View Full Version : OT - sending DD7 to overnight camp, tell me I shouldn't worry

04-16-2006, 04:09 PM
I always like DD to try overnight camp. She will be 8 in August and will be going to grade 3 next year as such she is old enough to be accepted by some overnight camps in YMCA.

I had considered sending her last year, but thought she was a bit too young. I brought it during brunch with DH today, his only comment to DD was "make sure you know how to take care of yourself" meaning take a shower, brush her teeth, change for swimming etc.. DD is interested to go as well.

Seriously, I am not concern on the above, nor the swimming and climbing lessons. I just worry that she does not know how to protect herself, say walking in the dark and against sexual predators. None of her friends is going for overnight camps, therefore she will not know anyone initially.

Should I worry? Has anyone sent their DDs to overnight camp at 7? How do you prepare them?

04-16-2006, 04:21 PM
I just worry that she does not know how to protect herself, say walking in the dark and against sexual predators. None of her friends is going for overnight camps, therefore she will not know anyone initially.If her camp is like the ones I attended (and worked at) when I was younger, she'll not be left alone to walk in the dark or to be confronted by strangers. Her counselors will supervise her everyday, all day. They'll walk to the dining hall together as a group. She will not be able to say, "I think I'll go swimming this morning"; rather, her counselor will say, "We're all going swimming in 30 minutes. Go get on your swimsuits and meet me by the picnic table quickly." They'll gather their things and go to the showers together in the evenings. She will not have much free-choice time -- and that's age-appropriate.

The one wildcard that can vary from camp to camp would be the nighttime sleeping arrangements. Some camps have counselors sleeping in the cabins with kids, others have counselors in a nearby cabin. You'll have to check with her particular camp.

I'd say that the golden rule is NEVER send a kid to sleep-away camp too soon. She needs to have a great time her first year, so that she'll want to go again in future years. If you send her too soon, and if she gets homesick or isn't able to keep up, she'll never want to go back. I think YOU are the best judge of this; gut reaction -- do you think she's ready?

As for how to prepare her: Attend a parents' weekend ahead of time so she can see the type of cabin she'll sleep in, see where the bathrooms are, see how far away the dining hall is. Being able to manage her own gear is an important skill. Have her help pack her duffle bag so she knows where everything is. Is she ready to put her dirty clothes in a bag, keep up with her things as she goes to and from the bathroom, etc? If not, work on these skills now.

04-16-2006, 05:28 PM
Thanks. We went to a family camp last year in the same camp site and was able to speak with the counselor. She will sleep in the same cabin with the girls. DD is familiar with the environment. When I brought it up, she even remebered the counselor's name.

I think if she can make new friends, she will not be homesick. On the other hand, it gives her an opportunity to learn to adjust herself to the environment (am I cruel?)

I am not concerned on strangers, rather than people who works in the camp. A year ago, a new family moved to our neighbourhood. While playing in the front yard, DD met the girl who was a year older than her and was invited to play in her house on the same day. I met her mother and I approved both of my girls went into their backyard. Later, I was told by my younger daughter that when the girl's teenage brothers and an older sister returned, the teenage brothers hold them and kissed them a number of times. Personally, I considered it was inappropriate and they won't be going any more.

It is a good point to start working on her skills in taking care of her personal needs.

04-16-2006, 05:59 PM
God no!

I am still traumatized from my first sleep away camp experience at age eight. My older DD did not go until she was 11. My DD7 wanted to go last year (yes, some camps will take them that young) but I refused. I sent her to my sister's (cousin same age) and she went to day camp there.

Why is it so important to send her away so young. I think a good day camp is a much better idea.

04-16-2006, 06:40 PM
I think it all depends on the child. Some are more independent at that age than others. You know your DD better than we do- you could probably tell whether or not she could handle it. If the camp is taking 7 year olds, then I guess that means there are enough out there that are ok at that age.

I went to an AMAZING overnight camp- girls came from all over the world to go there (and counselors as well!) and they started taking campers at 9- this was because there was less supervision- you were allowed to make your own decisions as to what you wanted to do and when. The camp itself was isolated enough and had enough supervision that campers could walk around by themselves with no problem. I started going when I was 12 but still wish I had started when I was 9 like many of my friends did.

