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Too young for camp? Not anymore!

More camps gear programs to kids under 5

According to the American Camp Association, more kids as young as age 6 are going off to overnight camp. To some of us, that may seem a bit young to be away from Mom and Dad for more than a day or two.

After all, a 6-year-old is still relatively new to the school routine. But, children who may have had limited experience with a structured, large group setting away from home, can still thoroughly enjoy camp.

6 benefits of summer camp

With a little bit of planning, selecting the right program, and your overall support of the experience, you can make your child’s camp experience a wonderful success.

Believe it or not, your child’s reaction to camp depends a great deal on your reaction or expectation of camp. Your child could pick up on your fears or reservations and end up hating camp before he even gets there.


“Parents must recognize camp as a positive experience,” says John Estis of Camp Redwood in Walden. “The child will not be able to express a readiness. The parent must be the one who is ready.”


If you hesitate, or think your young child is not ready, then it is reasonable to expect neither of you will be happy with camp. With a little help from you, your young child may ease into the first real away-from-home experience.


Local camp directors have spoken...

“If you feel your child may have trouble being away from you, include a photograph of yourself in the child’s backpack and they can take it out if they are missing you,” recommends Irene Rumsey, YMCA camp director for Middletown and Monticello.


Knowing your child’s readiness for camp is also important to selecting the right program. Maybe your child really isn’t ready for overnight camp. Look into half-day or full-day programs instead. In the Hudson Valley, the options are vast enough to allow a comfortable fit for both parent and young camper.


Day camp is probably the most common choice for a first camp experience and may be run by your town, church, the YMCA or a private establishment such as a school or day care. The schedule may be available in half or full days and either offer a wide range of activities to enable children to be exposed to a number of options they may not normally experience, or the camp may focus closely on one particular activity such as baseball or art.


Most camps provide the same activities to all campers regardless of age, but scale them down to a younger child’s abilities. “A child as young as five can water-ski,” says Estis, “but the experience has to be geared down to their ability level.”