“Kids can be ready at different time in their development, so make sure that you’re deciding based on the individual child and not what their siblings or friends are ready to do,” says Marcy Mastel, Director of Camp Four Echoes who has more than 25 years of experience working with youth at camps and other outdoor programs. She recommends that parents evaluate their child according to the following:
- Has the child been asking to go to camp?
- Do they have a special interest in a particular camp theme or the activities offered (e.g., art, music, sports, outdoor skills)? Is this their interest or the parents’ interest?
- Have they had some successful experiences away from home and away from their primary caregivers, such as play dates, slumber parties, or a weekend at grandma’s house on their own?
- Can they manage their own self-care, such as changing in and out of a bathing suit, brushing their teeth, or keeping track of most of their belongings?
Next, consider a camp’s mission statement and goals and how well that fits with your family and child. Also, know how camp staff are chosen, screened, and trained. “Good camps take this very seriously and should be very transparent about their process for choosing their staff,” says Mastel. Talk to parents of former or current campers before making a final decision.