I think I started going to Girlscout sleepaway camp when I was 7 or so- there was much more supervision and we were brought from place to place- no walking around alone. I hated it more than anything but I think that's because I was more independent at that age.

How long are the sessions? Are we talking a week or 8 weeks?

Depending on the child, no- it's not too young. Although I had bunkies when I was 12 that could barely handle sleepover camp (mind you it was for 4 or 8 week sessions) so again- it all depends! :)

Cheshire Figment
04-16-2006, 06:52 PM
My birthday is in late July. My parents first sent me to sleep away camp the summer I turned six. The first two years I was at the same camp as my 3.5 year older sister. However, The third year (7 turning 8) I was at an all-boys camp. That, and the next eleven years I was either a camper or staff for eight weeks every summer.

It helped a lot to my being independent.

04-16-2006, 08:13 PM
I am also another adult still traumatized about my first sleep camp!

I went when I was 7 - my 8th birthday was the following week. The minimum age was 8, but because my b-day was so close, the camp "let me in" - I was homesick instantly and they wouldn't call my parents - I was literally throwing up. They ended up moving me to another cabin of older kids because one of the girls was my neighbor and they thought it would make it better.

I can't even go by the camp now without getting sick to my stomach (and I'm 31 now!). My DH and I drove to it one year (about 8 years ago) just to "see it" and I couldn't go down the drive - I had literal panic attacks.

I ended up going to camp again when I was 12, and it was much better (a different camp!).

I just wouldn't send a 7 or 8 year old to camp - they are still babies and shouldn't be away from home that long...

I agree with other posters - how about a day camp - maybe one that has a one night sleepover at the end.

Has your child ever slept over at a friends house? If so - how many nights in a row? If they haven't been away from you for 7 nights in a row (not at a grandparents house, or other close relatives) then there really is no way to know how they'd handle it.

I'd hate for your little one to be scarred for life, like some of us here....

Good luck with your decision.

04-16-2006, 08:37 PM
My daughter went to a one night Girl Scout camp a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. During the summer our local Girl Scouts offer shorter camps during the summer for first time campers, so she is going to one Sunday - Tuesday. She is able to pick a cabin buddy, so she will be with someone she knows.

Non-Girl Scouts can attend for an additional $10.

04-16-2006, 08:44 PM
I think it's too young but then...I've never sent any either of my kids off to camp. We enjoy our summers together...going to the pool everyday, relaxing at home, playing with neighborhood friends.

I guess one week at camp is ok for kids. One previous poster mentioned 8 weeks....I've just never understood why some people (no, not the op) ship their kids off to camp for a whole 8 weeks in the summer. I can't imagine not spending that time with my kids, doing fun, family activities.

04-16-2006, 08:47 PM
It depends on the kid. I could not have gone to sleep away camp at 10 let alone 7, but my dd did last year at the same age as yours, 7 and going into 3rd grade. She wanted to do it and I discussed with her and had since
forever, the whole inappropriate touch thing and what to do if she really needed out of a situation. She went with her best friend and it was a camp that the friends older brother and sister had been to many times so I was comfortable with it. I say if your dd wants to and you are comfortable with the camp's reputation go for it. Even though it was a good experience, my dd isn't going back this year, she is a very picky eater and she doesn't want to deal with a week of bread, milk and cereal. While I was a wreak the first half of the week last year I finally got to enjoy it a little. I am kind of bummed she doean't want to do it again.

04-16-2006, 08:52 PM
The camp will be for one week. As both of us work, she will be in day camps for the balance of the summer. DD had always been in day care, therefore I never consider the possibility of her being homesick. I checked with her again just now, she told me she will be fine. She only slept away from home once, it was organized by the after care she attended and she had a great time. One reason, I didn't send her last year was that she would be the youngest in her age group. At least, this year, she will be in the middle of the age group.

The following is a reason I always like her to try overnight camp. I thought it will be easier for her to adjust and make friends at 7 rather than at 12.

It helped a lot to my being independent.

Incidentally, she is taking a shower now and I told her she should learn to adjust the water temperature if she wants to go to the camp. I ended up adjusting it for her.

