Planning for Camp
Summer may seem far away, but if you're thinking of sending your child to camp, now is the time to plan for it. The popularity of camp is soaring, with attendance topping 10 million this year, according to Marla Coleman, president of the American Camping Association (ACA) in Martinsville, IN. The good news is that there are around 12,000 programs in the U.S., giving you plenty of options, from specialty camps focusing on such activities as computers, acting, or hockey, to traditional cabin camping in the woods.
Before you dive into the selection process, determine whether your child is ready for camp -- and truly interested. Most kids start sleepaway (resident) camp at age 7 or 8, while day camp caters to kids as young as 3. If you're contemplating sleepaway camp, consider whether your youngster has spent the night away from home with friends or relatives. If so, was he comfortable with it? "If a child isn't able to separate from parents in other settings, that would be a red flag," explains Coleman. A child should also possess a baseline of skills to cope without Mom or Dad, such as the ability to cut his meat at mealtime. "Not that kids won't get help," Coleman says, "but they'll need to have the foundations there."
If your child seems cool to the idea of camp, don't push, says Coleman. But do make sure he has a clear understanding of what it's like and hasn't been influenced by misinformation from friends.