Is your child ready for overnight camp?

“Kids themselves are the best judge of when they are ready,” says Christopher Thurber, clinical psychologist and author of The Summer Camp Handbook. “When they show spontaneous interest in camp, that’s a good clue that the time is right.”

You know your child best. Only you can determine when the timing is right. Below are some questions to consider as you make your decision.

Is my child the appropriate age to attend overnight camp?

YMCA overnight camps offer programs for children ages 7–16. Children under age seven may not adjust easily to being away from home. Day camp experiences help to prepare them for future overnight camp.

Remember that each child is an individual. A five-year-old who has spent the night with grandparents often may be able to attend camp for a week with no problem. But this may not be the case for a twelve-year-old who has never spent a night away from home.

Has my child participated in sleepovers?

Children who have spent two or more nights away from home are good candidates for overnight camp. Positive experiences and overall enjoyment are readiness indicators. Some Y camps offer two- to three-night introductory sessions for those new to camping.

Does my child have friends who attend overnight camp?

Your children’s friends may be the spark that “lights the campfire” for overnight camp. Being with people who are familiar and comfortable may make staying at overnight camp easier for their first year.

Should I involve my child in determining camp readiness?

Yes! Involving your child in the decision-making process will reduce anxiety about going away to camp. Begin by talking about your child’s interests and personality. Identify camp programs that are a good match.

Together, explore the camp options and review the brochures, websites and videos. You can even visit camp to take a tour and meet the staff. Learning about the camp experience ahead of time allows you to create positive expectations.

Am I ready for this important step in my child’s development?

Your confidence in a positive overnight camp experience will be contagious. If you present camp as a wonderful experience and opportunity, your child is more likely to be a successful camper.

Separating for a first-time camp experience is usually harder for parents than it is for children, who quickly forge fast friendships and adapt to the routine and spirit of camp. 

Additional resources

For more information about camper readiness, check out these websites

Summer Camps Website

Camp Parent Magazine