Is your child ready for overnight camp?
BY MARCY MARRO For Sun-Times Media
Parents are going to know best when trying to determine if their child is ready to go to overnight camp. Gordie Kaplan, executive director of the ACA Illinois office, said that for most children ages 8 to 10 is when they are ready to stay away from home, reach out of their comfort level and go away to camp. Before going away though, children should have spent a few nights at a friend’s or relative’s house first.
Kaplan said to involve your child in the camp decision-making process.
“I would give the child some choices,” Kaplan said. “Ideally, the parents could do some research, find two or three camps that they feel are appropriate in terms of the kind of experience their child would get, and their price range, and then let the child choose.”
Kaplan suggested contacting the camp director. Talking to the camp director will provide insights on the type of staff that they hire, many of which may be college students or teachers. Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or no, he said.
“When you get a camp director talking about the what and the how, then you, as a parent, are going to develop some impressions, which will help you make the decision about where you trust sending your child,” Kaplan said.
Ask the camp for some references, preferably of families in your area that have sent their children to camp, Kaplan said.
Once two or three camps have been decided upon, have your child participate in the final decision. Many times that choice is going to have to be made by looking at websites online or camp CDs. Kaplan noted that children give clues as to whether they’re ready to go away to camp. Note their responses when they look at pictures, Kaplan said. Positive comments and looking forward to trying new things will mean they are most likely ready to go to camp. If they seem anxious or nervous, then they’re probably not ready to go away.
Experiencing a little anxiety about going away to camp is normal, Kaplan explained.
“A child shouldn’t be forced to go to camp,” he said. “There are children who just don’t want to go to camp, they’re not ready, or they don’t want that experience. And that’s perfectly fine. Camp is not like school, where you have to go. Camp should be a choice.”
“The reason camp works as well as it does is that the camper is in a different environment from home, which gives them the chance to develop some independent living skills and some self-reliance,” Kaplan said. “And when that is successful, that is a huge lesson to learn.”