4 Questions to Consider When Sending Your Preschooler to Camp
As a JCC Chicago camp director, I spend most of the winter and spring months on the phone with parents who have questions about camp. The number one question I hear is, “How do I know if my child is ready for summer camp?” The questions often continue with “How will he find his way once he’s to camp?” “Who will be there if she falls?” “How will they keep up during a long day?” “What happens during swim lessons?” And so much more.
Interestingly, what parents don’t ask is “Am I ready for my child to take the next step and go to day camp?” After many years of helping parents choose camp for their preschoolers and having sent my own children to camp before kindergarten, I’ve come up with 4 questions for parents to consider when thinking about their own camp readiness.
Am I ready for my child to become more independent?
It can be really hard for some parents let go of their kids and allow them to develop. As your babies grow and soar at day camp, it does not mean your child does not depend on you as much he or she once did. They will always need you, but camp is the perfect place to build self esteem, confidence, and independence.
Who are the people I trust to help my child learn and grow over the summer?
Parents of preschoolers are just getting comfortable with the teachers in their child’s early childhood program. Sending your child to day camp means finding other qualified people to care for your child. My best advice is to call the camp directors and ask your questions. You’ll get a great sense of the tone of the camp. These initial conversations are the foundation of a trusting relationship between you and camp staff that can last for many, many years.
How much do I value my child making new friends, trying new things and exploring without me?
Our summer camp programs are the perfect place for children to work on social and emotional growth. Whether it is playing a team game or waiting in line for a turn at bat, our staff is right alongside helping campers build connections with new people and foster social skills. It’s common for a child’s first friendship that was not orchestrated by a parent to occur at day camp.
Am I comfortable with the differences between the day camp environment and the preschool setting?
I see three main significant differences between preschool and day camp.
Staffing: In addition to the age difference with camp counselors and preschool teachers, the relationship kids have with these adults is very different.
Communication: During the school year parents see their child’s teachers once, maybe twice, each day. It is a big change once you send them to day camp. There is little face to face time for parents and camp staff. Typical communication is done through email, Facebook, online photos, newsletters, and an occasional phone call.
Setting: The summer camp environment with its longer day, outdoor schedule and reduced down time is much different than preschool. JCC Chicago understands that all kids develop at a different pace, and offers a wide array of summer programs for preschoolers. Our camp directors can help you decide which environment will be the best fit for the child.
We are counting down the days until summer begins! If you are still planning your child’s summer, we invite you to contact us!
We can’t wait to see you.