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 attention issues 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, weaknesses 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? If it’s her turn to clear the table in the dining hall, will she remember all the steps? If the counselor asks her to do something, will she listen and follow through?
How flexible is your child?
Is switching gears hard for your child? If it’s time to put away her art project and move on to a new activity, will she 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 the 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 she able and willing to deal with self-care, such as brushing her teeth and washing her hair? Can she get dressed on her own or does she still need help? Can she make her own bed yet? If not, is she willing to learn? 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 she had experiences outside of school that didn’t involve you? Is she willing to take risks and try new things? If so, is she able to ask for help when she needs it?
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 camps geared toward kids with learning and attention issues. In the meantime, you can work on building the skills that will help her succeed at camp wherever she is!