04-16-2006, 08:58 PM
Just for the record, when I went (i posted earlier about how miserable it was at age 7/8), I CONVINCED my mother that I would be fine. I wasn't fine. A 7 year old doesn't know if they'll be fine.

A week is a LONG time for one that young to be away from home. She may be able to handle it. If you definitely want her going, you may want to "build her up" - have her stay a few nights with a friend - make sure it's someone who she's not *real* close to the parents but you are so the parents can report to you ALL behaviors.

If she's going to go, I'd also see if you can convince the parents of her best friend to let the best friend go too (maybe you even pay for it if parents can't afford to!) - it's going to be easier for her to have someone there she knows already (Just be sure to tell the camp you want them in the same cabin - a lot of camps seperate friends).

Also, try to remember that the decision is yours and your husbands, not your daughters. If you are feeling apprehenisve about it, there may be a reason...I'd talk to your DH a bit more about it...

And I personally believe that 7 and 8 are too young to be independent - that age is still VERY young...babies really...

But only YOU can decide....and good luck with that decision!!

04-16-2006, 09:11 PM
Frankly, I wouldn't send a child to sleep away camp until junior high school age (about 12) Any younger and they're just too vunerable. Also, don't forget, a lot can happen behind your back. Camp personnel can get mean, in ways that they know they can get away with. A child of 7 or 8 doesn't know what to expect, what they have to put up with and how to defend themselves. Don't buy the sale of family night, once the kid is alone with the camp personnel its another story. Personally, I always enjoy my vacations with my kids and am quite sad to see the breaks end. I enjoy their company, I know I won't always have it. Enjoy them while you can!

04-16-2006, 09:17 PM
I think it depends on the kids. I sent my son to football camp (overnight) last year (he was 9) I would not have considered doing that with him at 7 or 8 years old. He was just too attached, and not ready to leave me for that long.

My daughter on the other hand has been going to sleep away camp since she was 8, and has loved every minute of her time away. She has always been a free spirit, and independent. Even in her early years at daycare (age 2 1/2) she never cared much at all that I would leave.

This year they are going to camp for 2 weeks (overnight) and my son will do another overnight football camp. They can't wait.

You know your daughter best, I would think that you wouldn't be considering it if she was the type of kid who doesn't do well in new situations, or making friends.

04-16-2006, 09:30 PM
The camp where I volunteer has a half week program for younger campers...does the camp you're considering have an option like this? I went for my first week to overnight camp the summer after 7th grade. (and I've been every summer since...I'm a counselor, now!) After my first week of overnight camp, I was sad that my parents didn't let me go earlier, because I made lots of wonderful friends and many kids had gone to camp together for 3 or 4 years before I went. However, I used to get homesick at an unfamiliar house at sleepovers when I was younger than that. I think my parents worried that I'd be unhappy and wouldn't want to go back if they sent me when I was younger than that.

I think only you can decide if it's right for your daughter. I personally think it's a little young, but if she's fairly independent and enjoys being with other kids (remember, she'll be in a social situation all the time, except for when she's sleeping), then perhaps it is the right time.

04-16-2006, 10:08 PM
All this camp talk makes me want to watch The Parent Trap! :sunny:

04-16-2006, 11:09 PM
I went to summer camp at the age of 8 as did my sister and many many childhood friends. We all LOVED it and I cherish the memories of camp each summer. It was a truly enriching experience and I hope my children can have it as well.

Tips that helped us adjust:
Mom sent mail to us that arrived every day - she mailed the first letters before we left home even though we were only 50 miles away.

We were familiar with the camp as our mom did volunteer work during the off season to get camp ready so we knew where things were

Mom went there as a child and we'd heard all the wonderful stories.

It was a church based camp - I can't say enough about how much fun it was!

04-16-2006, 11:29 PM
I'm sending DD to overnight camp this summer, she's 8 1/2 going into 3rd grade. Last yr she did the day camp since I didn't feel she was ready (still working with her on taking her own shower and caring for her hair). This is a Mon-Fri camp at her gymnastics studio so it's with the same coaches & friends she sees twice a week, I don't think I'd be comfortable with it if she didn't have friends and I didn't know the adults but she is my youngest and the baby of the family. She's also done 3 slumber parties this spring with friends at school and has never had to call home.

