Jul 25, 2014

What's the Right Age for Sleepaway Camp?

The Middletown Moms Council has a new member and a new question about sleepaway camp this week.

What's the Right Age for Sleepaway Camp?

The thermostat is rising, school is finally out and the next eight weeks have all kinds of fun activities cramming the calendar for adults and kids alike. Families have so much to choose from and, for many, "camp" is on the list of things to do. It seems that more and more kids are involved in overnight or sleepaway camps like never before.

Parents across the country are looking for programs that build confidence and resiliency in their kids before they pack their bags and head off to college. According to the National Camp Association, "In the past children attended camp through age 15. With their college years not beginning until age 17 or 18, parents were left with a 2 - 4 year gap. Where there is demand a supply soon follows. Travel programs (both domestic and overseas), academic enrichment, community service, wilderness adventure, and exotic Caribbean programs are some of the more popular and exciting opportunities for today's senior campers. These specialized programs often accommodate children through ages 17 and 18." 

With so many options available to families, the Middletown Moms Council and its newest member asked:

With school over and summer vacation at our heels, at what age is it appropriate to send our kids to "sleepaway"  camp?

Kerri, Mom of a preschooler

Sleepaway camp is a big question. Right now, I can't imagine sending my five-year-old away somewhere for the week, even though she thinks it would be a great idea.  However, she is fairly mature and her time at sleepaway camp may come sooner rather than later.  She is already fairly self-sufficient and I'm pretty sure she'd be running the camp in no time! I'd feel like I was walking around with an arm missing but she would love it.

On the other hand, some kids may never be ready to sleep away. It just isn't them. If that is the case, I think it's important for you to listen to your child. Maybe day camps are a better answer for your family. I think that having a kid go to a sleepaway camp to continue the family tradition could be a detriment if he/she is just not comfortable. I can't imagine being terrified of being away from my family and trying to have "fun" in a strange place.

I think the long and the short of it is: it depends on your comfort level as a parent and what your child has to say about it. Sleeping away can be an excellent independence builder and can truly help children develop a stronger, more confident sense of themselves. However, if you send a homebody away to camp, it could do damage that would take more than a summer to reverse.

That being said, my little bossy pants is going to have to wait a few more summers!

Carm, Mom of a pre-teen, teen and adult

Well, as we speak my youngest is at Boy Scout Camp. He is having a blast, I am sure of it but I am missing him terribly. For my family, it seems that the National Camp Association is right, for the pre-teens, it seems to work out best. He went for the first time last year and I wasn't sure that either one of us would survive it. As it turns out, I didn't need the oxygen I thought I would and he came back confident and ready to take on the world.

The key is to find the camp that fits the needs of your child.

Scouts is a perfect fit for my pre-teen. Every experience from packing for success to debriefing when you come home is great practice for what young adulthood will bring. I may whimper a little but it's an experience I would never have had him do without.

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