Camp: It’s All Here
Five reasons great parents send their kids to camp
Unless they are chaperoning, many parents won’t allow their child to go on a school field trip or school outdoor education trip—so it’s no surprise that those same parents may find the idea of sending their child to sleep-away camp incomprehensible. Parents who do send their kids to camp might get a shocked response from one of these “non-camp” parents. Common questions might include, “How can you stand having your child away from you for so long?” or, “How will she survive without you?” or, “Isn’t he too young to go to camp alone?” Or, they may comment, “I would never send my child away to camp for two weeks.”
So, does it depend on the child’s age, temperament, or personal preferences—or is it just plain bad parenting to send your kids to camp?
As a summer camp director for more than 30 years, and a mom of five kids, I research, write, and speak about all things summer camp, family, and happiness-related. In my experience, at camp this summer, your child will:
Camp provides the opportunity for your kids to live and thrive without being with you and your constant scrutiny. The growth in confidence and independence happen at camp because you are not there.
“Going to camp has made me even more independent and a much better people-person. I am able to go confidently up to someone and introduce myself, or hang out with someone new because of my time at camp. ” —Five-year camper
EXPERIENCE OUTDOOR CHILDHOOD FUN & ADVENTURE
You are giving your child the gift of magical childhood memories—dirt, adventure, story, and joke-filled days and nights spent with friends outdoors, under the stars, and around the campfire. These childhood memories will last forever. And, as Michael Thompson, PhD. so eloquently states, “Our best childhood memories do not include adults.”
You are giving your child a break from the pressures and stress of competitive sports, school, and you. Forgive me if that offends, but I, too, am a well-meaning but over-involved parent who provides just a bit too much advice, feedback, and guidance to my children. Our kids need a break from our well-intentioned involvement in their lives.
“Camp has helped me appreciate nature and the outdoors a lot more than I think I would have if I didn’t go. I can go without my phone or connection to social media awhile, because camp has shown me that amazing stuff happens when you put your phone down and have a nice conversation with someone.” —Five-year camper
You are giving your child the chance to unplug and connect face-to-face with other kids and positive young adult role models. Getting unplugged is one of my favorite topics, so you can read more at sunshine-parenting.com to learn about the many benefits of taking a break from technology.
BECOME BETTER AT MAKING AND KEEPING FRIENDS
The bonding and friendships that happen at camp are different from those that occur at school and on sports teams. The intensity of living together and experiencing life together, without distractions, creates the ideal setting to form life-long friendships and really get to know people well.
“I feel like I have become a kinder person and am better at making friends because of camp.” – Third-year camper
So, even if it’s hard for you to let your child go, you’re giving your child a gift that will have more impact than any material item you’ve ever given.
What’s the Right Age to Go to Camp?
Every family is different, but I recommend several guidelines to parents who are ready to send their child to a well-run, accredited camp but aren’t sure what age is best. The following list is a quick summary; for more comprehensive information, go to sunshine-parenting.com.
5 or under
That’s too young for overnight camp alone, but getting the feel for what camp is all about can happen on a family adventure.
Ages 6 to 8
Camp can work at this age, but only if your child is fairly independent (not clingy to you) and can take a shower on his/her own. Also, say yes if your child is asking to go—usually because of older siblings’ positive experiences. Finally, as the parent, you’ll have to be supportive, and confident in your child’s ability to be away from you.
Ages 9 to 10
If your kid is excited to go to camp, then go for it! However, if your child is hesitant about going to camp, then talk with other families whose kids go to camp to expose him/her to the idea. Attend camp information sessions and browse websites, and watch camp videos to show your child the fun that happens at camp. That might be the encouragement he or she needs.
If your child is 11
It’s REALLY time.
If your child is 12 or older
and has never been away to camp, then please let him or her go!
Audrey “Sunshine” Monke has been a summer camp owner and director for more than three decades. She writes about summer camp, parenting, and happiness on her blog at sunshine-parenting.com.