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kids learn how to be independent and self-reliant

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Not only does it help them learn how to share, but that opportunity to get away from their family and to be around others their age can also help kids learn how to be independent and self-reliant, says Aruna Ogale, executive director of the Ontario Camps Association. "[Overnight camp] allows children to really practice independence, but at the same time knowing that there are boundaries," she says. "And they can forge friendships outside of the regular social milieu that they find in their neighbourhood or the i ir school system."

And those overnight camp friendships are unlike anything else, if you ask Andy Cabral, co-director of Pleasant Bay Camp, a Christian not-for-profit overnight camp located outside Trenton. "I think kids let down those defences a little bit when it's a homogenous group in the cabin at night. They"re able to speak their minds," he says. "I think you bond with the people you're with in a different way when you’re staying over."

But how do you know when your kids are ready to take on an overnight camp? According to Ogale, there is no magic age - it will vary from kid to kid, she says, and will depend on their level of independence to start. "If you've never, ever sent your kid to a sleepover, then they might not be (ready)," she says. "Think about how they do in different situations, and then go from there."

Twelve-year-old Taylore Salwonchuk, for one, started as a camper at Pleasant Bay when she was eight. Now she comes for two separate weeks every summer. She loves the friendships she's made, she says, but also just likes getting away from her home in Whitby for an extended period of time, to do things that she isn't able to do there.

"It's really nice because you get away from the city and you get a lot of activities and you have a lot of fun," Taylore says. "You enjoy the outdoors."

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