Is My Toddler Ready For Day Camp?

23 March, 2017
  •  People are asking whether our son is going to camp this summer, but he’s not even potty trained yet. I can’t imagine sending him to camp.
  • My preschooler still gets teary-eyed and a little clingy when I try to leave her at a play date or a birthday party. I’m not sure she can handle a day camp until she’s a little older.
  • I like the idea of camp, but I’m not sure he’s ready for—or needs—a camp with lots of activities. Also, I’m concerned that he’ll feel lost in such a big camp, with so many older children around. How much will he really get out of it?
  • She’s still so young, I’m not sure how she’ll do on the van ride to and from camp each day.

These are just some of the concerns that come up as parents consider sending their three- and four-year-olds to our Rockland County day camp for the first time.

At Deer Mountain Day Camp, we take these (common) concerns seriously. After all, the decision to sign kids up for summer camp is a big one. Naturally, you want to make sure it’ll be a fun, enriching, and memorable experience.

Let’s address them one by one.

First off, potty training: as the days grow longer, many parents find themselves working on this. Children are often motivated by the idea of going to camp. Also, less layers of clothing associated with warmer temperatures often makes the process easier for young children. Time is on your side: a few months is a long time to a child this age. Once you commit to a potty training regimen and your child is ready, it will happen! If you started in late winter or even spring, your child will likely have conquered this milestone come summer. And if not, rest easy, we do guarantee refunds for Nursery campers who are not ready for camp this year.

Then there’s the case of the child who still hangs on to you when separating. It can be heartbreaking for parents to think about leaving him—especially if there are tears. But children are remarkably resilient. Just last Saturday, we gave a tour to a tiny four-year-old and her parents. We took her to the preschool building and watched as her eyes went from watchful and watery to wide with interest as she spotted the crafts and other activities available. We encouraged her to try the craft project, and within 15 minutes she had found a seat, picked out a brush, and gotten started on a watercolor masterpiece. A few minutes of acclimation is all it takes before kids are eager to learn something new. Once they allow themselves to let go of the feeling of not wanting to leave your side and start to engage with the activity, other children, and counselors, they’re off and running! We’ve also had many tours with preschool visitors who take the counselor’s hand and race off, leaving their parents with a “bye Mom!” and hardly a backward glance. Fun!

Learning and Growing, By Leaps and Bounds

The impact of camp for our preschoolers is tremendous; they learn and grow more than parents can imagine. Division Leaders (who are early childhood experts) and nurturing counselors help children develop as they become part of a group, socialize with other campers and grow accustomed to the camp schedule. Our on-staff, activity-specific experts design age-appropriate experiences with real skill takeaways. All activities, from swimming to tennis, are geared especially to your child’s age level and introduced in stages appropriate to their developmental readiness. If there’s a specific concern, like swimming ability or fine motor skills, rest assured that our instructors are incredibly adept at gently guiding and encouraging kids to a level of comfort that lets them fully participate, learn from, and thoroughly enjoy all the activities we offer.

Finally, there’s the worry about transportation, and that your child will spend their days in Rockland County. We understand! We want to earn your trust. Our youngest campers have a great experience in our camp vans. Our counselors make sure they’re safely buckled into a five-point safety harness, and keep them engaged in games during the ride. Little ones are often the stars of the van, as our older campers find them quite charming. At camp, we’ll be waiting for your child to arrive—they’ll be warmly greeted the moment they’re helped out of the van. Our Division Leaders will reach out to you frequently to share all the “firsts” and other great moments your child will experience at camp. You can call us anytime for a report on how they’re doing! Summer after summer, we watch as three- and four-year-olds take it all in, soaking it up and having a blast. It’s our privilege to watch these kids grow before our eyes—and then to share every shining moment with you!

Keep in mind too, that in the event your child turns out not to be quite ready by the time camp starts, we’ll refund all fees. So there’s absolutely nothing to lose, and everything for your child—and you—to gain.

Come visit us. We’re just 25 minutes from the George Washington Bridge, off the Palisades Interstate Parkway, and we’re here every weekend till summer. We’d be happy to show you and your kids around—and chat while they jump into fun activities! We can’t wait to meet you.