Do you have fond memories of smores, ghost stories by the fire, making beaded necklaces and lanyards? Those are probably some memories of summer camp.

Do you have fond memories of smores, ghost stories by the fire, making beaded necklaces and lanyards? Those are probably some memories of summer camp.

Now it is your turn, as a parent, to make summer plans for your children. They are begging you to go to a week-long, overnight camp and the question comes to your mind – should I let them go?

They don’t seem to be fearful of doing so, but you might be. Keep in mind, every child is different. Because some are ready and love the overnight camping does not mean it is a bad thing that some are not ready. There is no right or wrong age for a child to go to their first overnight camp.

It is difficult to say at what age children are ready for sleep-away camp. Most likely, your child is the best answer to the question. If he is begging, he probably is ready. Most sleep-away camps are offered beginning at age 7 or 8 years old. Not every child is ready at that age, but many are.

If you are a parent that went to overnight summer camp, then you probably won’t hesitate to send your children. However, if you have not experienced it for yourself making the decision may be more difficult.

Sharing your own camp experiences with your child is the perfect place to start when discussing camp.   

Take these things into consideration:

- Has your child spent the night at grandparents houses, with aunts and uncles or at friends homes and not had a problem?

- Are they able to handle their own hygiene?

- How well did they do being away overnight from home?

- If you are reluctant, consider a shorter camp. Some offer mini camps, two or three night camps.

TALK, RESEARCH

Talk to your child about their expectations of camp. Talking may have the clue you are looking for--if they are ready or not.

Check the age of other campers making sure you are sending the first-time overnighter to a camp with others the same age.

Check to see how many campers a counselor is responsible for. Usually, one counselor for six to eight children is good. Your child will not get lost in the crowd.

Be sure to talk with camp representatives before you child goes. Find out how the camp helps children who are homesick.

It is best not to tell your child they can call you if they feel homesick or sad. That portrays the idea that they will be lonely or scared.

Keep the talk positive, by highlighting the fun things to do and the many things offered at camp they love doing.

Campers are never alone. A positive for parents to know. Campers sleep in a cabin or dormitory with several others and a counselor. Counselors stay with the children.

Going off to camp gives children a chance to make new friends, develop social skills, gain confidence in a safe environment.

CAMPING WITH FRIENDS

Remember the scout song, “make new friends but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold?”

It might be best to send your child without a friend. They will have new experiences and make new friends. Sometimes, hurt feelings get in the way of the fun if the mix of new friends and old friends gets in the way.  Making new relationships is a part of camp.

The best part of going to camp is the new relationships that a child makes. If your best buddy picks someone else over you to do something with, hurt feelings ruin the camp memories.

BE CONFIDENT

As a parent, you probably have an idea if your child is ready for overnight camp. Feel confident in your decision. Sleep-away camp is teaching your child independence, while in a safe, structured environment. They have to make decisions, learn to work with others, make friends and have responsibility.

In the words of a famous Princess Elsa “Let it  go!” Or, in this case, “let them go.” Let them have fun. Most likely they will miss you, but you will probably be more homesick for them than they are while at camp. Children are usually more ready than the parent.