Vintage Parenting 101: It’s Camp Time!

As a part of my efforts to increase the accessibility of my website, I am re-posting articles from my old Parenting 101 page as stand-alone blog posts on the main site.

May 22, 2007 – “It’s Camp Time!”

Q – How do I know if my child is ready for a “sleep-away” camp?

A – Most children can handle the away from home camp experience around age 8, 9, or 10. Certainly, your child’s personality is a big factor. Some are more independent, while others are more “homebodies.” However, one of the most important factors is whether or not YOU, the parent, are ready for your child to go away to camp. If the thought of sending your child to a camp away from home makes you nervous, consider starting him/her at a day camp at an earlier age. This can help get both of you ready for the big transition. Also, don’t start with a camp that lasts for a big chunk of the summer – one week is a reasonable length for the first big camp experience.

Q – How can I prepare my child for camp?

A – Talk about it well before the time comes, and keep the conversation positive. Emphasize the fun and the new experiences, adventures, and friendships your child will discover at camp. Empower your child by letting your child know how much you believe in her/him. The two most important skills your child needs to ensure a positive camp experience are both relational: 1. respecting and obeying authorities, and 2. treating others with respect. Obviously, these are attributes that won’t be developed overnight, and should be foundational in the day to day raising and training of children.

Q – Why should I send my child away to camp?

A – There are so many great benefits of the camp experience! Children have an opportunity to develop a greater sense of healthy independence, which will serve them well for life. Many new skills and activities can be learned at camp, from crafts to sports to group games to fun songs and skits. Kids really get to grow in new ways at camp. It is also an opportunity to expose your children to the benefits of healthy mentors – people other than parents that are willing to invest time in kids to help them grow up well. Camp offers the vital element of allowing kids to take risks – both physical and social – in a supervised and encouraging environment. Boys and girls both need the chance to take risks to help them mature and develop a strong sense of self-confidence and positive identity. Another increasingly important element of camp is the break it offers kids from electronic entertainment and gadgetry. No TV, internet, movies, or video games. Trust me, this is a really healthy break for your children and teens. And even if your camp allows cell phones, I strongly recommend keeping them at home. If there is an emergency, believe me, the camp will get in touch with you. Otherwise, you and your child could both benefit from cutting the electronic string for a week or so. Which brings me to the final camp benefit – it offers parents an opportunity to take a parenting vacation. You deserve it, and shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying it. It is healthy for you and for your kids.

Q – What kind of camp choices are there?

A – Tons. There are day camps and overnight camps from a week to a month to a whole summer. There are traditional camps that emphasize teamwork and crafts and general fun. There are church-oriented camps that offer the same great opportunities as traditional camps, with the additional element of moral/religious instruction. There are sport camps and band camps and scout camps and art camps and horse riding camps. There are various camps for children with specific special needs. There are camps with narrow age groups and camps with a wide range of ages. There are camps with all adult counselors and camps that offer teens an opportunity to transition from camper to counselor – another great camp growth experience.

To find out about many different possibilities for your kids, check out this link from Baton Rouge Parents Magazine or this link from The Advocate listing some of the local camp choices. You may also want to check out BREC’s website, and the Lousiana page of MySummerCamps, or just explore online – there are so many to choose from.

And be sure you check out my very favorite camp in the area, Camp Smiling Acres! If you are interested in sending your child to a week (or two or three) of camp where they will have trustworthy leadership and mentors, engage in tons of fun activities, games, sports, and crafts, learn fun new songs, build great relationships, and receive sound Christian life lessons, look no further than Camp Smiling Acres, located nearby in Greensburg, LA.

* Update in 2014 – I highly recommend Pine Cove Christian Camps, which are located in East Texas – with a mobile version for younger kids likely available near you.  Check them out.  Pine Cove has made a tremendous impact on my son’s spiritual development in the last five years, for which my wife and I are eternally thankful.

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