Children love to spend time with their friends, and as summer approaches, they may ask if they can go to the same camp their friends will attend. You may ask yourself, "How old should my child be before they go to summer camp?" The answers will vary, depending upon the parents and the child, but here are some guidelines.
Day camps are a chance for your child to enjoy time away from Mom and Dad and spend time with their friends. These are generally no more than three to four hours long each day, but it's a great opportunity for them to begin spreading their wings and gaining some independence.
Most people agree that day camps are good for children under the age of ten. A day camp would be an arts camp, sports camp, Vacation Bible School, or something along those lines. The parent would drop the children off, they would stay for a few hours, and then be picked up each day.
Some church camps have several options for campers. They may offer day camp classes for the very young, "under night" camps for those children not quite ready to spend the night, and overnight camp for those children who are ready for the challenge of time away from home. For the uninformed, "under night" camp would enable your child to go for day camp, stay until after dinner, and then go home to sleep in their own beds.
As children get older than ten, they are usually ready to be away from home for more than one night. However, you may want to allow them to spend the weekend away from home prior to allowing them to spend an entire week at summer camp, just to see how it goes. If they have difficulties being away for more than one or two nights, it would be best to wait until they are more mature before sending them off for a week or more.
By age twelve, most children are ready to leave home for a week or more. Don't assume, however, that your child wants to go to summer camp. Or, if they do, that they want to go to the camp you have chosen.
Are they involved in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts? Perhaps they'd enjoy a week at one of those camps. They may enjoy a church summer camp even more, but you won't know unless you ask them. Be sure to include them in the decision; you may be surprised at what they have to say.
You may wonder how old your child should be before they go to summer camp. You can't deny the many benefits of summer camp, but you know your child best. Their maturity level, experience, and desire will affect how successfully they handle the time away from parents, siblings, and their own bed.