Is Your Child Ready for Overnight Camp?

Sleepaway camps can do wonders for a child’s personal growth and development.


Published:

For many children, sleepaway camps are a rite of passage. They leave home every summer, take part in fun activities, learn new skills and make friends before returning home with a new sense of independence.

But as a parent, how do you know whether your child is ready? And which overnight camp is the best choice? There are so many questions and choices involved that knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. But camp directors say overnight programs can do wonders for a child’s personal growth and development.


The Case for Overnight Camp

Sleepaway camps teach kids much more than physical and academic skills, says Jill Moore, executive director for Camp Thunderbird, a YMCA of Greater Charlotte program for ages 7-16.

“We help build resiliency, instill confidence and authenticity, and help children develop their best selves while doing what they enjoy,” she says. “It’s so much more than learning new activities. We help them figure out who they are, which is empowering, and we also focus on relationship building.”

instagram.com/camp__thunderbird

 

Camp Thunderbird is set alongside Lake Wylie and offers a range of team and individual activities on water and land, such as waterskiing, sailing, paddle sports and wakeboarding.

“We also offer archery, riflery, fishing, climbing towers and zip lines, and arts programs … and we have a science and technology program that includes digital media, engineering and robotics,” Moore says. “We’re bringing kids together, stretching their comfort zones a little and teaching them about the real world. Most of them come home more confident, with an attitude of ‘Look what I did,’ and are really excited about the experience and looking forward to the next time.”


A Focus on Outstanding Outcomes

At Camp Weaver in Greensboro, which offers programs designed for ages 6-16, Executive Director Jamie Cosson says the goal is to achieve three basic outcomes.

“We want to nurture a sense of achievement and build self-confidence, foster relationships with our counselors, and create a sense of belonging and being a part of something for each camper,” Cosson says.

In addition to activities like swimming, horseback riding, trampoline fun, zip lining, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, archery and a ropes course, Camp Weaver also teaches life skills, Cosson says.

“We have an organic garden that teaches kids about growing foods and a Go Pro adventures activity where they film and edit their own video. We also have a mini-farm where kids can take care of adopted animals as well. It’s really about building who they are as people.”

instagram.com/ymcacampweaver


Is My Child Ready?

If you have to persuade your child to go to camp, he or she may not be ready. The American Camp Association (ACA) advises that children under age 7 who haven’t been away from home overnight may not adjust as well, and may benefit from attending a day camp first.

Tony Campione, senior vice president of marketing and communications of YMCA of the Triangle in Raleigh, which operates Camp Seagull and Camp Seafarer in Arapahoe and Camp Katana in Wake Forest, says homesickness isn’t usually as much of a problem as parents may anticipate.

“We do a really great job of working with homesick campers, and our goal is to get them out there doing activities as a part of camp life each day,” he says. “A four-week overnight experience may not be something that every child is ready for, and we know that, so depending upon the child’s personality, parents may want to start with a one-week experience instead, and build up to a two-week and then a four-week camp. We will work with parents to determine whether the child may be ready.”

Moore says a few cases of homesickness may creep in, but “If that’s going to take place, typically it’s in the evening, and we’re prepared to help when that happens. Of course we want them to detach from their phones and laptops and interact with one another, which can be different from what they’re used to, but honestly, they are so busy all day long and so tired every night, homesickness has always been something we’ve been able to work through successfully and doesn’t usually last very long.”

instagram.com/camp_seagull


What Parents Should Know

Researching camps online is a great place to start, and the ACA website offers a wealth of information. Asking other parents about their child’s experience can also be helpful and, of course, costs and schedules must be taken into consideration.

Campione suggests involving your child in the decision-making process.

“I’ve seen it work best when parents explore camp interests with their child, and it’s a building conversation throughout the year, not a week beforehand,” he says. “We place a lot of emphasis on skills development, so we ask parents before the kids even go to sit down with them and talk about some of the goals their child wants to meet over the summer.

Then we can encourage the children to meet those goals, and it’s all done in an environment that’s entirely supportive and inclusive, to foster the child’s confidence.”

Choosing a camp accredited by the ACA is one of the most important factors, experts say. The counselor-to-campers ratio is another concern.

“We like to see at least two counselors in every cabin, and also recommend that parents talk to the leadership to understand the culture and climate of the camp,” Moore says.
Cosson recommends asking about the screening process for counselors, as well as visiting the camp whenever possible. “It definitely helps to lay eyes on the camp facilities and meet the staff if you can,” he says.

Campione recommends that parents look at the facilities to make sure they adequately meet their child’s needs. “And also look at what kind of training the staff receives, because those folks are going to be with their child every single day,” he says.


Where Memories are Made

While choosing the right camp is an important decision, Moore doesn’t want camps to be viewed as competitive.

“I have a passion and a desire for every child to go to camp, and I want all of their experiences to be incredible,” she says. “As camp directors, working together and supporting one another, we all serve kids better. And I want us all to be excellent in what we have to offer and how we make those things happen. That’s what matters the most.”

Tammy Holoman is a freelance writer from Winston-Salem.

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
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  Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture, and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us anytime during the program time to...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

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