It’s almost February and while some might be thinking of Valentine’s Day and wondering if it’s going to snow, most seasoned parents out there know the truth: It’s time to sign your kids up for summer camp!
Many families I work with think their children can’t go to camp, but there are some awesome benefits of camp so read on!
Why Day Camp?
The #1 benefit of day camp for your child is that it’s not academic. I have watched children have extremely difficult school years, filled with high anxiety and physically aggressive reactions to work demands in the classroom, yet when placed in the non-academic environment of day camp, they thrive! Now, this often needs to be a specialized camp and is often one tailored towards children with Autism, ADHD, or anxiety, but I want parents to know that this is possible.
So, let’s take a look at all the options.
Why Do Preschoolers Benefit from Camp?
Day camp for preschoolers is usually a lot like the preschool day minus the academic curriculum. So, children benefit from an extension of the routine into the summer months with lots of play! All children do better with routine and those idle weeks and months of summer usually become filled with sibling conflict and late bedtimes that throw everyone off. Just having a routine of day camp can help keep a child regulated and keep their anxiety low.
Why Do School-Age Kids Benefit from Day Camp?
Day camp allows school-age children to continue practicing their skills but outside of the demands of a classroom. These skills include learning new games, practicing compromise, trying new things, and following a routine that does not include non-preferred academic activities. I have seen children thrive in a camp routine likely because the academic demands are taken away and the focus is play. Many school-age children find success and confidence at camp before they feel it at school.
When Is My Child Ready For Sleep-Away Camp?
Sleep-away camp builds independence and confidence, but your child has to be ready for the challenge. So, how do you know when your child is ready for sleep-away camp? There is no magical age. If your child is typically-developing, many are ready for sleep-away camp between 8-10 years old. This decision is often based on the independence of their self-care skills and their emotional maturity. Can they solve peer conflicts with only a minor amount of adult support? Can they follow their morning and nighttime routines on their own? Be careful not to underestimate them. It’s amazing how children will step up in a camp situation when their peers are all cleaning a cabin or setting a table together in the dining hall.
What About Specialized Camps?
Many children with Autism, ADHD, and/or anxiety find success at a specialized camp with low ratios and highly-trained counselors. The added benefit of specialized camps is giving families respite from caregiving. However, it’s also harder to decide when children with such variable abilities are ready for this independence. Asking your child’s therapist and teacher is a good first step. They see your child more objectively than you do and will likely have an opinion.
So Why Am I So Passionate About Camp?
Well, because school is just so hard for some children. They need a break from the demands of moving through activities they don't find interesting. Camp is fun! Swimming, music, hiking, boating, and crafts…these are all things that are building motor skills, social skills, and self-confidence without the pressures of grades, tests, and paying attention to things that they just find boring. I want children to feel success and when they don’t feel it in the classroom, camp is an awesome option!
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