*Please note: The following is a guest post from the ACA, American Camp Association
Your child going to summer camp for the first time is a big step in his or her life. While it is an exciting time, your child going to camp may cause some nervousness for both you and your child. So how do you know when the right time is to send your child to camp? The American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey suggests that parents consider the following when figuring out whether your child is ready for camp and how to prepare your child for the experience.
Interest & Readiness – Talk to your child to assess his or her readiness. Consider how your child became interested in going to camp and ask yourself the following questions. When you discuss camp with your child, does he or she sound excited? Is he or she comfortable separating from you for segments of time? Does your child enjoy playing with other children? Does he or she thrive on achieving milestones of independence? Answering these questions will help you determine if your child is both interested and ready for camp. Remember, the decision to go to camp should be made together. Keep in mind that the more involved children are in the process, the more ownership they feel. This helps ease concerns about camp, and can help make a child’s camp experience more successful.
Age - You want to consider your child’s age when considering camp. Day camps are designed for children 3 years and up. Children can go to sleepaway camp at the age of 7. But families should keep in mind that just because a child is 7 years old, doesn’t mean he or she is emotionally ready for sleepaway camp.
Day or Sleepaway – If you are considering sleepaway camp, make sure your child has had successful overnights away from home with friends and relatives. Were these overnights positive experiences? You want to make sure your child is mature enough to go away for an extended period of time and that that he or she can do certain things independently like showering, getting dressed and brushing their teeth.
Expectations – You should learn about the camp program ahead of time and create positive expectations for your child. Talk about camp in the months leading up to the summer. When possible, go for a tour of the camp prior to the summer. Touring the camp will build your child’s excitement about camp while familiarizing them with the camp program, activities and camp layout. Many overnight camps also offer Rookie Days the summer before a child will go to camp. These days give future campers a chance to experience camp in session by joining in on camp activities for the day or for a weekend. Keep in mind that the more a child feels involved in the process of choosing a camp, the more successful their camp experience is likely to be.
Positive Messages – It is important for parents to share positive messages about summer camp. It is common for a child to have some apprehension as the first day of camp approaches—encourage your child to talk about these feelings. Before your child leaves for camp, don’t discuss plans to pick up your child early from camp if he/she doesn’t like it. Let your child know you are confident in your child’s ability to have a wonderful summer camp experience
For assistance in finding the right summer camp, visit American Camp Association, NY and NJ’s camp website www.searchforacamp.org to register for a free, customized list of camps based on your child’s needs. You may also call the American Camp Association, New York and New Jersey’s camper placement specialist Renee Flax for free, one-on-one advice in finding a camp at 212.391.5208.
…AND don’t forget to make plans to attend the Mamas Summer Countdown, 2/22 at the NY Hall of Science!
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