When school's out for summer, parents send their kids to camp. But how young is too young for your child's first camp experience?
It happens every year. School ends in June, and parents scramble to line up summer programs for their kids.
Some families send their kids to camp because it's fun. For other families, summer camp fills as a basic childcare need, especially in families where both parents work.
But what if your child is too young for camp? Or maybe a better question is, how young is too young for your child's first camp experience?
Your top consideration before sending your child to camp for the first time
If you're thinking of send your child to camp this summer for the very first time, you have a lot to think about. Every family has their own unique set of circumstances.
For example, if finances are an issue for your family, you may want to find a summer program that costs less than others. Or maybe finding a camp close to home is your priority, so that you have the comfort of knowing your child is always close by .
Those are just two examples, among many others, of various points to consider when picking a summer camp for the first time, and of course considerations will differ from family to family.
But there is also one common question every family needs to ask themselves before sending their child to summer camp for the first time: "Is my child physically, socially, and emotionally READY for camp?"
Since every child's different, every family will answer this crucial question differently. If your child is fairly independent, is accustomed to being away from home for extended periods of time, and has lots of friends or older siblings, they may very well be ready for camp.
On the other hand, if your son or daughter gets homesick easily, has trouble making friends, or simply has not had too much social exposure to other kids or people yet, you may want to wait another year or two before signing up for camp. (The reason we suggest waiting is because you want your kids to have a great camp experience right from the start, which would be extremely difficult if they have trouble separating from you, etc. And if they don't enjoy camp from the beginning, they may never want to go back again. Not good!)
Day Camp or Sleepaway Camp?
Let's assume your child has passed the initial litmus test of being "ready" for camp. Your next decision is what kind of camp to send them to.
In general, you can choose between a day camp or sleepaway camp.
It's really up to you, but in our humble opinion, unless our child is on the older side (at least 9 or 10) and mature, day camps may be your best choice in terms of an initial camp experience. That's because day camps are typically local and close to you, meaning your child will only be gone for a few hours before returning home from camp later the same day. This can be a very comforting feeling for both you and your child especially if it's the first time he or she will be "away" from home for the first time.
Conversely, if you choose a sleepaway camp, your child will actually be living at camp for up to a week or more depending on the length of the camp session you choose. As you can imagine, an experience like this can be somewhat intimidating and tough for a youngster who's away from his or her mom or dad for the first time ever.
L.A.'s got camps for every child
If you are considering sending your child to camp for the first time this summer, we hope this information has been helpful as an initial starting point in your camp search. Los Angeles is loaded with various day camps and overnight camps (and lots of other kinds of camps, too!) -- some of which even specialize in serving first-time campers -- so we know you'll find a great program soon. But if you find you need any additional assistance finding a camp for your first-time camper, let us know and we'll do our best to help.
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Blog posts by Cora Carter of L.A. Summer Camps.com