I did send my boys to summer camp at a place on a lake where they didn't know anyone but they both went the same week so they knew each other. I think the minimum age for that was going into 2nd or 3rd grade which is the same age range.

You're a parent so you will worry but you also know your DD and if she's ready for this.


Julia M
04-17-2006, 01:18 AM
My dd went away for a weekend camp at 7 (she was almost 8). She was on a college campus, so she shared a room with another girl (also 7). The camp was run by her baton director, and she knew a few of the other girls, as well as her roommate. They had meals in the dining hall, and while there were adults on her floor, they weren't in her room. She had a great time. In retrospect, however, I can't believe I let her do it!!! She could have gone as a day camper, but didn't want to. She's almost 12, and still talks about that camp, and how much fun she had.

On the other hand, her older brother didn't go away until he was 11 1/2, at science camp. I offered many opportunities....he just wasn't interested. He still hasn't gone away since then, either.

I guess what I'm saying is...you know her best. My only question would be.....do you want her to go because you think it would be good for her, or because she really wants to go. If it's because you think it would be good for her, that's probbaly not a good reason, especially at her age.

Good Luck


04-17-2006, 08:27 AM
I think it is way too young. I went to camp at 9 amd I had my twin sister with me. It is way too much being away from home that long. I say wait.

04-17-2006, 08:51 AM
This is such a child dependent decision (and family dependent). I know that I could have sent my younger DD (who is now 8) to overnight camp a few YEARS ago and she would have had a great time and been fine (except she may not have brushed her hair for a week!) while my older DD (almost 11 now) still wouldn't be ready for it emotionally NOW.

I'm a big believer in encouraging independence in children. If you think your DD is ready for camp -- go for it!

04-17-2006, 09:00 AM
My daughter went to a one night Girl Scout camp a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. During the summer our local Girl Scouts offer shorter camps during the summer for first time campers, so she is going to one Sunday - Tuesday. She is able to pick a cabin buddy, so she will be with someone she knows.

Non-Girl Scouts can attend for an additional $10.
This is what my daughter wants to do. The one night for girl scouts. I was talking to another leader who was turning her daughers form in for the same thing and put my daughter down as her buddy. They are the same age and won't turn 7 until the end of July. I am so nervous. Here we drop them off at 6pm on Friday and pick them up at 10am Saturday. I was going to wait until next year when she could do the three day mini camp, but she wants to go. We have done day camp, but the overnight camp is at a different camp.

04-17-2006, 09:36 AM
My dd went to sleep away camp for a week last year when she was 8, going into 4th grade. She wanted to go and she did fine. It was an extremely structured camp, it was actually a gymnastics camp, so each day they did like 6 sessions of gymnastics and their free time was limited, but they were with their group during free time, not wandering around on their own. She couldn't call home, nor could we call there and there were no visitors on the property allowed (kind of liked that rule). She did get email from us everyday, which worked out well. Also the camp put pictures up on a daily basis from around the camp with what the kids were doing so sometimes she would be in a few pictures, which was neat.

This yr she has decided not to go to gym camp, but has decided to go to sleep away soccer camp. She went to this soccer camp last year, but as a commuter, this yr she wants to sleep there.

Like others have said it really depends on your child.

04-17-2006, 09:45 AM
IMO, she is too young. I won't qualify it with "you know your daughter". But again, this is MY opinion. 7 going on 8 years is too young. If you have to ask, she is too young.
I went to 4-H camp when I was 9 years old. I had plenty of friends there. My parents knew the counselors. I was a very independent child. Five nights away from home, esp. in that environment was scary. I was homesick and often cried at night. I did not use the greatest hygiene either. (I particularly remember my mother being furious about this when she picked me up, which was really the last thing I needed after a week of being homesick.)

At age 10, I was nervous to go to the camp (I know my mom wanted us out of her hair for a week), but did much better. As I got older, I enjoyed it until junior high age.

I think the idea of a one night camp as onother poster wrote of, may be a good idea for your situation.

Although, it may be comparing apples to oranges, but for some reason this is how I judge it: is the child independent enough to spend the better part of a day (not night--day) at home by herself/himself? Before anyone writes or flames, I know there are counselors there (but despite credentials, you don't really know what these people are really like--I have a couple of personal stories that I'd rather not share about highly regarded camp counselors). I know it is not the same, but it is a indicator of the child's ability to care for one's self, understand safety and cope with being alone (which is how camp will feel at times).

