How to Know if Your Child is Ready for Summer Camp

How to Know if Your Child is Ready for Summer Camp

27 March 2024

My first overnight Christian camp made me feel like a big kid. I reached a new level of independence, made new friends and had so much fun it was the highlight of my summer. After that first summer camp experience, I counted down the days until I headed to my next week of camp!

But how did my parents know I was ready?

As parents, we want to enroll our kids in the best summer programs, and we know overnight camp experiences often create some of the fondest childhood memories. The challenge is that kids develop on their own schedule, so there isn’t a set age to send your child to an overnight camp.

How can you confidently know if your child is ready for an overnight summer camp? Here are a few key questions to help you decide:

Has your child had successful and positive sleepover experiences?

Time away from parents generally starts by spending time with friends, grandparents or other family members. Children who practice separation from caregivers while remaining in the care of trusted adults build confidence and develop a sense of independence. These experiences help them feel more comfortable in new settings, including overnight summer camp!

After a sleepover, talk to your child about how they felt. Did they have trouble sleeping, experience physical discomfort like stomach aches, or regress in certain behaviors once they return home? If so, they might need more practice before heading off to residential camps.

Does your child independently manage their hygiene?

Campers need to complete basic hygiene without assistance. They must be able to use the restroom, wash their hands, brush their hair and teeth, shower and dress without assistance. Summer staff will remind them, of course!

Completing essential daily tasks independently also ensures they have healthy boundaries with the adults caring for them while they are away from home.

Is your child genuinely interested in the activities the camp session provides?

As parents, we research specialty camps and want to give them opportunities for fun activities but also growth. Engaging your child in the decision-making can help set expectations and increase their excitement. Do they understand what camp programs will be like? All the fun outdoor activities but also things that might be new or uncomfortable, like no electronics and sleeping in a cabin with other camp participants.

Will your child try new things?

Youth camps involve new experiences and recreational activities requiring your child to manage the unfamiliar. While some kids fearlessly jump right in, others need help building courage before they are willing to try something new.

Summer camp programs involve meeting new friends, trying new adventures and having first-time experiences.

We train our summer staff to help children face their fears, but they will not force them to participate. This means that camp readiness includes navigating unfamiliar territory and being willing to try new things.

Can your child consistently follow the rules (especially safety instructions)?

At Carolina Creek Christian Camps, your child can participate in a wide variety of exciting activities, such as swimming at the waterpark, wakeboarding, ziplining, or rock climbing. Many outdoor activities require keen attention to detail, and following instructions is essential to their safety.

Is your child able to communicate their needs to others? 

In addition to following instructions, children must clearly communicate. They must be able to ask questions, get help or directions, and notify adults if they have a need or if there is an emergency. The ability to express themselves will help us ensure they are in a safe environment, that camp staff meet their needs, and they have a positive camp experience.

Are your kids begging you to go to youth summer camp?

One sure sign they are ready for a week of camp is their enthusiasm.

There may not be a perfect age for their first summer camp experience. However, if they have limited separation anxiety, understand the camp programs and embrace new experiences, overnight camp may quickly become the most anticipated week of their summer!