How to know if your grade-schooler is ready for sleepaway camp

Sleepaway camp can help kids who learn and think differently build independence. But some kids have a hard time being on their own in a new environment before middle school age. Learn how to tell if your child is ready.

If your child is in grade school, and summer camp is an option for your family, you might wonder if sleepaway camp is a good idea. There are many factors to consider when deciding if your child is ready for sleepaway camp. Here are five questions to think about.

1. How well does your child take direction?

Camp life is full of rules and routines. Is your child able and willing to follow instructions? Can your child remember all the steps for tasks like clearing a table in the dining hall? Will your child listen and follow through if the counselor gives instructions?

2. How flexible is your child?

Is switching gears hard for your child? If it’s time to put away an art project and move on to a new activity, will your child get upset or resist? If the camp tends to keep kids on the go with a jam-packed schedule, your child will need to be flexible.

3. How strong are your child’s social skills?

One of the best aspects of summer camp is making new friends. But if your child struggles with social skills, this can be hard. Talking to the camp director ahead of time can give you a sense of how staff members handle social challenges. Will they help your child build skills and find ways to fit in? Would they recommend enrolling kids who don’t have very strong social skills?

4. How good is your child about personal hygiene?

Is your child able and willing to deal with self-care, such as brushing teeth and washing hair? Can your child get dressed independently? How about making a bed? Is your child ready and willing to learn these skills? Along with new freedoms, sleepaway camp often comes with new responsibilities.

5. How independent is your child?

Having independence and being independent are two different things. How does your child handle being separated from you? Has your child had experiences outside of school that didn’t involve you? Is your child willing to take risks and try new things? How about being comfortable asking an adult for help?

Sleepaway camp can be a great way to build independence. But if your child isn’t ready, that’s OK. There are many different summer camp options to consider, including day camps and camps geared toward kids with learning and thinking differences.

For more information about camp and other summer activities, check out this summer guide for families.

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