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

By Erica Patino

At a glance

  • Some kids have the skills for sleepaway camp in grade school, while others don’t.

  • Sleepaway camp can help build independence if kids are ready for it.

  • If you’re not sure your child is ready, there are many other camp options.

If your child is in grade school, you might wonder if sleepaway camp is a good idea. Some kids have a hard time being on their own in a new environment before middle-school age. And having learning and thinking differences can make it harder. But other kids thrive on new faces, new experiences, and a taste of independence.

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to send your child to sleepaway camp. The most important are your child’s strengths, challenges, and interests. Here are some things to think about.

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?

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.

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?

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.

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.

Key takeaways

  • Kids in grade school aren’t always ready to do things on their own and ask for help if they need it.

  • Talking to the camp director in advance can let you know how the camp helps kids who have social challenges.

  • Important skills for camp include self-care, flexibility, and following directions.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.