What’s the Best Age for Sleepaway Camp?

campThere may be snow on the ground, but it’s already time to think about summer. Believe it or not, now is the time to make summer plans. If you have a second-grader, it’s time to consider sleep-away camp.

This is why age 8 is the perfect age to begin overnight camp

Independence and confidence

Younger children tend to make significant leaps of independence and confidence. Campers are often given more responsibility and expected to be more self-reliant than they are at home. Children have to take care of their bunk and belongings, and they have to find their way to the dining hall or the archery range.

Camp is also about trying new things and having adventures. Tackling physical challenges like the rock wall and kayaking or overcoming fears on the ropes course can be a huge confidence boost.

Forming friendships with counselors and older campers

What eight-year-old wouldn’t want to hang out with cool teenagers who make them feel good about themselves? In today’s world kids are primarily segregated into narrow age groups. The opportunity to learn from older children and young adults (who have been pre-screened to be a good influence!) is unique.

Younger children are less homesick

Adjusting to new situations is easier for children under 10. Older kids tend to feel homesick more intensely if they have never been away from home before.

cool brown log cabin at sleepaway camp for kids in the country

Is your child ready for overnight camp?

Can your child swim?

If not, waterfront activities may be limited. All camps will have some kind of proficiency test for safety purposes. Some camps, however, may offer swim lessons, and the lure of more lake activities may be an incentive to learn quickly.

Interested in overnight camp?

Do your children get excited listening to friends or siblings talk about their sleepaway camp experiences? Do the activities at camp sound fun to your kids?

Many overnight camps send representatives out in the fall to various locations for community presentations. Taking your child to one of these is a surefire way to boost enthusiasm. Kids are a sucker for those slick marketing videos that showcase all the awesome attractions.

Does your child attend sleepovers?

If your child is still clingy in new situations or is hesitant to even spend the night at a friend’s house, they may not be ready for camp.

Does your child like group activities?

This is not the same as being outgoing and social. Camp can be a great motivator for shy children and offer a safe place for them to come out of their shells. However, if they insist on sitting on the sidelines, doing their own thing, and are unwilling to join the group, a traditional camp setting may not be successful at this stage.

camp, summer camp, sleepaway camp

Overnight camp: Non-Important factors

Forgets to brush teeth or shower

The counselors make sure their wards adhere to proper hygiene. At some camps, showers are mandated daily. If not, doesn’t swimming in the lake count as bathing?

Forget to apply sunscreen or bug spray

Again, this is the counselors’ job.

 Find clean clothes I packed

You can pack outfits for each day in separate baggies. Plus, you’re supposed to be dirty at camp.

Picky eater?

Most camps serve kid-friendly food. Regardless, going without your favorite brand of chicken nuggets is a character-building experience.

lake getaway at sleepover camp, bounce raft and water slide in the lake

Read Next | Top 10 Tips for Sending your Child to Summer Camp

Why two weeks is better than one

Two week overnight camps do seem like a long time. One-week camps are tempting because you’re thinking, “if my kid doesn’t like it, they’re not stuck there too long. If your child does like camp, they can go back for a longer session next year.” However, to fully engage, six days is just not enough. It takes time.

Time to settle in

It takes a few days to settle in and establish a routine at overnight camps. If you only have a week, by the time you start feeling comfortable, the camp session is almost over.

If you don’t like everything at first (food, people, the climbing wall, etc.), you know you’re going home in a few days and just have to tough it out. This prevents you from fully engaging and making the most of your experience.

Time to learn new skills

A one-week overnight camp will allow you to try a smattering of activities, but you won’t be able to master any one skill. A two- or three-week sleepaway camp session provides time to try a bunch of new things and then focus on two or three. By the end of camp, you may have conquered your fear of heights, be able to hit the bullseye, or successfully roll a kayak. Your sense of accomplishment is infinitely greater.

Time to make friends

An overnight summer camp is a place where you make lifelong friends. In part, this comes from living together and sharing failures and triumphs. It takes a while to get to know people and form lasting friendships. It also takes time to discover that the bunkmate whom you initially found annoying is actually a really fun person.

Go ahead and give it a try. Your children will love sleep away camp so much they’ll beg to go back for three weeks next year.

sleeping quarters for kids at sleepaway camps, log cabin, summer camps, kids overnight camps

Victoria Johnson is the owner of Summer Camp Guru, a comprehensive planning guide that helps parents navigate the myriad of options for summer camps. She will be sending her 9-yr-old to camp for the first time this summer. Follow her on Facebook for more camp related advice.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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