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Is summer camp right for your child?

Published On: May 12 2011 10:18:41 PM CDT   Updated On: Jul 11 2013 08:33:26 AM CDT
girl at camp

iStock / danfrumkin

Summer camp. The words bring to mind the halcyon days of sunshine, swimming, campfires and songs. They conjure up visions of endless days and prank-filled nights away from Mom and Dad.

It's a rite of passage for many children, and parents who loved their own days at summer camp can enjoy watching their children create their own camp memories. But how does a parent know their child is ready to be away from home? Evaluating some of your child's personality traits and life skills can maximize his or her chances of summer camp success.

Does He Want To Go?

Is your child leaving camp brochures on your pillow? Are all conversations sprinkled with "at camp I can learn to do wood burning" or "at camp I can swim every afternoon"? If your child is actively campaigning to get signed up for sleepaway summer camp, there is a good possibility you can rest assured he is emotionally ready to go.

Has She Slept Away Before?

Has your child spent a few nights or a weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's? Does she participate in sleepovers with friends?

According to, experimenting with a few nights away from you is a good way to gauge how your child might react to spending some independent time away from home.

If she has any homesickness or other issues, it might be a good idea to wait a year or two. If she thrives, camp may be in her future.

Has Day Camp Been A Success?

There is more to camp than just living away from home. Days are filled with activities, crafts and sports, and meals are eaten with strangers or around campfires. Has your child attended any day camps during the summer where scheduled activities are the norm? How did he react to the structured fun?

If he liked the atmosphere and looked forward to going, sleepaway camp's daily activities are likely to be right up his alley. If his summer days tend to involve staying home to read a book or watch television, you might want to start him a few days a week in a day camp to test the waters.

Is Your Child Outgoing?

When you take your child to the park, does she immediately approach other children and come away with new friends? Does she look forward to having a babysitter or beg to go out with you? Is the first week of school a whirlwind of new friends and new experiences, or does she gravitate toward the familiar? Consider how your child acts in new and different situations -- this can be a great indicator of readiness for sleepaway independence.

Is Your Child Independent? provides a list of tasks your child should be able to master before heading out on his own. Basic hygiene, room cleanliness, money management skills and decision making are all skills that will be necessary for success when he is on his own. Camp can be challenging for the child who relies heavily on his parents, and knowing your child struggles with any of the above life skills may be a reason to keep him home for a while.

Summer camp is truly an experience that adds to the magic of a childhood summer, but only if the child is ready for the experience. Knowing your child and realistically evaluating his ability to flourish on his own in this environment will minimize homesickness and bolster success.