With summer just around the corner, making plans for your child’s summer vacation may be on your mind. The options are vast, and depending on the age and maturity of your child, overnight camp may be up for consideration for this summer.
How young is too young?
In general, you can start thinking about overnight camp options for a child who is 6 years old. Of course, not every 6 year old is ready or interested in overnight camp. Parents know their children best. If your child enjoys the outdoors, has spent the night away from parents, and seems genuinely interested in an overnight camp experience, he or she may be ready.
Let your child be the guide. If he or she is asking about overnight camp, discuss the topic. What about overnight camp is appealing to your child? Does he seem comfortable with the idea of being away from parents for a few days? Is there a specific camp or camping activity that he or she is interested in?
Looking at options
One of the most important factors in selecting a camp is if the activities interest your child. Does your child love animals? Does she love math and science? Are drama and dancing his passions? You know what your child enjoys, so make sure the camp you select offers options that appeal to him or her. Just because your child’s best friend loves one camp doesn’t mean that camp is the best option for your family.
Creating a positive overnight camp experience starts before your child even leaves home. Talk about the camp so they know what the experience will be like. Do your research so you can help prepare your child. Talk about their sleeping arrangements, how mealtime will work. Discuss the activities. Explain that they will not be able to talk to call home while they are away. You can mail them letters in advance, but most camps do not allow calls home.
Make sure you pack together. The camp will provide you a packing list, so review that with your child and pack the bag as a team. For many children, a transitional object like a stuffed animal or favorite blanket can help ease the transition.
Most importantly…be upbeat and positive. If you are anxious, chances are the kids will be too. Share your excitement with them so that by the time you leave them at camp, they are full of positive energy and excited for the experience.
Camps for kids with chronic illness
Summer camp is especially meaningful for children with chronic medical conditions.
There are many camps designed specifically for children with a chronic illness. These camps are wonderful experiences for children, as they teach them a level of independence they may not find at home. It’s also a great experience to be with other children who can relate to their lives. These camps are staffed with many healthcare professionals, and are prepared to manage your child’s medical condition.
It’s up to you
When making the summer camp decision, remember that you know your child best and not all children are the same. While all of your daughter’s friends may be ready to go to camp at age 7, that doesn’t mean your daughter is ready. While your daughter went to camp at age 8, your son may not be ready until he’s 10 or 11. Some kids may never be interested in overnight camp. There are plenty of day camp options for everyone.
Take the next steps:
- Read what the American Academy of Pediatrics says about preparing your child for camp.
- Learn tips for coping with homesickness from the American Camp Association.
- Check out Michigan camps for kids with chronic illnesses, such as:
- Camp Michitanki for children who have had a transplant
- Camp Bold Eagle for children with bleeding disorders
- Special Days Camp for children with cancer and their siblings
- Trail’s Edge Camp for children who are ventilator dependent
- Camp Midicha for children with diabetes
- Camp Oasis for children with crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Camp Discovery for children with epilepsy
Aarti Raheja, MD is a graduate of the Wayne State University School of Medical School. She completed her pediatrics residency at Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan. She is board-certified in pediatrics. Her clinical interests include preventative medicine, newborn care, asthma, and medically supervised summer camps for children with chronic illness. She is also involved in medical student education. She is medical director of Camp Bold Eagle, the Hemophilia Foundation’s Camp for children with bleeding disorders. Dr. Raheja enjoys traveling, baking, and spending time with her husband and son. Dr. Raheja sees patients at the West Ann Arbor Health Center.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.