What’s The Best Age To Start Summer Camp?

By: Daniella K. Garran

Don’t Wait to Send Your Kids to Summer Camp!

What’s the right age for starting summer camp? Well, that all depends. Do you want your child to develop a sense of community, gain independence and make lifelong friends? Then the answer is as soon as you find the right camp for your child. The American Camp Association says that, “youth development experts agree that children need a variety of experiences in their lives to help them grow into healthy adolescents and adults.”

Audrey Monke of Gold Arrow Camp writes, “many parents won’t allow their child to go on a school field trip or school outdoor education trip unless they are chaperoning, so it’s no surprise that those same parents may find the idea of sending their child to sleep-away camp incomprehensible.”

Letting Go

Of course, packing up your child and sending him or her away for any length of time is never easy; often, parents are the ones who struggle more with the separation than the campers. Parents religiously peruse camp websites looking for a picture of their child so that they can analyze and overanalyze every last detail. Did their son have his shoes tied? Was their daughter’s hair brushed well enough? Wasn’t their youngest wearing the same shirt in the photos posted three days ago? Instead, what parents should focus on is whether their child looks happy and engaged.  Knowing that your child is going to have a transformative experience makes the separation easier. You’ve chosen a particular camp for a reason; now let the staff work its magic.

New Experiences

It’s exciting to watch our youngest campers learn to navigate the dining hall and make choices about their meals. While some might choose the pasta bar for dinner every night, perhaps they might venture into trying something new at the salad bar one evening. Having the freedom to make choices of this nature is fundamental to growing up. It is equally rewarding to watch campers who may have never before experienced time spent by the water learn how to sail or waterski with confidence. Exposure to new activities, new people and new experiences at a young age in the safe environment that is camp instills an important sense of adventure and exploration in today’s youth. The earlier they are exposed, the sooner they will gain confidence in themselves and develop a willingness to try new things.

New Skills

Not only are children learning to sail, shoot a bow and arrow and throw on a potter’s wheel, they are also learning important skills for life such as cooperation and collaboration. In her article, “Why I Send My Kids to Camp,” Christine L. Carter explains “by sending my kids to camp, I was sending them the message that I believe that they can manage loneliness, and homesickness, and anxiety.” It is no surprise that there is often a direct correlation between the social-emotional learning that occurs at camp and success in a school setting. This includes emotional regulation, empathy and perspective training and deep self-knowledge, all of which is developed at summer camp.

Lindsey Mead Russell, a former Cape Cod Sea Camper, reflects:

“It was an easy decision to send both of our children to CCSC at the earliest possible opportunity (they were both 8).  It was great to be introduced to camp through a short ten day stay and our son definitely wanted to stay longer!  It’s a privilege to be a part of the youngest group, which, even I remember, is doted on by everyone at camp.  It makes future years more fun because camp’s familiar, both the people and the place.  Our daughter was worried about homesickness, but the confidence she gained from going and mastering the experience at her young age is worth more than I can ever possibly describe.  She’s 15, and I know that the fact that she went to camp as an 8 year old and thrived is a source of strength for her even now.”

So don’t delay! Enroll your child in camp today!

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