Choose the Summer Program That's Right for Your Child
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American Camp Association tips for parents and a database to help parents choose ACA-accredited programs
Health Appraisal Guidelines for Day Camps and Resident Camps by the ACA and the American Academy of Pediatrics
Sleep-away Camps for Children on Medication by the Child Study Center at the New York University School of Medicine
Advice on Summer Camps for Kids with Learning and Attention Problems by Schwablearning.org, plus a database to search for specialized camps
By GreatSchools Staff
Consider Your Child's Needs
There's general agreement that most children are ready for sleepaway camp by the time they are nine or 10 years old, but every child has a different temperament and developmental timetable. Is your child comfortable staying overnight with friends or relatives? Is he excited at the prospect of camp? Talk to your pediatrician or your child's teacher if you're not sure your child is ready.
Your child may have loved her day camp last summer, but that doesn't mean she'll want to go year after year. Children's needs change as they grow, and your 10-year-old may have developed interests that make a special interest program in volleyball or dance a better option than day camp or sleepaway camp.
Summers can be even trickier for parents of teens, who may want more free time than their parents are comfortable allowing. Many campers "graduate" to become counselors-in-training or junior counselors, a great way to combine the experience of camp with the responsibilities of a job.
Consider Your Goals for Your Child
Summer is a great time for your child to sample new activities, and there's likely to be a summer program that includes just about any you can think of, whether it's video production, yoga, rock-climbing or songwriting.
Whatever new experience you'd love to introduce to your child, experts advise that you involve him in the process of choosing, whether it's the type of camp or the length of his stay. It's a way for a child to retain a sense of control, and also a way to head off homesickness if he's heading to sleepaway camp.
"The child needs to buy in and have some choice," says the ACA's Sheets.
Myers-Walls, the Purdue psychologist, also advises parents to involve their children in planning for summer. But that doesn't mean you don't push them a bit, she says.
"As a parent you may say 'my child is afraid of any spider in the house' and I know a nature experience is going to make her a little uncomfortable,'" she says. "That doesn't mean you don't do it. You'll just want to look for ways to make your child less uncomfortable."
You can help your child feel more at home outdoors by giving her some practice. Plan a family weekend at a nearby campground this spring or help her organize a campout with friends in her own backyard.