Saturday, February 20, 2016

Summer Camp: Is Your Child Ready for Camp?

It might seem too early to start thinking about summer camps, but it's not. National camping week is in February, and the parenting magazines have special features about camp. Both of my twins already have their camp plans made. 

One opted for a one week fun Christian camp in Pensacola. The other opted for a no frills five week mission project camp. She's been before, but only for a week. This is the first year she's old enough to go for five weeks.

She's not the first to go. All of my children have gone, some as early as 4 years old. Others as elementary, middle school or high school campers. One went as a leader.

Trinidad high school team

Jeff as a preteen camper
It's not easy!

7-10 year old team
A parent stays with a 4,5, or 6 year old camper. Look how small Jasmine was!

Jessica and Jasmine went to Arizona together. Jessica was a leader, and Jasmine was a camper.
 They might have had a little trouble getting their belongings to their tents.
 All of these pictures are from TMI, which is a good, though tough, program. I don't have pictures of the fun camps.

Is your child ready for camp? Should he go? Only you can decide that. Here are some thoughts on it:

Is Your Child Ready for Summer Camp

     Do you have happy memories of camp -- memories of special friends, singing around a campfire, or learning to swim or sail? You might have played jokes on cabin mates, taken part in impromptu skits, or slept in a tent for the first time. Camp days can leave positive lifetime memories. Unfortunately, they can also leave lasting bad memories when a child goes to camp before he's ready.
     Although some residential camps accept children as young as six, that doesn't mean a six-year-old child is ready to sleep away from home. You are the best judge of whether or not your child is ready for camp. Here are some things to consider:
·         Has your child experienced sleeping away from home before? If you've had to pick him up from a friend's sleep over, he's not ready for an unfamiliar camp. If he's hesitant to spend time at grandma's house, he's not ready. A child should have positive away-from-home experiences before attending a residential camp.
·         Can your child care for his own needs? Does he choose clothes and dress himself? Shower himself? A child should be able to handle his own self-care, eating, and sleeping needs before being away from parents at camp.
·         Is your child really interested in attending camp? Does he ask questions about what he'll do at camp and show enthusiasm toward it? A child should look forward to camp and openly show his interest.
·         Will your child know anyone at camp? If a friend or sibling is attending the same camp, your child may not suffer as much homesickness. If your child is going with an older sibling, coach the older child on how to help the younger child.
·         Does your child enjoy new experiences? Going to new places and making new friends? Does he like to try new foods and new activities? If so, he may come home from camp with a list of addresses for new friends and a whole list of new hobbies.
·         Do you feel confident about your child going to camp? Are you going to spend the week or the summer worrying about your child? If you're feeling uneasy about your child going to camp, he'll sense it and it will make him feel less sure also. Listen to your feelings. They may be telling you to wait a summer.
     If after considering it you don't feel your child is ready to go away to camp, there are other options. Here are some things to consider:
·         Find a local day camp for your child. You can find day camps to fit your child's interest and needs and your budget. Call your local YMCA or Park and Recreation Department. Your child can experience sports, crafts, and new friends in a setting where he feels comfortable.
·         Consider church camp. Your church might have a one week camp for the church kids. Even though he'd be away from home, your child would be with his church friends. The counselors will also be people he knows from church.
·         Attend a family camp. Your whole family can take part in the camping experience. You'll learn new skills and take part in activities together. Family camp will help you bond and share memories.
·         Volunteer to be a counselor or camp worker. Find a camp that can use your help as a counselor, cook, lifeguard, or craft teacher and attend residential camp with your child. Having you nearby will give him the confidence he needs.

     Summer camp can be a lot of fun, but make sure your child is ready before you launch into the world of new experiences away from home. You are the best judge of whether or not your child is ready.