We all know that every child is unique – each has his or her own interests, aspirations and needs; different things make them laugh or cry; each develops at a different rate. So deciding if a child is ready for camp is a very individual thing. Luckily, there are some general rules to help you make that decision:
Does your child have a basic level of independence?
Kids also need to be able to eat without assistance and communicate basic needs (eg ‘I need to use the bathroom’ or ‘I’m thirsty’ etc). Toilet training is preferred, as teachers will be unable to help children use the bathroom, so if your child is still in diapers be sure to explain this to the camp facilitator and check they can accommodate this. Some experience of school or preschool is also advisable – if your child attends a school or preschool for 3-4 hours day a few days a week this will normally mean they have the basic level of independence to thrive at a day camp.
Are you, as a parent, ready for camp?
This may seem an odd question but sometimes parents can find the process of sending a child to a new camp more difficult than their child, especially if parent and child haven’t spent that much time apart. One thing to avoid is telling your child how much you’ll miss them – this immediately puts a negative spin on the experience and they may pick up on your anxiety and start to feel anxious themselves. It’s important to remember that camp is a great way to let children spread their wings in a caring and nurturing environment and start developing into confident, independent young people. It’s a good experience for kids AND parents! If you can share positive messages about the upcoming camp experience it will make your child feel more at ease. Your confidence can be contagious!
Is your child up for adventure?
Does your child get excited about activities, clubs, and sports, especially activities they’ve chosen? How well do they manage a new school year or moving to a new class? Kids don’t need to be willing to try everything but it helps if they are open to new experiences. At camp they will have the opportunity to experience new activities and make new friends, so if your child experiences the new with an open mind it’s a good sign that they’re ready for camp. For kids aged 11 and above the key question is ‘Do you want to go to camp?’. If they’re motivated to go they will get a lot more from the experience.
Does your child get homesick?
We can all remember that debilitating feeling of missing home and family. It’s a natural part of growing up and it’s through experience away from home and family that kids learn to overcome it. Newtonshow teachers are experienced at dealing with children who feel unsettled or lonely when they first start at camp. Kids are much less likely to feel homesick if they’re engaged and having fun with friends, so teachers will introduce them to kids of a similar age and ideally with similar interests. If kids have a ‘wobble’, teachers will get them doing something fun to take their minds off it. One key piece of advice for parents is to avoid prolonging the goodbye process when they drop off their child or to come back to check on them. This only increases a child’s anxiety or doubt. It’s far better to give your child a quick kiss goodbye and tell them how much fun they’re going to have.
How do I choose a camp?
Camps shouldn’t just be about learning, as children need a break from school. Good camps offer a balance of enrichment, games, and recreational activities with regular breaks for snacks and meals. The duration of the camp can also be important for younger kids – are they ready for a full day or would a half day suit them better? Reputable camps employ experienced teachers who can help your children to get the most from their time at camp. Make sure that camps are nut-free and, if meals are provided, check if dietary requirements (eg vegetarian, halal) can be catered for. And to make things as smooth as possible for you as a parent, consider camps that offer transportation as an option – and, if they do, make sure it’s with a reputable bus company.