I watched hundreds of children get off the bus on the first day of camp, nervous, concerned, shy and somewhat overwhelmed. On the last day of camp, these same children will be crying their eyes out from leaving what will become their second home.
I have a vivid memory of a family who I worked with that arranged for their son to be a first-time camper. The father made a simple request: he wanted to visit his 8 year-old son on the fourth day of camp to check on him. If he was not having a good time, he wanted to be able to remove his son from camp.
This father showed up at camp, ready to embrace his son who he was sure was missing him terribly. His visit to lasted less than 20 minutes. His son introduced him to his cabin mates, gave him a tour of his favorite activities and showed him around his bunk. The father reported to me that his son gave him a hug and said, “You better go home dad, or you will never want to leave this place, it is so much fun.”
Jewish Camp—whether day camp or sleep away—can have a huge impact on your child’s social, emotional, Jewish and physical development. It can allow your child to work on responsibility, independence and friendships.
Jewish Summer Camps can be a partner with parents to help create a second Jewish home for our children. Camp offers a chance for your child to experience new sports, new programs, new friends and fun ways of learning.
So how do you know if your child is ready for camp?
If they have successfully spent the night at a friend’s or family’s house, they are probably ready for sleep-away camp. Sleep away camp is after all, one big overnight.
Does your child talk in their sleep, wet the bed or have special needs? Many camps also have accommodations for children with these types of issues.
As for day camp, there is a good chance they are ready if they attend a half-day or full-day preschool program. Day camps have an amazing way of helping even the youngest and immature child experience the summer of a lifetime.
A first-time camper on the last day of camp once said to me, “I may be leaving camp, but camp and this summer will never leave me.” _
Dr. Hilary Buff is a practicing therapist that lives in Orange County, CA and has two children that attend summer camp. She works with parents, children and teens to live a healthy and successful life.