Many years ago, my independent 8-year-old son went away to a week-long YMCA camp near Yosemite. My husband and I watched with mixed emotions as he gamely climbed aboard the bus, ready for adventure.
Upon his return, he enthusiastically told us that the first day someone stepped on his tube of toothpaste, squirting it all onto the floor. He was proud of how he coped: He went the rest of the week brushing his teeth with just water.
It can be hard to let children take this step toward independence. Now, 40 years later, there are many choices for camping experiences, overnight for a week or two or for just a few days, and day camps as well as specialty camps for every possible interest and talent.
Investigating camps with your children can be a fun activity -- and you may be surprised what you learn about them in the process. Browsing online can reveal special interest camps you may not have known existed, and stimulate curiosity in the would-be camper.
Overnight camps give children a taste of freedom and independence while parents know they are with responsible adults. And they provide a break from the daily routine for everyone.
For an overnight camp, ask what kind of training the staff receives, the ratio of campers to staff members, how conflicts are handled, what a typical day is like, and how often the child will be able to contact home.
Ask yourself: Does your child feel comfortable sleeping away from home with friends or relatives? If a camp has a lot of water activities, is your child a good swimmer and comfortable in the water?
Day camps include offerings on every subject, from astronomy to robotics, arts, dance and drama. The Pleasanton tennis center has camps for various ages and abilities in tennis as well as table tennis, badminton, volleyball and chess. Adventure camps might include backpacking, biking and rock climbing.
Options on summer camps that span the subject spectrum can be found on www.PleasantonWeekly.com via the "Camp Connection" page as well as the camp listings that will run in the print paper for the next months.
You can also go to the city website to check out its 2019 Summer Camp Guide, which includes Ridge Runners for all ages to explore trails and wildlife in the area parks. It also has a wide assortment of engineering and tech camps and offerings for drama, art, dance, music, science and pages of Lego activities, special interests and sports.
Don't forget the Pleasanton library, which is holding its 2019 Summer Reading Game to make reading fun and acknowledge all young readers.
Overnight camps provide lists of what to pack, usually comfortable, easy-care and sturdy clothing as well as warm jackets for evening. Whether for a day camp or a longer stay, don't forget to label, label, label. Whether a sleepover camp or a day camp, be sure to tell your children you are confident they will do well.
And if your child goes away to camp, you might want to pack an extra tube of toothpaste.