Parents sometimes worry that their child is “too young” for sleepover camp. Sometimes, that’s true. Parents know their children best and usually sense when their child is ready for more independence. Often, parents need to take a step back and recognize their child’s strengths so that they can let go and allow their child to experience life more independently. As a camp director, of course I see the value in camp. But as a parent, it was hard for me to let go!
When our daughter was entering 3rd grade, Eric and I thought she was ready to experience camp on her own. She was showering nightly (with prompting from us), was able to express her feelings to trusted adults and enjoyed being active and outdoors. And although she had those necessary skills, I still worried about whether or not she was REALLY ready. I’m lucky to have a partner who pushes me to get through my own anxiety so that it doesn’t spill over into the lives of our daughters (not that often at least!) and so I was on-board when we chose a camp for our 8-year-old and sent her off for 3 weeks of sleepover camp.
Children in elementary school and Middle School are at a wonderful age to start a new camp. They are young enough that they will have years of camp ahead of them – that’s a lot of time to work on developing new skills, to practice being more independent and, most importantly, to build lasting friendships. For so many elementary school and middle school-aged children, camp can be the place where they feel most themselves, free to be unique and to take safe risks. This is particularly true for kids who struggle socially (including those with Asperger’s, NLD or on the autism spectrum). For our younger campers, camp allows them to do things on their own and to become more independent and to practice self-advocacy. Our Middle School age campers feel accepted and connected in ways that are often challenging at school.
Why wait? Starting camp at a younger age just means more opportunity to really absorb all that a camp community has to offer. Your child may be ready sooner than you think!