Attending summer camp is an exciting time for children to have the opportunity to try something new and grow in many wonderful ways. But how does a parent know whether a child is ready to attend camp? Many children and teens can be anxious about attending camp for the first time, being away from home, and taking part in summer activities that are new to them. Parents can also be worried as to whether their camper can cope on their own or if their child has developed the skills needed to enjoy the experience. Parents soon find out camp readiness is not so much dependent on age as it is on a variety of different skills and habits. As a Camp Director with several decades of experience working with parents, here are some questions to ask yourself when considering – is my child ready to attend camp?
1. Is your child able to listen to instructions and follow directions? Parents should consider how easily their child cooperates at school, at home, and with other family members on a regular basis. For the camp experience to remain safe and successful, and for safety rules and practices to be followed, campers need to be able to cooperate and listen to their counselors and activity instructors.
2. Is your child ready to develop more independence? The ability for children to be away from their parents and be around other adults and children is something they should be able to do for the transition to camp to be successful. Camp will certainly strengthen a child’s independence, as camp is a group environment where children are encouraged to contribute and work successfully with their peers, outside of the immediate family. This is an important life skill that will build their confidence and help them in years to come in new situations.
3. Does your child like group activities and enjoy being with other children? Having a willingness to make friends and being excited about the possibility of becoming part of a team of similar age campers is a definite sign that a child is ready to make the leap to camp. When campers are all learning and having fun together then strong bonds are formed and enjoyed. Our well trained counselors initiate ice breakers and “getting to know you” activities during the first days of each camp session, helping create strong group dynamics and loyalties.
4. Is your child open to trying new activities? Camp offers many new experiences that will challenge campers to move beyond their comfort zones. A camper will get the most out of camp when he/she is open to trying new activities and is willing, with support, to participate in new experiences. Camp is a place for learning new skills and for helping campers to develop the courage and confidence to try completely new activities, such as horse riding or canoeing. Camp also helps to test a child’s resilience. When campers try something new and find it takes time and repetition to succeed, it teaches kids the “grit” that they need to achieve in life!
“When camps are able to get it right and convey to kids that they’re supported and they’re safe, but also they can do things they never dreamed they could do, it becomes a transformative experience.” Paul Tough, author of HOW CHILDREN SUCCEED: GRIT, CURIOSITY, and THE HIDDEN POWER OF CHARACTER, in a speech to the American Camp Association.
5. Is your child ready to enjoy some new experiences? Personal growth is one of the first things parents notice about their child after a summer at camp. Equally important is having the time at camp to enjoy unstructured play with friends after a busy school year. Also being physically active outdoors in a safe, secure, nurturing environment gives a balance to a child or teen’s life and it’s why camp is so much fun!
Thousands of children who are shy, timid, lack friendships, or don’t do well in school, have come to camp and have flourished! You, as the parent, want to look for a camp that will match the needs of your child. If you are in doubt about any of these readiness topics, talk with the camp director about your concerns and together they will help you to decide if your child or teen is ready for camp.
Roughing It Day Camp, in conjunction with Bob Ditter, a nationally respected clinical social worker and ACA staff trainer has developed a survey of questions to help parents in their decision about choosing camp for their child. Visit roughingit.com/survey to take this survey.
Amy Woods, is Assistant Director at Roughing It Day Camp. Roughing It is an all outdoors traditional Day Camp located at the Lafayette Reservoir and is celebrating its 41st summer this year. For more information about camp visit www.roughingit.com