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4 Ways to Know Your Child is Ready for Camp

4 Ways to Know Your Child is Ready for Camp
Ok, really 5 ways, one of them is you

Overnight camp is a great big step for our little people - a fun, crazy, life-changing, monumental step, for them and you! Moms ask us all the time, “how can I know if my kiddo is ready?” The go-to answer is always, you’ll just know. Maternal intuition is completely a thing! However, that is not what THIS is about, and that doesn’t really feel like an answer. So, let’s talk about the most common indicators that your little honeybunch is ready for a week away from home at summer camp.

We’re going to take them in order, because there actually really IS an order to this.

The first, and truly most important indicator is YOU. Are YOU ready for your sweet little munchkin to be gone for 6 straight days, AND nights? No mama can fake this, and no mama should try. We see you out there, being tough like your friends, acting ready because your neighbor is – pretending you didn’t cry the whole drive home, cuddling with their stuffed animals in their bed every night, frantically scrolling through the daily upload of pictures – questioning every facial expression that isn’t pure bliss, convincing yourself they’re miserable and want to come home.

If you can relate to everything you just read, you probably aren’t ready – even if your child is. No person should willingly and knowingly put themselves through this particular kind of misery. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. No shame in that game, unless the honeybunch being discussed is in junior high…

If you struggled to relate to anything written above, you’re for sure ready to send your kiddo to overnight camp. If you giggled at the above, but can relate just a little, you are also probably mentally and emotionally prepared to make the leap. Please note, if your child is over the age of 11 and you can still relate to the paragraph above, girl – let it go.

So, now that we know you are ready, the next question is, ‘what about that cutie that calls you mom’? Here are the most-common indicators that your child is indeed ready for overnight camp:


  1. Your child completely believes they are ready for camp. You for sure don’t want to talk your kid into this – been there, done that. Regret every moment of it, never should have done it, don’t recommend it, just please don’t. It always goes one of two ways; you’ll either end up picking them up in the middle of the week because they just can’t go another minute not in your glorious presence OR you’ll spend the entire drive home from camp hearing how they missed you every day and just wanted to come home. Neither of these options is enjoyable. Talking into, begging, and negotiating are not recommended methods.  We already have enough inherent guilt as parents, don’t intentionally add this to your child’s future arsenal of the things you did wrong. The best intentions, mama…don’t let them count against you.

  2. They are completely self-sufficient in the ‘powder room’. This means they can potty, bathe, brush teeth and get dressed without parental assistance. Please hear me here, I’m not saying that you don’t help, I totally get not being ready to not help. I remember those days and miss them. You have my whole-hearted approval to get in there and pick out their clothes, scrub their little pearly whites and lotion them up until they’re as slippery as a peeled mango. Cherish every Johnson’s Baby Lotion moment! But if they still legitimately need your help, they’re not ready. Side note, if your child is taller than you, weighs more than you or comes home every night with homework – GET OUT, get out NOW! Buy a dog small enough to wear outfits and start grooming and dressing him, your time has passed.

  3. They have spent the night away from home – and made it through the night. A 1:30 am run to pick up your kiddo because they can’t fall asleep in any bed but their own does NOT count. A 6:00 am pickup, where they just barely made it through the night and you didn’t sleep at all because of all the phone calls, also doesn’t count. You need a full night away from home – preferably one that included dinner, a breakfast the next morning and possibly an afternoon of play before they realize they miss you. If you are ready for your child to make the leap, schedule a sleepover with a trusted friend or relative and test the waters. Camp keeps them busy and makes them tired. If they can do a night away from home with no issue, camp will probably be a breeze. The first night is the hardest – then the fun and the exhaustion kicks in and it’s pick-up day before they even realize they haven’t seen you all week!

  4. This one’s going to sound a little crazy but stay with me. They need to be fairly easy eaters. If you have a child that won’t eat anything at all but French fries and chicken nuggets, camp is going to be a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, camps are great at offering a lot of options – fruit, yogurt, the all-important PBJ, and typically a fair supply of chicken nuggets and fries. But, if you have to bargain with your kid to eat or reward him for finishing a meal, camp may be pretty hard for him, his counselor and you. A week without eating is not fun, neither is a week of nothing but milkshakes or peanut butter crackers. If food is still in the bargaining stage, give it another year and keep pushing those carrots and casseroles.

Just in case it needs to be said, I don’t believe there are any scientific indicators or historical data to prove the possible threat of actually damaging your children with a camp decision, be it too late or too early. If you send them too early, it won’t ruin them for life. My precious baby-boy and favorite son, who was a shy homebody in first grade went too soon. I knew better when I signed him up and he didn’t have nearly as much fun as his rowdy third-grade sister. You’ll be glad to know he’s 18 now, very outgoing, smart, funny and currently flying airplanes and racing dirt bikes, no indicators of permanent damage. He took a year off, started camp again in third grade and went all the way through to his senior year, planning camp around a ridiculous select baseball schedule because he loved it that much!

Hopefully you aren’t shocked to find there’s not no magic equation for figuring this out. You know your littles best and you can completely trust your instincts about what they are capable of. Your best move is to talk with your child, assess the list above and make a decision together about the best time to start camp. If you start the conversation early enough, you have a whole school year to work together marking things off the list. What a great experience to have with your little cutie! Also, we don’t mind if you use camp as a motivation, something like this, maybe: “Hey cutie-patooty, you keep asking me about going to camp. I just found a list to help us decide if you’re ready. Before we can sign you up, you have to be willing to eat other things besides chicken nuggets and fries. So, if camp is your goal next summer, I really think you should try the king ranch chicken casserole I just made for dinner.” Yep, we went there.