Sleepaway camp is a wonderful, growth-filled experience. Parents, however, may underestimate the benefits of residential camp and what it will do for their child. "Some parents think their money is better spent elsewhere, particularly if they themselves did not attend sleepaway camp as a youngster," says Nick Coffing, former Camp Director for a California Summer Camp.
Every family has their own set of guidelines and comfort levels, regarding sending a child to sleep away camp. Most camps will consider campers who are 7 and above for overnights, and some even younger. “Developmentally, most kids are ready to be away from home at 8 years old”, says Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross, “but again this varies depending upon personality and family dynamics”.
Connect The Old Fashioned Way
You may miss hearing your child’s voice, but nothing beats a letter from your sleep-away camper telling you about new friends and new experiences at camp. And for your child, nothing beats a letter from home with news of familiar places and people, filled with expressions of love and "We miss you".
This is all part of the camp experience. Teaching them this value early in life, having them ‘disconnect’ from you, Facebook, and their favorite TV show, is important to their peer-to-peer growth.
Safe Risk-Taking Opportunities
Especially as children move toward adolescence, they feel the need to test their limits. At camp, they can take these risks under the watchful eye of other adults, proving themselves in positive, nurturing environments. These adults, called Camp Counselors, are highly trained in the activities they instruct and supervise. You will want to select a camp that is accredited by the American Camp Association.
Attune to Nature
Kids today spend much less time outdoors, causing a “nature deficit” according to many reports and a popular book on the issue, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Camp reconnects them with nature, seeing things like frogs, squirrels, and trails in person and experiencing swimming in a lake, or biking along a path may be things they have not or cannot do at home. Every child needs to experience sleeping under the stars, watching a sunset away from the city and the smell of nature’s trees in the summer.
Learn Life Skills
During their weeks as campers, kids learn to share, get along with others, and become self-reliant without parents in the picture. These are skills invaluable later on when they make the transition to college dorm living where parents are not present and sharing a tiny room with a complete stranger is never easy for anyone. Let your child learn this at a young age, and they will thank you for it later in life. You will be happy to know they will survive the first year of college without moving home.
How To Succeed In Life
The real benefits of sleepaway camp are hard to measure. As one summer camp director summed up: "How can you put a ruler to self-confidence, determination, positive attitudes, and lessons in living? Camp is winning, losing, giving, sharing, compromising, and learning to enjoy people and nature. It's a primer on how to succeed in life."
They Learn to Appreciate YOU
It is easy to take parents for granted; and tweens are especially talented at assuming mom and dad exist only for their convenience. But a child who spends a week or two away at overnight camp may learn to appreciate all his parents do for him. The little extras such as making his favorite dishes for dinner, or driving him or her to and from soccer practice, may suddenly be appreciated.
They Will Grow And Learn
Above all, don't let your own apprehensions keep you from sending your child away to camp. If you keep him home because of your anxiety about separation, you're short-changing him or her.
There is the right summer camp out there for every child. It’s a wonderful experience for them and their maturation of life. Homesickness and getting dirty are all a part of the package, but the friendships, memories made, and the experiences gained can last a lifetime. Do the homework, call the camps, interview the owners, visit the camp, and let your child grow in a fun, safe and unforgettable environment.
If you would like to learn more about finding the right California Summer Camp for your child please visit www.Waic.org . If you live out of California please visit www.ACAcamps.org for more information and resources.