In The Press

Sleepaway Camp

The First Summer Away From Home

Sleepaway camp is an exciting, fun-filled valuable experience. Children develop new and lasting friendships. Athletic activities develop motor skills and foster good sportsmanship and healthy competition. Children discover their creative abilities and learn to express them in different forms of art, music and drama. Each day provides opportunities for learning, growing and having fun.

A child usually has his/her first sleepaway camp experience between the ages of seven and ten. Your child's readiness for camp will depend largely upon your attitudes toward camp and feelings about separation. Parents who have had a positive camp experience themselves and share their memories with enthusiasm will spark interest in their child.

You can provide your child with opportunities that will prepare his/her for camp:

  • Day camp and after-school activities help prepare children for sleepaway camp. Children who are involved in team sports, gymnastics, swimming, riding or drama are eager to go to camp so they can participate more fully in their special interest activity.
  • Spending the night at the homes of friends or relatives allows for separation, and gives children a chance to feel comfortable and secure sleeping in a strange bed and being away from home.
  • If your child has an older sibling who has gone to camp, chances are he has been to camp on visiting day and seen it in action. Such an introduction is bound to make a child eager to experience camp for him/herself.

Your choice of camp will be primarily dependent upon your child's specific needs and interests, as well as your own goals. Consider the following to clarify your priorities:

  • Would you prefer a small, medium or large camp?
  • What is your preference as to geographic location?
  • Would you prefer a single-sex or co-ed program?
  • Would an eight week, four week or other program be best suited for your child?
  • Would your child do better in a more structured or less structured environment?
  • Are you looking for a camp which emphasizes sports, creative arts, hiking, nature?

Once you have clarified your priorities, you are ready to look for a camp. Getting recommendations from friends can be helpful provided you ask specific questions based on your child's needs and interests. The first camp my daughter went to was highly recommended by a good friend whose children had been going for several years. As it turned out, the camp was great for my friend's children, but totally inappropriate for my daughter who needed a more structured program with a stronger emphasis on sports and opportunities for competition. Advisory services can assist you in finding an appropriate camp for your child, giving you information and recommendations based on personal camp visits and research.

After you have narrowed your choices to a few appropriate camps, talk about camp with your child and look at camp brochures together. Some camp directors recommend planning a family vacation in an area where you can visit camps that are possibilities for the following summer. Visiting camps will give you child a view of camp life and the experience of these visits will lead to more questions and discussion.

The best time to apply to camps is during the fall prior to the summer your child will be at camp. If you are working with a camp adviser, he or she will have camp information sent to you and contact the directors of the camps you are considering. The directors will then call you to arrange a meeting with you and your child to tell you about their camp. If you are choosing on your own, you can call the winter office of each camp to request information and set up an appointment. Some directors meet each family at their home, whereas others meet several families together at a central location.

It is a good idea for parent and child to prepare a list of questions to ask the director. One child's list included these questions:

  • How will I know where to go when I get off the bus?
  • How often do I have to take a shower?
  • Where will I sleep?
  • How will I get awakened in the morning?
  • What if I don't like the food?
  • What if I get sick at camp?

Every question is important, and the camp director should take the time to answer every one. After the director gives the presentation and the questions are answered, you will have a better idea if this camp is a possibility for your child. As a family, discuss each camp under consideration remembering that there are many good camps. The key is to choose the camp that is most suitable for your child. If your child is not ready for sleepaway camp this year, you've done your, and you'll be ready whenever he/she is.