I am a huge advocate for sending kids to overnight camp in the summer. I grew up going to overnight camp each summer (Girl Scout Camp, Camp Tecumseh and Camp Crosley) and was a camp counselor at Island Lake Sports & Arts Camp in New York as well. Each camp provided me with different experiences. I always knew once I had children I would want them to go to summer camp as well.
My daughter Mia has been going to Camp Crosley in Indiana since she was going into 4th grade. This year will be her fourth over night camp experience at Crosley. I will be honest and say that we probably sent her one year too early but she was ready, had been to day camp (at the same camp) and went with a friend. In my opinion the best age to send your kids to overnight camp would be going into 5th grade. Every kid is different, as a parent you need to gage their comfort level. Some camps have mini camps that are only 3 nights. That is a great way to test out overnight camp!
Since we live in the Midwest overnight camp is a lot different from the East Coast. It is common that East Coasters will send their kids to overnight camp at a younger age and they will stay there up to 6 weeks at time. Midwesterners are much more conservative when it come to summer camp. (at least in our area)
There are many reasons why I think a child should go to overnight/sleep away camp.
Independence is one of the biggest reasons to send a child to overnight camp. Lets face it at this age they are very dependent on their parents. They may have chores and responsibilities around the house. Camp puts them in a situation where they are responsible for their own stuff. If you have a well adjusted kid they will be totally fine being away from their parents for a week. At camp they will be responsible for taking care of their stuff, making their bed, cleaning the cabin, going to their specific activities etc.
Getting your child out of their comfort zone is important. Sending your child to camp may make you nervous but the kids are the ones that are totally fine! Before you even pull out of the parking lot from dropping your child off at camp they have already made new friends and are planning out their activities for the week! Their cabin mates and counselors become their family for their time at camp.
For most kids the best part of going to camp is meeting new friends! Camp gives your child to meet new people from all different areas. It gives them a chance to develop friendships without their parents around. Their cabin mates become a huge part of their camp experience. My daughter likes going to camp the same week every summer in order to see friends she had met the previous year.
Camp provides kids the chance to try new activities that they might not get to do at home. There are many different camps these days. Its easy to find a camp that will fit your child's interests. My daughter loves the outdoors and enjoys want camp Crosley has to offer her. Her favorite activities she has done at camp are photography, Archery, Kayaking and Mission Possible.
Camps have busy schedules each day is planned out from first thing to the morning to when they go to bed. Kids don't have a lot of down time to miss their family. I always send my daughter with stationary that is addressed and ready for her to send us a letter. Last year she didn't even send us one letter! She said she was busy braiding hair and making bracelets when they had down time in the cabin. At least I know she was having fun! When you pick them up they are exhausted but full of a week of stories and memories. That is priceless.