It’s that time of year when kids are heading off to camp. Whether it be a day camp or an overnight camp, there are things you can do to help your child prepare for camp both mentally and physically.
If at all possible, visit the camp and meet the camp director. This will help your child have a sense of familiarity with the camp before they arrive.
Talk to other families who have enjoyed the camp in years past and they can share their experiences.
Spend time online with your child looking at the camp website. The sites should have a daily schedule listed so you can know what to expect and there won’t be any surprises.
If unexpected events do happen, help your child be prepared ahead of time by going through different scenarios so they can work through the situation. What if you lose your baseball glove or fishing rod? What if you don’t get along with another child? What if you don’t feel well? Let your child brainstorm for solutions and make sure they know who they should talk to at camp to help with problems. if they occur.
If your child hasn’t spent much time outdoors, perhaps have a camp-out in the back yard to help them become familiar with the sound of crickets, frogs, owls, etc. Practice walking in the dark with a flashlight, too. Be sure to make it fun!
Be sure to tell your child how much fun they will have while at camp. They may get homesick, but remember, the camp staff is trained on how to help your child get through it.
Another way to help with homesickness is to send postcards and letters ahead of time. That way, the first morning they are at camp, they’ll have a letter from home. Send your child with stamped envelopes, too, so they can write home to you.
Packing for camp can be a fun part of the preparation process. Let your child help you pack, too. This is part of the experience to give them a sense of freedom and independence in making choices. Here are some general guidelines for packing:
- Every camp sends a list of things to bring to camp and what not to bring. Be sure to follow the list.
- Don’t buy expensive clothing for camp. Clothes at camp tend to get dirty; that is just the nature of being in the outdoors.
- Take extra socks.
- Take old shoes, gym shoes, hiking boots and sandals with a heel strap. Camp is not the place to “break-in” new shoes.
- Take a laundry bag, rain poncho, water bottle, sunscreen, insect repellent, flashlight, shower supplies and toiletries.
- Put shower supplies and toiletries in a plastic bucket or “shower” container so it is easy to carry to the bathhouse.
- Put the camper’s name on everything from clothes to toothpaste. Use a permanent non-washable ink pad or marking pen.
- Make sure they have enough of their prescription medications to get them through their time at camp, and that the medications are in the original container and clearly marked. Know the procedure for getting the medication to the nurse.
- Let your child take a stuffed animal if he/she wants. Many children put them on their beds.
- Send along pictures of your family and pets. Your child can show them to his bunk mates.
- Pack a disposable camera instead of an expensive one. Be sure to write your child’s name on the camera.
- Clearly label your child’s suitcase, duffle bag or trunk.
“The greatest gifts that parents can give their child are independence and resiliency,” said Peg Smith, CEO of American Camp Association. “Parents should remember that by choosing camp they are giving both.”