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How to Know if Your Kid is Ready for Sleepaway Camp

How to Know if Your Kid is Ready for Sleepaway Camp

The American Camp Association shares a couple of factors that will help you determine whether your kid (and you) is ready for sleepaway camp.

Sleepaway camp will provide your child with the opportunity to gain important life skills, from independence to resilience. But how do you know if your child is ready for sleepaway camp this summer?

3 Ways to Tell If Your Child Is Ready for Sleepaway Camp

When thinking about overnight camp for your child, parents want to consider the following:

Your child is mature enough to spend the summer at sleepaway camp.

Age is certainly a factor, but each child is different. While one child might be ready for sleepaway camp at age 7, another child may not be ready until age 9. There is no right age to begin camp—your child’s maturity is a bigger factor than age.

Your child has had experiences to prepare them for a sleepaway camp.

Oftentimes, parents just know when their child is ready. Other times, parents may feel their child is ready, but their child isn’t so sure. Ask yourself the following questions as a starting point to help determine readiness:

  • Does your child have successful sleepovers with relatives and friends?

  • Does your child enjoy staying busy with activities all day?

  • Is your child able to take care of basic self-care, such as showering unassisted, brushing hair, and brushing teeth?

Answering “yes” to these questions is a good start. If your child is hesitant about the idea, don’t push it. However, positive messages and encouragement can help your child overcome any nervousness about the new experience.

Your child shows interest in or starts asking questions about sleepaway camp.

Your child might start asking questions about overnight camp because a friend or older cousin is going. Looking at a camp’s website, attending a virtual camp fair, setting up a zoom call or backyard visit with the camp director, or going on a social-distanced camp tour with your child can be helpful in deciding whether your child is ready for camp as well as if the camp is a good fit for your family. Pay attention to what your child says while watching the camp video or the questions they ask during the backyard visit. You’ll also want to notice your child’s body language and what that tells you. It’s normal for a child to be nervous about any new experience, so having open and honest conversations about what camp is like will help your child visualize what a summer at sleepaway camp will be like.

Are you in the New York Camp Parents Facebook group? 

Is it safe to send my child to sleepaway camp during the pandemic?

Of course COVID-19 is a concern for everyone this year. But don’t let it deter you from sending your child to overnight camp. This year might very well be the year your child needs it the most! After a year of remote learning and limited after-school sports and activities, camp provides a structured environment where children can take a break from technology and participate in activities safely.

Many overnight camps ran safely and successfully last year in the Northeast with either no or few cases that were contained using a multilayered plan, which included protocols such as testing, cohorts, outdoor activities, daily health checks, increased hand hygiene, and additional disinfecting of camp facilities. Even if the camp you are considering didn’t open last summer, there is now a blueprint on how overnight camps can operate amid COVID. When you speak with camp directors at the camps you’re considering, ask them to talk about what safety protocols they have in place for 2021.

How can I prepare my child for sleepaway camp?

Once you determine your child is ready for camp, now it’s time to think about preparing them for the experience. While you want to get your child excited about camp, you don’t want to talk about it all the time. Over talking camp can make your child feel nervous. As camp approaches, talk about what a day is like at camp, all the activities the camp offers, and what it will be like to sleep at camp. Let your child know it’s okay to miss Mom and Dad, but that you know they will have a wonderful time. Many camps host new camper get-togethers, orientations, and partner new campers with a “big brother” or “big sister” before camp begins.

Although these experiences may look different due to COVID, the sleepaway camp will certainly offer opportunities for new campers to adjust to camp life before the first day. All of these will help ease your child into camp life and will help prepare your child to have the best summer at camp!

RELATED: How to Choose the Best Day Camp for Your Kid


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Author: Jess Michaels is the director of communications for the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey. She believes every child should have a summer camp experience. See More

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