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Is my child ready for sleepaway camp? A take-home quiz

As your child grows up and grows out of day camp, you may be wondering the right time to send him or her to sleepaway camp. Is it the 3rd grade? At eight years old? If only the answer were as simple as a cutoff.

Every child’s readiness to be away from home varies, though not wildly. A number of our campers begin bunking at Camp Walt Witman at six or seven years old, starting with our one-week Pioneer Camp, a greatest-hits introduction to life at Camp Walt Whitman. 

It’s an easy transition from Pioneer Camp to a longer session, but if your child is looking at a four or seven-week session for their first summer camp adventure, it’s worth considering how well they understand the concept of being on our beautiful White Mountain campus for at least a month and whether they’ll be able to adjust to life without a parent (and their beloved screens!).

This quiz should give you the answer you need to decide.

1) Can your child take a shower and brush his teeth on his own?

A) Yes (with coaxing of course!)

B) No, we’re not there yet.

There’s a reason why showering is one of the telltale signs that a child is ready for camp, according to the American Camp Association. Your child’s ability to take care of their personal hygiene demonstrates the basic level of readiness they need for sleepaway camp. You can rest assured that even the most reluctant bathers or brushers will be nudged by their counselors, but they have to be able to do it when asked.

2) Has your child already told you she wants to go to sleepaway summer camp?

A) Yes (and I’m trying to find a way out of it!)

B) No

You know the saying, if it looks like a duck… The fact that your child has already been clamoring to go to sleepaway camp is a telltale sign that you should trust. Even if they appear to second-guess themselves later–a little first-time jitters or homesickness is normal.

3) Does your child ask to be picked up early from sleepovers?

A) Never

B) My child doesn’t like to spend the night yet with friends or relatives.

At Camp Walt Whitman, your child will be spending anywhere from a week to two months sleeping in a bunk with a group of about 10 campers and three counselors. (We take cabin selections very seriously, even placing children with similar interests beside each other.) There will be lots of support for kids who have never done this before, but your child should be comfortable sleeping away from home, at a friend’s or relative’s, before he or she arrives at camp.

4) When you hire a sitter to go out at night, what do you usually come home to find?

A) My child still awake; she refuses to go to sleep without us.

B) Asleep in bed.

We all know kids who don’t like for their parents to go out without them. But if your child can’t fall asleep without you when it’s time for bed, this is not something they should attempt for the first time at sleepaway camp. Once they feel comfortable being separated from you during this often stressful routine at home, they’ll be ready to do it at camp.

kids jumping in sand

5) If you know your child is going to be in a class without any close friends, you:

A) Don’t do anything. My child adapts easily to new environments and is outgoing.

B) I provide plenty of advance warning and am very encouraging because I know my child doesn’t do well with new people / new environments.

Being able to navigate new situations is a clear sign your child will be able to enjoy all the new things at camp: new friends, new coaches and counselors, new adventures, and (a few) new rules.

6) A zip line course has opened nearby. Your child has never done this before, so when she is invited to a birthday party there she:

A) Is excited beyond belief; she loves adventures and learning new things.

B) Tries to come up with a way out of it; she dreads things she has never done before. 

Camp is filled with fresh experiences and opportunities to learn new skills. If your child reacts to new experiences with enthusiasm, that’s a good sign that she’ll do the same at camp, where we are always encouraging an open mind and a willingness to try new things.

7) When you ask your child what sleepaway camp is like, he says:

A) Exactly what it is: A place where he will have a ton of fun, make new friends, become part of a community, stretch himself, and learn to do a lot of things on his own (well, maybe not that colorful, but close).

B) A place where he’ll get to eat a lot of s’mores.

Ok, this one’s a trick question, because both are true.

But unless you answered A to the majority of these questions, your child may not be ready for both the highs and the (few) low points of camp. In those moments, your child will have plenty of caring and qualified adults to call upon when he has to solve a problem or she has to conquer a fear without you.

So long as your child is up for that challenge, as well as the shaving cream fights, the s’mores, the zany costumes, songs and carnivals—congratulations: Sleepaway camp is in your future! 

Discover what a summer camp experience at Camp Walt Whitman will be like! Get in touch with us today.

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