Gauging Your Child’s Readiness
Answering these questions will help you determine when your child is ready for camp.
- What is your child’s age? Children under age 7 may not adjust easily to being away from home. Consider the day camp experience to prepare them for future overnight camp.
- How did your child become interested in camp? Does your child talk about camp and camp activities on a sustained basis? How much persuasion is necessary from you?
- Has your child had positive overnight experiences away from home? Visiting relatives or friends? Were these separations easy or difficult?
- What does your child expect to do at camp? Learning about the camp experience ahead of time allows you to create positive expectations.
- Are you able to share consistent and positive messages about camp? Your confidence in a positive experience will be contagious.
Positive camp experiences begin with the right match between a child’s needs and interests and a camp’s philosophy, program and other offerings. No two children are the same; and no two camps are exactly alike either―even ones with similar activities, approach and appearance.
Start your camp search the summer before your child will attend camp! Follow these recommended steps to find the right match:
- Consider and List Expectations
- What does your camper – and you – expect to get out of the camp?
- Explore Options and Build a List of Prospective Camps
- Attend Camp Fairs (often held at schools and public spaces November – March).
- Ask people you know and trust about their own experiences.
- Use our Find-A-Camp tool to help narrow your search. Link
- Narrow your list by watching videos and third-party content online, touring camps or having phone calls with Camp Directors – then go with your gut.
- Make sure your child is involved as much as possible in the decision.
Always follow your camp’s packing list to a T. In general, though – travel light.
- Plan Ahead – They’ll be living out of a backpack, duffel bag, suitcase, or trunk.
- Label Everything – Classic Iron-on/Stick on clothing labels or even label makers. Label all of it.
- Let them help pack or do it all if they can. That way they know where everything is when they need to find that flashlight.
- Break in shoes and boots before camp begins. Blisters are no fun.
A Camp for Every Child – The Right Camp
Camp can last from just a few days or stretch to all summer long. It’s well worth the trouble to investigate camp programs before your camper packs a backpack. These questions help you explore the options.
Near or Far?
Where do you want your child to go to camp? Locally or far away? Near means minimal travel costs, easier to evaluate or visit, and correspondence to and from campers is quicker. Far means different geographical – cultural even – experiences, and greater promotion of independence.
Short or Long Session?
How long do you want your child to remain at camp? Short sessions (1-3 weeks) mean first-time campers can learn new skills and warm-up to the idea of being at camp, less expense, and minimal homesickness. Longer sessions (4-12 weeks) mean gaining a strong sense of belonging and community, development of specialized skills, and lifelong friendships.
Girls Only, Boys Only or Co-ed?
Now may be the opportunity to explore this choice with your camper. Single-sex camps mean breaking gender stereotypes and more opportunities to “Be Yourself”, co-ed camps mean allowing families with a boy and girl to send them to the same camp, and offers diverse points of view.
Traditional, Specialty, and Special Needs?
Understanding the strengths in a camp’s focus may help you make your choice. A ‘traditional’ camp offers a wide variety of activities that campers are exposed to. A ‘specialty’ camp may have campers select one or two specialized activities (often combined with traditional offerings) and focuses on proficiency in particular skills. ‘Special needs’ camps will offer activities geared to campers’ abilities, have knowledgeable staff with expertise to understand campers’ challenges, and have a supportive and fun atmosphere to share with others.