Should You Really Send Your Child To A Summer Camp?
When you think of summer camps, thoughts of roasting s’mores by a fire pit, singing campfire tunes, having fun in the sun and enjoying outdoor watersports come to mind. Most adults reminisce about their weeks attending summer camps as children. It’s the age old childhood American tradition, often exemplified in movies like The Parent Trap and Camp Rock.
Our childhoods were much different than our kids’ – the internet, cell phones, cyberbullying and fear of lawsuits around every corner didn’t exist. Now that we’re raising our children amongst these unknowns, sending our children to summer camps may or may not be best for them.
Making New Connections
It was such a different time when we were growing up. Connectivity was characterized by hugging friends or plugging a lamp up to the wall. Now, our kids are glued to mobile devices – amongst other distractions. Immersion into nature and disconnecting can do them good, right? Is summer camp the answer?
If I do say so myself, it can be a great idea. Especially when you consider how many kids actually have a conversation with someone in person — without using emojis or text speak. Eliminating devices so kids can improve their interpersonal skills is just one benefit.
From parents I’ve interviewed, the ones who had positive experiences say they would still send their children to a summer camp. However, most said they would only send them if they personally knew either the friends attending with their children or the camp counselors. The parents are more inclined to send their children to church camps, with their youth groups or to bible school for the younger crowd, more than any other camps. Let’s explore the experience of summer camps more in depth.
Summer Camp’s Positive Impact
- Learn Team Building: This lifelong skill can be applied in any walk of life.
- Gain Independence: Learning to take care of themselves, gaining a new independence that they can take back home with them.
- Make New Friends: Research shows that being submerged in a new experience with peers of the same age and similar interests allows your child to make new friends – ones they may keep for a long time.
- Attend With Friends: The familiarity and safety children feel attending the camp with a friend will most likely make for a much more enjoyable experience. Plus, this should put you, as the parent, at ease knowing that they have someone to cling to.
- Increase Self-Confidence: The American Camping Association notes that learning new skills builds self-confidence that they can take with them for years to come.
- Make Childhood Memories: Allowing kids to make their own childhood memories is important. These are the summers they’ll remember for the rest of their life!
Reasons To Rethink Summer Camp
- No Friends Attending: It’s possible they won’t know anyone attending camp, making it a more nerve-wracking experience when faced with the unknown.
- Having Safety Concerns: If it’s your traditional wilderness camp experience, there will always be some safety concerns. Whether it’s an allergic reaction to a insect or plant or children being too rambunctious and getting hurt, their safety might be at risk.
- Getting Separation Anxiety: Parents and children may feel some anxiety about being separated from one another.
- Cost Considerations: Camps can be pricey, as noted here. This is especially true if they’re overnight and transportation costs are involved.
- Distance Issues: Depending on the camp, you are a ways away from your child when they need you. Sometimes this is just a 20 minute drive, but could be a plane flight away!
Questions To Consider
Now that you’ve seen the pros and cons to sending kids to camp, consider these questions before deciding if a summer camp is best for your child.
- What Age Should They Be? While this is more a question of maturity, the recommended age to attend an overnight camp is 10 years old or older.
- Is My Child Outgoing? Having an energetic and outgoing personality will typically allow your child to become more quickly adjusted to the summer camp experience. Children who are more introverted tend to get more overwhelmed at the energy and newness of summer camp.
- Will They Be Okay Making Friends? Having prior skills to make new friends will help them adapt to summer camp more quickly. However, it’s possible that submerging your child in an experience where they have to gain the skill of making new friends, may benefit them in the long run! Practice makes perfect.
- Will They Attend With Friends? Having a buddy at camp can ease the nerves and homesickness. If you know that your child gets along with the friend easily and that they have similar interests, attending a summer camp together might better their friendship and allow them to have a great time away from home.
- How Long Of A Stay Is It? For first timers, 5-7 days is plenty of time to be away from home. If you child is a regular camper, weeks at a time may be the way to go. Know your child’s boundaries and ask them what they’re up for, too!
- Do They Allow Cell Phones? Balance is key here: having some ground rules regarding connectivity (or none at all) and having trust in the supervision are both factors to consider.
- Is Camp Staff Child Protection Certified? Most churches require their staff to be child protection trained. Asking this question of camp counselors is a good reassurance that your child will not be abused in any way during their stay. During child protection training, the staff learn the necessary education and awareness to avoid children to ever be mistreated.
- Can I Reach My Child In An Emergency? You never know what will happen. Making sure you’re not too far away in case of an emergency will give you and your child some sense of relief.
- What Are Discipline Protocols? Kids occasionally make bad decisions. Understand the camp’s policies on discipline prior to your child attending camp.
- What Waivers & Releases Must I Sign? Hopefully, these waivers will only be for things like, “we’re not responsible for broken electronic devices” and not things like, “we’re not responsible for injury to your child”. Be sure to read the waivers thoroughly.
The Summer Camp Starter Kit
If you’re looking to send your child to summer camp, but aren’t sure if it’s they’ll enjoy it, start with a day camp in your hometown. You can get to them quickly if they need you and they can sleep in the comfort of their own bed at night. Once they’re old enough, have shown excitement for an overnight camp and you feel comfortable with the fellow attendees and guardians, it may be time to send them on!
So, now the question is: should you really send your child to a summer camp?