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Children's Camps

Topic Overview

Many children enjoy day camps and overnight camps. Research has shown that a camp experience can boost a child's self-esteem, social and leadership skills, and more.

Day camps usually offer activities during school holidays or breaks. These activities may have a special theme, such as basketball or horseback riding. Private homes, local youth centers such as the YMCA, churches, schools, or child care centers for younger children may all offer day camp programs. Some states license day camps and usually include training requirements and behavior guidelines for all staff.

Overnight camps range from one-night sleepovers to a few weeks. They usually involve a trip to a nearby destination, such as forest cabins or a beach. Overnight camps can be accredited by the American Camp Association. For more information, go to www.acacamps.org.

All camps should have written health policies and disaster plans. They should also tell parents and children how to get the most out of the camp program.1 All campers should have a recent health evaluation and immunization record on file. Camp records should include how to contact parents in case of an emergency.

Some children feel distressed (homesick) about leaving their home and loved ones to go to camp. Some of the things you can do to help prevent homesickness are:2

  • Have your child take part in the decisions about what camp to go to and how to get ready for camp.
  • Explain to your child that it's normal to feel homesick and that there are lots of ways to deal with it if it bothers him or her. Help your child focus on what he or she can look forward to at camp. Remind your child of a previous experience where he or she had a good time while being away from home.
  • Give your child tips for coping with his or her feelings while at camp. Here are some tips: focus on the good side of things, write letters or look at family photos, think that the time away is pretty short, and try not to think about home.
  • Arrange for your child to have time away from home before camp starts. For example, see if your child can stay a day or a weekend at a friend's or relative's house. This allows your child to practice how to cope with his or her feelings.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Council on School Health, American Academy of Pediatrics (2011). Policy statement: Creating healthy camp experiences. Pediatrics, 127(4): 794–799.
  2. Thurber CA, et al. (2007). Clinical report: Preventing and treating homesickness. Pediatrics, 119(1): 192–201. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/192.full.pdf.

Other Works Consulted

  • American Camp Association (2005). Directions: Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience. Available online: http://www.acacamps.org/research/enhance/directions.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised October 9, 2013

Last Revised: October 9, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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