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If your child has not yet attended summer camp, you may wonder if your child is ready for camp or even why you should send them at all.
Every child is different, and the most natural way to answer these questions is to trust your instincts. However, expert advice is always appreciated, so I spoke with summer camp leaders to get some insightful advice.
Choosing an age appropriate camp with age specific activities is crucial. Enrolling a child with a group that is younger or older can lead to difficulty integrating into the group and camp.
On the other hand, placing your child with kids their own age and activity level will help ensure success. Aside from age, do a mental checklist of your child’s personality, as some kids are ready for camp before others. The ability to sit quietly and listen to instruction is a strong feature of a child who is ready to attend summer camp.
As well, children who are capable of interacting in safely supervised environments do well in camp settings. For overnight camps, it is important your kids have spent a night away from you and have done so successfully. Also consider how much time your kids have spent with caregivers and their ability to adapt to new people and situations. If your child handles these things well, there is a good chance they will have a successful experience.
A child’s prior experiences can also attribute to a positive or negative camp experience. For example, a child who has little to no experience outdoors in a camping setting may do poorly at a rustic outdoors camp, while a child who loves animals and demonstrates care and compassion for others may do very well at a camp focusing on animals.
Consider starting slowly. For younger children — or shyer children — a half-day camp may be more suitable than a full-day camp.
Personality, likes, and dislikes play a large role here as well, as some children will come out of their shell in art camps while others will only fully thrive in an active sports camp.
You know your child best, so consider the activities they enjoy. There are camps out there designed for all types of kids, so you are sure to find one that will accommodate your child’s unique needs. It is important to look for a camp together if your child is old enough, focusing on age, activities, and the themes offered. Doing so will help line up expectations and will allow your child to understand what to expect. The more say that a child has in deciding a camp; the more likely they are to enjoy the experience.
Once camp has started, watch for signs that they are enjoying the experience. If a child comes home from camp and is excited, this is a great sign. On the flip side, if a child doesn’t talk about camp, and does not appear to be thriving in a certain environment they are most likely struggling. At this point it would be a good idea to speak with camp counselors, as they are carefully selected for what traits and characteristics they hold in being able to create a positive experience for all campers, as well as their mediation and “counseling” skills.
At outdoor camps, many of the activities are set up to challenge campers physically and emotionally to face a particular fear; these experiences help the child grow and expand as a person and teaches them that they are always capable of more.
From this, children gain physical and emotional independence. It has been seen that some children who struggle with “fitting in” with their peers at home completely blossom at camp when they are placed in a new environment with new people.
Additionally, whether day camp or overnight, camps expose children to a whole world of pursuits and possibilities that they may not have otherwise experienced.
If your child shows enthusiasm for attending camp, this is a sure-fire sign that it is time to research and find the best one for them!
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