How to Tell if Your Kid Is Ready for Sleepaway Camp

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If your kids are approaching the age when overnight summer camps are on the brain, you might be wondering if they’re ready to leave the nest for a few days with their sleeping bag—and without Mom and Dad. According to Bob Ditter, M.Ed., LCSW, who has worked with children’s summer camps since 1982, “there are some six-and seven-year-olds who march eagerly off to camp without a problem, while some eleven-year-olds cower with a fear of becoming homesick.” So, how do you know if now is the right time? Read on for 10 telltale signs that’ll help you make that tricky summer camp call (and calms your nerves a little!). 

photo: CampPinewood via Flickr

1. They’re Showing Interest
Sometimes it’s best to let your kids judge when the timing is right. If they start to show interest in camp or ask for permission to go, it’s a strong sign that they are ready to pack their bags and head off for a week (or more!) of fun.

2. They’ve Slept Away from Home
Making the decision to send your child away overnight can be worrisome for parents. However, if they’ve spent the night away from home or even extended periods of time with grandparents, aunts or uncles, then camp should not be a problem!

photo: CampPinewood via Flickr

3. They Are Confident in New Situations
Whether it’s participating in a new music or art class, an activity like karate or archery, or simply strutting into new surroundings, your child can likely handle camp if she is confident in these scenarios.

4. They Can Bathe on Their Own
Heading off to sleepaway camp means Mom or Dad won’t be present for bathtime duty. Being able to shower or bathe and brush their teeth on their own is often a good indicator that your little adventurers are self-reliant and ready to rough it at camp—even if it’s just overnight and no bath is required! “Kids learn to be self-reliant [at camp] and take care of their personal needs including hygiene, nutrition, and sleep,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a leading child, teen, parent and family psychotherapist from Beverly Hills, CA.

5. They Understand What It Means
Before you can feel confident that your child is ready for camp, you will want to be sure they know exactly what they’re getting into. Walk through the in’s and out’s of camp, what they might do there, how bedtime works, and the like. If they still want to go, it’s probably time to let them branch out!

photo: NewYorkYMCACamp via Flickr

6. They Know How to Swim
Water activities are a beloved summer camp pastime, and if the camp you choose offers swimming, sailing or a similar sport, you’ll want to be certain your petite paddler can partake.

7. They Are OK With New People
Heading off to camp means your kids will meet all kinds of new people. If the idea of being around new people sits well with your kids, they can easily make conversation or be inclusive of other kids, they are likely ready to expand their friend circle at camp!

8. They Can Choose the Camp
If your kid is old enough to help you choose which camp he’d like to attend, then he may show more excitement and willingness to spend the night away from home. Select a few options that are tailored to his interests (LEGO camp, art camp, etc.), and let him make the final decision!

photo: CampPinewood via Flickr

9. They Can Follow Instructions
There will be counselors and other grown-ups leading the show at your kids’ camp, and they need to be able to follow the instructions. If your kids listen well at home and demonstrate the proper behavior and rule-following on sports teams or at school, that is a good sign they are ready for camp!

10. YOU Are Ready to Let Them Go
Your child may be jumping for joy at the thought of spending a week or more with friends old and new, but ultimately, you as the parent have to be ready to let them go. A little separation from Mom and Dad is “… the primary key psychological and emotional benefit for children and parents going to sleep away camp,” Dr. Walfish explained to Medical Daily. But if you just don’t feel comfortable or have an inkling that it’s just not the time, then listen to yourself!

How did you know your little camper was ready to sleep away from home in the summer? Tell us below!

Kaitlyn Kirby



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