready for overnight camp?”
The author, Mari-Jane Williams, wrestled with the question of her daughter’s readiness, and so put a little research into discovering some signs to look for. Asking Peg Smith of the American Camp Association for tips, Williams discovered there’s no hard rule, but there are signs to look for and a few questions to ask:
- Does the child understand what sleepaway camp is?
- Has the child ever been away for one or more nights?
- How has the child handled separations?
Smith told Williams that a key factor was the child’s expectations about camp, saying that the clearer a parent is, the easier the experience can be for the child. Smith advises:
- Building confidence in the child about the positive aspects of camp.
- Building confidence as a parent by using online resources to understand the camp experience.
- Taking the time to find the right camp fit for your child.
Openness and insight
By being open to the process of sleepaway camp, and taking the time to make an informed decision that feels good to you, and then parlaying your confidence to your child, Smith says an easy and fruitful experience is likely to follow.
And after many years of seeing parents and campers do just that, I totally agree that a little homework, a sense of “making the right camp choice,” and encouraging your daughter is all it takes. And we’ll take care of the rest with a great staff, a solid program, and an emphasis on the meaningfulness of your child’s experience.
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls