Updated: Jan 25
We know that everyone should go to camp. However, if, as stated, the default idea of the camp experience is traditional resident camp, many families face an obstacle: the separation and independence required of a camper for even a one- or two-week resident program may be too high of a hurdle for the child or the parents. Many campers are (in their parents’ minds) too shy or ill-equipped for resident camp. Of course, oftentimes, parents themselves are not ready to let go of the child for the duration of a camp session. And some campers are simply “too young.” For these families, then, traditional day camp can provide scaffolding for a camp experience that is nearly identical to resident camp without the anxiety-producing long-term separation.
A day camp director tells us: “Day camp can be a child’s first independent experience away from mom and dad. A child can strengthen emerging skills of making new friends, taking care of their own belongings, trying new activities, and taking risks.” This first experience away from home, in a new setting with unfamiliar peers, can create the foundation needed for successful longer-term experiences away from home. Supportive camp staff help build bonds within the camp community and gently push even the youngest campers outside of their comfort zones, challenging them to take positive risks and engage in independent decision making. “The advantage to day camp,” the camp director says, “is that it can be a building block to the resident experience of complete independence.”