Is My Child Ready For Summer Camp?

By: Mollie Shauger | Saturday, January 25, 2020 | Summer Camp

A young girl and boy sitting on the grass, smiling. YMCA camps can build character, self-confidence and social skills.

Note: This blog has been updated from a previous version.

Camp is a great way for children to socialize, build their self-confidence, explore their interests and grow emotionally and physically independent. For many, summer camp will be filled with new activities in a new environment. Some children handle this fine, while others take time to adjust.

So how do you know that your child is ready to experience camp for the first time? Excitement is a good sign - but that’s not the only criteria you should use to evaluate their readiness. You have to consider how your child does in unfamiliar situations, among other things.

“The first time away from home can be tough, regardless of age,” says Martin Richards, director of sleepaway camps at the YMCA of Greater Bergen County.

However, children are adaptable and resilient, he notes, and oftentimes it’s the parents who need the extra coaching and support when their kids go to camp.

The American Camp Association recommends asking these questions to determine a child’s readiness:

  • What is your child’s age? Children under 7 may have a harder time adjusting to being away from home. Therefore, day camp might be a better option than overnight.
  • How did your child’s interest arise? How often do they talk about camp and did they require persuasion from you?
  • How has your child responded when away from home? If you're considering a sleepaway camp, do they have positive experiences staying overnight in other places, like with friends or relatives? How easily were they able to separate from you?
  • What does your child expect to do at camp? Learning about the experience ahead of time allows you to create positive expectations.
  • Can you communicate positive messages about camp consistently? Your enthusiasm can be contagious.

When it comes to sleepaway camp, ultimately the decision to sign up your child depends on you and your parenting style, and your child’s temperament, writes one longtime camp director and mother of five. If you are fearful and anxious as a parent, and your child is reluctant about going to camp, don’t send them. Adults have to be confident about the experience in order to make it successful.

The Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges provides camp opportunities for children of all ages at its seven branches: East Orange YMCA, Fairview Lake YMCA Camps, Greater Bergen County YMCA, South Mountain YMCA, Sussex County YMCA, Wayne YMCA and West Essex YMCA.


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