If your child is around 7 or 8 years old, this year’s summer fun can include sleepover camps. For first-time campers, going away from home isn’t always easy as they — or their parents — might not be ready.
Dave Devey from the American Camp Association’s Ohio Council of Leaders, and camp director at Falcon Camp, provides some ways to help start the camp conversation in your home.
No child is the same when it comes to camp readiness. “Children grow at different rates and mature at difference paces; some are ready early,” Devey says.
Kids attending sleepover camp can be as young as age 6, but generally are 7 and older. While Devey says there’s not a set age rule, here’s what you should consider to gauge if your child is ready:
- Has your child had sleepovers, either at grandma’s or as part of a playdate at a non-relative’s home? Do they experience separation anxiety during these times or any time when away from mom or dad?
- Are they independent and able to perform basic functions, such as dress, brush teeth, tie shoes, etc.?
- Do they have issues when they go to school?
- Does your child understand the concept of time? Do they understand they won’t see mom or dad for a week?
Perhaps your child is ready, but are you? Parents also have to be comfortable with the decision about sleepover camp.
“If you (the parents) understand that it’s a good experience with fun and learning involved, that is a positive thing,” Devey says.
However, he adds, if the parents feel like they will be emotional wrecks during the week their children attend camp, they might not be ready to let them go this year.
The early winter and spring months are a good time to do your research and start introducing your child to the possibility of camp. Devey says to bring up the topic at mealtimes or start engaging your child by looking at brochures or camp websites.
“Start the conversation and then gauge their response,” he says. “Try to take a step back and understand what your child wants. Take a good look at the children’s skills, interests and abilities.”
Of course, finding camps goes beyond the computer and Devey thinks it’s important to expand the conversation. Talk or meet with someone involved at the camp or parents who already have sent their children to camp, he says.
If you and your child are ready for camp, getting as much information as possible now will help make the transition smoother this summer.
“This is the time of year to start doing research and asking questions; if you wait, you will find a narrow range of options and might
not have the same opportunities,” Devey says. “It’s the parents’ job to do the exploration and check out programs and camps that are appropriate for their child.”
Still confused about which camp is best for your child? Northeast Ohio Parent magazine hopes to answer your camp questions with a local panel of experts. Please send your question to [email protected] throughout the month of January. One of the camp experts will respond to you — the response also may be featured in our February edition!