There are three ways to use the new PKR:

  1. Browse and click on color-coded boxes that appear as if by magic as you scroll down.
  2. Click on a category for all the ParenTips under that particular category.
  3. Go to the Site Map (link) for an:
    • a) alphabetical list of all ParenTips.
    • b) A list of all 8 categories with every ParenTip in that category listed alphabetically.

Or mix and match! Have fun as you get the information you need!

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Let me start out with my personal bias. I believe in summer camp!

Sleepaway (residential) camp is a marvelous opportunity for a child to practice independent living. Just as preschool prepares your child for school, camp prepares your child for living away from home. If I could wave a magic wand I would make it possible for EVERY child to have at least one sleep-away camp experience.

In addition to being exposed to new recreational opportunities like archery or horseback riding, children at camp learn very important social skills. They meet new children, often of different backgrounds. They learn how to live with other children in a group, relate to adults other than the parents, and manage their own affairs like keeping track of clothes without parental reminders.

In my experience, many if not most children are ready to spend one or two weeks away at camp by age ten. By age eleven or twelve, they can manage a month–or even both month-long sessions–at camp. My own children worked up to two months at camp but when they got older they only wanted one month of camp so they could have the rest of the summer at home with their friends.

Of course when an individual child is ready for camp depends on both the child’s age and degree of independence. A good sign of readiness for camp is the child being, excited about the idea of going to camp. Before a child is sent to camp he or she should have had the experience of sleeping-over at a friend’s or Grandma’s house.

Whenever parents are deciding any type of placement for their child they should keep three things in mind: place, people, and philosophy. What is the place like (location, physical plant, safety, amenities)? What about the people? What training does the staff have for caring for children or teaching them new skills? What is the camp philosophy? Does the camp foster independence? Emphasize learning of new skills?

Start by asking friends or relatives whose children have had a positive camp experience for ideas. The American Camping Association publishes a “Guide to Accredited Camps” that gives basic information including location, type of camp, dates, an emphasis statement, a list of 10 activities, fees, Director’s address, etc. so start at the library, go to, or call 1-800-428-CAMP(2267).

After deciding what type of camp your child would be interested in and in what location, write to the camp asking for more detailed information. What are the staff ratios and qualifications? What are the health facilities? What transportation is provided?

Many camps send videos or arrange for a personal visit from the camp director. If you can’t visit the camp at the very least ask the camp director for a list of parents whose children have attended the camp. The most valuable information you will get comes from such parents.

Your next task is preparing the child for camp. Camp will be a new experience for your child but there should be as few surprises as possible. Involve your child in the decision about which camp is best.

Encourage your child to talk about camp. Ask what he or she expects camp will be like. Talk about the fact that you will miss the child and talk about the fact that everyone gets homesick. Give the child plenty of opportunity to talk about such feelings. Tell the child about your first experience away from home and how you dealt with it.

Involve the child in organizing and labelling items that will be needed in camp. Let the child choose what personal items and books to take along whenever possible. Pack writing paper and stamps and tell the child you will write and expect letters.

It’s a good idea to write a letter that will be waiting for the child upon arrival at camp. Write frequently. Participate in activities for parents like Parent’s Day but don’t call or seem worried about how your child will do. Kids do best when we expect them to do their best.

What do you do if the child calls from camp and says, “Come get me, I hate it here!” Even a ten-year-old can be told, “You made a commitment to stay for a week.” Acute homesickness usually passes quickly. When I worked as a camp doctor I saw a new arrival cry and cling to the camp nurse for two days. Two weeks later the little girl, who had become a very happy camper, had the lead in the camp play. Her parents did not allow her come home which gave her the opportunity to grow up beyond her tears.

When your child returns home, encourage talking about camp. Ask what the best and most difficult things were. Ask the child to describe a day at camp and tell you about special friends and counselors. The message: we’re still very interested in what you do even though you’re big enough to go to camp!