Is Your Child Ready for Camp?
As we travel to camp fairs and to speak at churches, a phrase we commonly hear is, “I just don’t think he’s ready for camp yet.”
It can be difficult for parents to imagine their child at camp for several reasons. Perhaps they have not spent more than one night away from home before. Perhaps they need frequent reminders to take care of themselves, and the parent worries they won’t brush their teeth or bathe for a week. Or perhaps the parent is worried about themselves missing the child (a.k.a. being “camper-sick”), which is more common than most parents realize.
However, if your child is ready for camp (we’ll get to that in a moment), they most certainly will experience fun, love, community, God, and growth during their time away. We know it can be scary to entrust the care of your child to strangers, but know that we are professionals. We have years and years of camping experience, and although each child is different, we have seen SO many campers that may have been unsure about things their first night, but were tearful on the last day because they had had the time of their lives, made real friendships, experienced God for the first time, and couldn’t wait to return the following year.
So, how do we know when they’re ready to go to camp?
Jack Shitama of Camp Pecometh recommends taking this parents.com online quiz to assess whether your child is ready for overnight camp. The quiz is 10 questions and provides a thorough answer at the end. We tried it ourselves and agree that it’s a good place to start.
Jack also recommends asking yourself, “Whose idea is it?” He says, “[asking whose idea it is] doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to mention or discuss camp in any way until your child brings it up.
It just means that after she has had a chance to learn about camp through a brochure, website, video, camp tour, etc., you can ask, “Would you like to go to camp?” If she says, “Yes,” then give it a go. If she says, “No,” then wait until next year. If the answer is “Maybe,” then here are some other things to consider:
Has he had an overnight outing before at a friend or relative’s house? While it may be possible for a child to attend overnight camp without ever having stayed overnight anywhere, it’s probably not a good idea if his answer to whether or not he wants to go is “Maybe.”
Does she handle basic tasks of living such as washing up, brushing teeth, and getting dressed on her own? This doesn’t mean she does it without being reminded (even nagged), but once she decides to do it, can she do it without help?
Is he able to express his needs appropriately? Being able to say he needs to go to the bathroom, doesn’t understand an instruction or that he would like seconds are examples of basic expressions that are helpful in navigating camp life. If he can say it to you or a teacher, you can feel comfortable that he’ll tell his counselor.
If your answers to these questions are mostly yes, then her “Maybe” can become a “Yes,” especially if you decide to find a friend to go with her.” (You can find the rest of Jack's blog post here.)
Aldersgate offers two 3 night camps, Grand and Discovery for our youngest campers. Although you might think your child would do best at camp when they’re a little older, we think these shorter camps are a great introduction to camp and aren’t as intimidating as the 5-night camps that 5th graders and up attend. Younger campers can get a taste of what camp is like and know if it’s a place they’d like to return to in the future (we are almost positive they will!)
Finally, please know that camp is for everyone. For the adventure-seekers and for the creative. For fear-conquerors and for thinkers. For gamers and for athletes. For introverts and extroverts. For believers and the curious. Through intentional small cabin groups, Aldersgate focuses on creating an emotionally safe atmosphere where campers are empowered to be themselves and connect to others in a way that’s not always easy outside of camp. That means even the shyest children can blossom at camp.
If you’re thinking of sending your child for the first time, we encourage you to assess their readiness and then check out our selection of camps to find an option that seems right for them. Check out our Facebook page to see pictures and videos, and feel free to contact us to set up a time to come explore camp with your child. We’d love for you and your child to join us at camp this summer and become part of our Aldersgate family!