Ages 7 to Teens
The older children get, the more variety of camp experiences open up to them. Day camps are still a great option, but residential camps become an appropriate option as well. While many residential camps offer experiences for children as young as seven, not all seven year olds will be independent enough to enjoy this experience. It is common for the younger end of this age group to experience homesickness, and disorientation. These feelings are normal, healthy and in general, allowing children to face these emotions and learn a measure of self-confidence and independence is can beneficial. Remember that camp staffs are trained to handle these emotions, but parents should also consider whether it is appropriate for a young child's first camp experience to be an extended residential experience. There are weekend and week long residential which may be more appropriate for the young first-timer. Parents should NOT plan on taking their own vacation during the camp time and should be available to soothe fears via the telephone, or in extreme cases, in person.
Older children may have more independence and the ability to handle the natural stresses of being in a strange environment for a prolonged period of time, but it is most important that you evaluate your child's individual needs before making this decision.
As your child gets older and expresses more focused interests, specialty camps become an excellent option. The older the child, the more he or she should be involved in the decision-making process, and the more that the individual interests of your child may play a role in determining whether a specifically focused specialty camp or a general camp experience is more desirable.