How to know your child is ready for overnight camp

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Kumbaya: Camp Echo campers gather around a campfire. | Courtesy of Camp Echo

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If the option to attend overnight summer camp is on your child’s table, you need to ensure that he or she is read to be away from you and home for an extended period of time.

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Children ready for overnight camp have often already attended day camp or scouting overnights.

“Kids who want to go to overnight camp are thinking that they can handle it and are looking for more independence,” said Heidi Mabie, associate program director at Camp Anokijig in Plymouth, Wis.

Not all children will be ready to go off to overnight camp at the same age. A child who is reluctant to go to overnight camp may not be ready just yet.

Meredith Stevens, program manager at Camp Echo, an overnight camp through the McGaw YMCA in Evanston, said that sometimes all it takes is for a few friends to come back from camp with positive experiences. She recommended not pushing a child if it’s clear he or she is overly apprehensive.

“Children will know what they want to do and what they don’t want to do,” she said.

Keep your child involved while scouting out overnight camps. Oftentimes he or she will suggest or take an interest and willingness to attend an overnight camp.

“Oftentimes, choosing an overnight camp is an easier decision for the child, but tougher for mom and dad,” Mabie said.

Transitioning to summer camp

To help make the transition to camp easier, Gary Deutsch, camp director at Decoma Day Camp in Northbrook recommended parents and children take a ride out to the camp and look around, possibly even setting up a time to meet their counselor prior to the first day of camp.

Stevens agreed and said this is especially useful if the child is hesitant to leave.

“I’ll talk to the children and answer any questions they may have,” Stevens said. “I’ll show them a slideshow of camp and introduce them to some of the people they’ll see at camp when they’re there, and that often helps because then they’ll have a familiar face when they get off the bus.”

Summer camp offers the opportunity for children to try and experience new things that they can’t do at home, such as sailing, water skiing or horse back riding.

“There are a lot of things that city kids don’t get to do normally that they get to do and experience and learn how to do over the summer,” Stevens said. “When parents talk about camp in a really positive and exciting way, it will get kids excited about it as well.”