February 17, 2016

Ask yourself these questions to help decide if this is the right summer for a overnight camp.


Though it’s not even spring, summer camp applications are going out and camps coordinators are preparing for a summer of fun. Perhaps you’ve done a lot of research to choose a camp that’s best for your child, or maybe going to a certain camp is a family tradition. Either way, it’s important to determine if your child is ready for overnight summer camp before completing an application.

In my experience as a camp counselor and a parent, there is no magic age when a child suddenly becomes “ready” for overnight camp. Each child is different. My three kids were ready for camp at different times, but when the time was right, it was a great experience for them.

It’s important to trust your instincts, but there are a few simple questions you can think about to help you decide if this is the right summer:

1. Does your child show an interest in going to camp?

Enthusiasm about trying overnight camp may be a sign of readiness. Often, children may have friends who’ve gone to camp, and they feel like they’re ready to go, too. But you don’t need to wait until your child brings up the idea. While a self-motivated child may do well at camp, he or she may not know it’s an option until you ask about it.

2. Has your child been away from home for a few days at a time?

A child who is confident in new surroundings (such as sleepovers) and has some experience being away from home overnight should do well at camp. However, some kids need a little extra nudge toward independence, and camp is a good way to learn how to adapt to new environments. It may be wise to consider a few “practice times” of spending the night away from home to get ready for camp. Additionally, if your child has never slept outside before, it might be helpful to have a backyard camp-out a couple of times before he goes off to camp.

3. Does your child reliably perform basic self-care skills?

While camp is a great place to learn self-reliance, campers are expected to be able to dress and bathe themselves, and brush their own teeth with minor assistance. A little extra practice at home is great way to prepare.

4. Does your child follow instructions?

It’s important to be able to follow rules and listen to instructions not only for safety, but also to be a part of the camp community. Behavioral expectations for camp are usually similar to those of school and sports teams.

5. is your child willing to try new things?

While it’s a myth that shy kids aren’t ready to go to camp, it’s important to consider how open your child is to trying new things. If he or she is easily overwhelmed with new situations, consider doing things a little outside his or her comfort zone before camp time to help prepare. Camp is full of fun new experiences and new friends, and staffers are ready to help those who need some extra encouragement to jump into the activities.

Assure your future camper that it’s OK to be a little nervous. Show your positive attitude about the summer adventures to come, and, before you know it, your child may be be asking you when camp starts again next year.


A nurse by day and a blogger by night, Elizabeth Thielke is the author of Busy Mom Blog where she’s been writing about whatever comes to mind since 2003. She and her husband have three children, and when she’s not at a kid’s sporting event or driving someone around, you can find her pleading with a disinterested pile of laundry to fold itself.

These 10 tips for choosing a summer camp can help you organize your schedule, save money and make the most of your child’s summer.