Most kids look forward to summer vacation as a time free of schedules and filled with days spent outdoors with friends. Many parents, however, start to stress as summer approaches and they work to plan weeks of fun and safe camp options.
- Summer camp can provide a chance for your child to unplug from the digital world.
- Camp can be a great place to develop emotional intelligence—meaning self-awareness, self-control, empathy, the ability to wait (delayed gratification), and the ability to listen, cooperate, share, and work well with others.
- Summer camp can enhance social development, including social skills and resiliency.
- Camps can foster self-reliance.
You can start to think about overnight camp for a child who is 6 years old. While not every 6-year-old is ready, you know your child best. If he or she enjoys the outdoors, has successfully spent the night away from home, and seems interested in overnight camp, he or she may be ready.
Does your child love animals? Math or science? Drama? There are many options for overnight camps so let your child be your guide. And let your child participate in the preparation. Talk about what the experience will be like, what the sleeping arrangements are, what meals will be like, what activities are on the agenda. Review the packing list together and pack as a team. Parents, remember to be upbeat and positive so your child is excited for the experience.
It is, however, normal to worry about your child being homesick. In fact, 90 percent of children who attend overnight summer camp feel some level of homesickness. 20 percent feel serious levels of anxiety being away. There are many things you can do to help prevent or lessen your child’s homesickness or separation anxiety.
Camp for children with chronic illnesses
There are many camps designed especially for children with chronic illnesses. These camps are wonderful experiences as they teach children a level of independence they may not find at home. It’s also beneficial for your child to be with other children who can relate to their lives. These camps are staffed by many healthcare professionals who are prepared to manage your child’s medical condition. Following are some great resources to help you find the right camp for your child:
- SeriousFun Children’s Network
- North Star Reach (a SeriousFun Camp)
- Camps for kids with special needs
- Camp resources for children with special needs (American Camp Association)
- Special needs Summer Fun Camp Directory, planning guide and camp guide (Federation for Children with Special Needs)
- 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
- Advice on choosing a camp from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
- Questions to ask when evaluating summer camps (en espanol)
- For kids: Camping and Safety
- Camp Database (American Camp Association)
- The Summer Camp Handbook: Everything You Need to Find, Choose and Get Ready for Overnight Camp—and Skip the Homesickness by Christopher A. Thurber, PhD, and Jon C. Malinowski, PhD
Reviewed by Ashley DeHudy, MD and Lynn Gessner MD
Updated January 2020