I have considered camp for my now 11 year old. I would probably be comfortable with a three night camp. But, as of now, I have in mind sending him to an overnight camp next year when he is 12. I do think I am bit on the protective side (but there are other issues).

My personal suggestion is to do a search on summer camps in general and see what the minimum age is for the majority of them. That would be another objective indicator. If very few else will accept 7 year olds, that tells you something. If most do, that may confirm a decision. My personal opinion, as stated before is wait, there should be no rush to send her off to camp. It will be there next year and the year after.

Best of luck with your decision.

04-17-2006, 10:09 AM
Seems like a lot of different opinions here, so I'll add mine! I went to overnight camp when I was 6, almost 7. My sister who was older, also went, but we did not stay in the same cabin. I then went on to go to that camp, every year until I was out of college! As a camper, I only went for one week at a time, but I went for all the weeks as a counselor. As a counselor, I have seen kids who were 12 and not ready and seen kids who were 7 and ready to stay a month! So, it does depend on your child. I saw that a poster said not to listen to you child- well, she didn't say it in those words, but basically. I say the opposite, out of experience with 100s of kids. But, don't just listen to them now, when it sounds dreamy and fun, listen all the time. What you are doing in getting her ready is right- make sure she can wash her hair and brush her teeth, dress herself, etc. I'd pack her clothes in large zip-lock bags that have everything for the day in there. That helps a lot. In our camp, each cabin had one big shower and about 4 shower heads. We had 4 or 5 campers in there at a time, so they all helped each other. The counselors stayed close to make sure the water wasn't too hot and the girls had all the soap out of their hair and all that. Plus, I always made sure they brushed their teeth and were actually dry before getting into bed! I have nothing but good memories of camp- even the girls who were homesick usually ended up being fine. Most counselors will take mroe time with those and love on them more. As a counselor, I always wanted the youngest cabin because those were the sweet ones, even if a little homesick. There were many nights I fell asleep snuggled up holding one of my campers and reading or signing to them.
Also, as a camper, they really get to learn about themselves in a way that they can't at home. I was more independant, too. I learned how to brush my hair and all that. Of course, a 7 year old won't be able to do a perfect job, but that's what the counselors do, too.
BTW, my camp was also a YMCA camp, so they are pretty structured. In fact, one of the campers and then counselors I went to camp with all my life is now the director. I can't wait until my son is ready to go. Of course, that means when he's ready, not always just when he's 7, though. I think you'll know if she's ready. If she's whining when you leave, maybe she's not ready.

04-17-2006, 10:24 AM
My DD now 12 (13 next month) has been going to GS camps for at least 5-6 yrs now. Camp were Sunday to Friday. The first year was hard (she wouldn't use the outhouses but then the second yr things got better.)

I think she is better off for her experience. (Less intolerant to dirt and bugs and such. At her age, i hated camping let alone living in a tent for a week)

And as for worrying about hair and showering, Don't worry, all the girls come back looking a fright, there clothes WILL be dirty and smell. I stopped worrying about that the second year. All clean clothes get packed in individual ziploc bags, I give her a laundry bag for all dirty clothes and just take everything from her the second it gets home and wash everything really good.

Last year my DD went to a one week camp for fashion, and then two weeks later went back to the same camp for a ten day horse camp. It is important to send them letters and whatever from home. (even if its small dollar store items every day they know you're thinking about them.)

She would love to a whole summer camp but we can't afford it and she has baton lessons all summer (with competitions that start in August so it's either drop her team or go to camp. Even now they complain when she misses a couple practices for the one week camps)

04-17-2006, 01:01 PM
I suppose it depends on the kids, but 7 seems waaaayyy to young to me. Reading the title of your post, my first thought was, "Nope, can't do that." (Tell you not to worry.) What harm is there in letting her just wait a couple of years. Once she is grown up and independent she is grown up and independent forever. Why rush it? A week is a really long time for a 7 yo if you ask me.

