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Are Your Kids Ready for Summer Camp?

How young is too young for sleepaway camp?


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campFor years, you’ve been hearing great things about Camp Terrific at Lake Fabulous, and you can’t wait for your 6-year-old daughter to experience the joy of sleepaway camp. You’ve talked with the camp director, and you’ve asked all the important questions. You’ve run the numbers, and your budget is in good shape. All your ducks are in a row, right? 

Before you start sewing name labels into any underwear, there’s one more crucial question to ask: Is your child really ready?

No Magic Number

Camp readiness isn’t wholly dependent on age; it’s actually dependent on a number of factors: age, emotional maturity, everyday skills, and the ability to attend to matters of personal care and hygiene. Because development in these areas varies greatly from child to child, experienced camp professionals are reluctant to pinpoint a specific “camp-ready” age.

“There is no right age at which all children are ready,” write Jon C. Malinowski and Christopher Thurber, authors of The Summer Camp Handbook. Instead of looking for a magic number, Malinowski and Thurber encourage parents to take camp readiness cues from their children. “Kids themselves are the best judges of when they are ready. When they show spontaneous interest in camp, that’s a good clue that the time is right.”

When pressed for numbers, Renee Flax, director of camper placement for the American Camp Association (NY and NJ), says children under the age of 7 typically don’t go to overnight camp. Flax says most 7-year-olds are even a little young, although going to camp with an older sibling may improve the results. “On average, children going into 3rd or 4th grade are usually the biggest group of first-time campers.” 

Even so, she encourages parents to look beyond age. “It is more important that your child is emotionally mature,” she explains.

What skills, if any, does your child need to brush up on before attending camp?—>

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