Is your young child beginning the process of getting ready for their first sleepaway camp?
Sleepaway camps have some amazing benefits for young children, including helping them learn independence and foster skills they wouldn’t learn in school. And, sleepaway camps are becoming so popular, that they’re popping up in other parts of the world.
But if you’re preparing a very young child for sleepaway camp, you’ll want to prepare them before you send them off.
In this article, we’ll discuss how you should discuss sleepaway camp for young children to help them ease their anxiety before they go away for the summer.
How Young is Too Young to Send Your Child to Sleepaway Camp?
Different sleepaway camps will have different minimum ages. You might see camps offering shortened versions of their program for children as young as six. Others may accept kids for the entirety of the program starting at age eight.
However, the minimum age for sleepaway camp is dependent on one thing, and one thing alone: your child and his or her reaction.
Sleepaway camp is meant to be a fun experience to allow children the chance to grow and make new friends. Many children are anxious at first, but then slowly come out of their shell as the weeks progress. For other children, the entire time away from their parents and “usual” routine is torture.
It’s up to you as a parent to decide with your child when is the best time to send them away. Remember, just because an older sibling or cousin went away at a specific age doesn’t mean your child will be prepared then, too.
When to send your child away is very much dependant on their own development and emotional needs. If you notice your child is highly anxious at even the thought of a sleepaway camp, it may be too soon to send them.
For the rest of this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways to introduce your child to the concept of sleepaway camp.
1. Watch a Movie in Which Sleepaway Camp Plays a Part
There are many movies in which the main characters attend a sleepaway camp. Watch one of these movies, as appropriate, with your child. A classic, of course, is The Parent Trap, in which the main characters meet at sleepaway camp.
Use the film as a launching point to discuss some of the activities they might participate in at sleepaway camp, as well as the people they might meet.
2. Take a Tour of a Sleepaway Camp
Thinking about sending your child to sleepaway camp, but you’re still unsure? Or, have you been sending you older children to the same sleepaway camp for years, but your younger child or children are unsure?
Either way, taking a tour of the sleepaway camp is a fantastic way to start talking about it and what things they may be able to do there. Remember to point out activities your child likes, such as dancing or soccer or swimming, reassuring them that they get to do many fun things while they’re away.
If your family doesn’t have a relationship with a sleepaway camp, don’t fret. You can still visit several different summer camps to help your child get the feel for one: and they can help you decide which camp to send your child to.
3. Have Practice Sleepovers to Introduce Sleepaway Camp for Young Children
If your child hasn’t spent a lot of time away from you, they may be uneasy at the idea of spending the night somewhere else. You can introduce the concept of being away from you for the night by having your child stay at friends’ houses or with relatives for the night.
You may even want to try having your child stay away for a long weekend, which will introduce the idea of being away from you for longer than one night.
Make sure that the friend or relative plans some activities for your child so that they aren’t sitting and waiting for you to come and pick them up. If they don’t have a great experience away from you, they may be even more hesitant to agree to attend summer camp.
4. Attend Sleepaway Camp Open Days
If your older children, or your child’s older cousins, attend a sleepaway camp, it is likely the camp will have some kind of open day or time for parents to visit.
When you already have a child attending the sleepaway camp (or an older niece or nephew), bring your younger children so that they can see all of the things the children did while they were at camp. If this isn’t the case, discuss with the camp if you can see the summer camp at a time when actual campers are there so that your child can get a feel for what the camp is like “in action.”
5. Have Your Child Speak with Former or Current Campers
With the magic of the Internet, you don’t need to have former or current campers living right next to you. Instead, you can arrange for your child to speak with a current or former camper via the Internet.
This gives your child the ability to ask the child as many questions as they like, including questions children may ask one another but fail to ask adults.
Knowing that another child their age had fun, and hearing it from that child, can help make them feel more secure in their choice of attending summer camp.
Young Children and Sleepaway Camp
When introducing a sleepaway camp for young children, it is important to remember that each child develops differently. As such, one child may be ready for an overnight camp at 7, while another isn’t until they’re 12, but that’s okay.
Still, having conversations and introducing the concept will make the transition easier once they do decide they want to spend part, or all, of the summer at sleepaway camp.
Want more information about sleepaway camps? Get in touch with us today, and one of our advisors can help you take the first step in your child’s sleepaway camp adventure.