04-17-2006, 01:07 PM
When I was growing up some of my friends went away to camp all summer and I remember being sooo jealous. They always came back with such great stories, new friends, etc. that I could never be a part of. I went to camp too, but it was always day camp, or just week-long Girl Scout camp, and it was never the same. I remember watching shows like "Bug Juice" or the "Parent Trap" even as an adult and wishing that I had gone away to camp.

By the time we were financially able to send my son to sleep away camp, he was 11 and already at the age where he was afraid to try new things away from his friends. He was also concerned that many of the campers would have already been going for years and knew each other well and he would be the "new kid." He decided he didn't want to go.

My daughter is 6 now, and while I think she won't be old enough to go for at least a few more years, there's also a fine line between "not old enough" and "too old" to want to try new things. I just wish I knew what that line was. I'm thinking maybe 9 or so?

I think many parents get a bad rap for "shipping their kids off" for the summer, when in reality, my own greatest regret as a kid is that I didn't get to go to sleep away camp. :(

04-17-2006, 01:13 PM
I was homesick instantly and they wouldn't call my parents - I was literally throwing up.

I ended up going to camp again when I was 12, and it was much better (a different camp!).

Has your child ever slept over at a friends house? If so - how many nights in a row? I'm sorry you were so very homesick! Once a child's in that position, there's no good option. Calling home always makes things worse instead of better. Letting the child leave camp early registers in her mind as "you failed". Doing nothing can result in never wanting to go again. The right choice is avoiding sending the child too soon!

I doubt the other camp was different; in all probability, YOU were more mature by that point! You were five years older, and that's a world of difference for a child.

Having slept over at friends' houses without any difficulty is a good measure of camp-readiness; however, camp can be different: you're throwing in the wilderness factor too.

04-17-2006, 01:40 PM
If there is any doubt your DD is ready, then she is not. I wouldn't let my 7 year old spend the night away from home without knowing the other child and parents very well, much less attend overnight camp unless I was a chaperone.

04-17-2006, 02:05 PM
First, some context -- I'm a Lutheran minister, the chairman of the board of a camp and I serve as the camp pastor for one week each summer. DD has spent at least one day at camp each summer since she was born. Last summer she attended the day camp programme at the camp and was supposed to spend the evenings with me. That said, she made friends in one of the "sleep-over" cabins at the campfire the first night and spent as much time with them as she could during the evenings -- although she did sleep in the camp pastor's residence with me each night.

DD is now 6 years old and is eager to try her hand at staying all week in one of the cabins with other campers and the counsellors. She will be at camp during the week I'm the camp pastor. Her cabin will be less than 100 meters from mine. We're going to give it a try, even if it means the counsellors have to come get me in the middle of the night. I don't think that's going to happen.

DD really came into her own last summer during the day camp programme. The day campers get to try all the activities that "regular" campers try -- archery, canoing, swimming, art & crafts, creek wades, and the low ropes course. I was surprised to she her excelling at new activities that I would never have dreamed of trying when I was 5 years old -- and things that my parents probably wouldn't have let me try either.

Most camps are very choosey in who they hire to work with the campers. I know that camps in Ontario are heavily regulated by the camp accreditation association. This means anything from requiring a letter from the applicants local Familyl & Children's Services office to a full-blown police record check. (In Canada police record checks for minors are fairly well useless -- if they have a police record, the police can't tell you about it and the police records of minors are sealed at age 18, so the police record check of an adult who committed crimes as a minor won't turn up anything either. FACS checks are not so forgiving.) We also require a letter of reference from an applicant's pastor and other references. Many of our staff have grown up at our camp; they have been trained at our camp and we know who they are.

The OP is the only one who can make the decision in her own daughter's situation -- but I would wholeheartedly support the chance for her daughter to spend some time away at camp. Our camp has a beginner's programme in which the children spend 1/2 the week at camp -- nice to see if the child will enjoy the experience.

Summer camp is a great place for memories to grow, lifelong friendships to be cultivated and new skills to be discovered. :thumbsup2

04-17-2006, 03:47 PM
Dear fac,

No one should ever tell another mother not to worry. This is your daughter, your responsibility, your decision.

Please, please, please read the book "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin de Becker.

Ask yourself, is she really going to be scarred for life because she wasn't allowed to go to sleep-away camp at the age of 8? Listen to your intuition.

Good luck with your decision.