Summer camp can be a wonderful opportunity for children and teens to grow and develop. While at camp they learn to be more independent and develop self-confidence. It is a chance to improve social skills, learn about nature, improve sports skills, learn cooperation and responsibility while having fun and engaging in active outdoor activities.
Here is a guide for parents about summer camp and how to make it a positive experience for their children. Topics include: Is my Child Ready?, How to Choose the Right Camp, Creating a Summer Camp Checklist, Preparing your Child for Camp, and Pre-Camp Jitters – How to Talk to Your Kids about Homesickness.
Overnight Camp – Is My Child Ready?
As the school year nears an end, you may be thinking about what your children will do during the summer. This is particularly an issue if both parents work. Your child may be asking to go to an overnight camp, and you may wonder if they are ready.
Perhaps you never went to camp when you were a child so you don’t have a frame of reference. You may not know how to determine your child’s readiness. Here are some ideas to help you make that decision.
Take your cue from your children. In many cases they’re able to determine their readiness before a parent does. If they’re interested, it’s a good chance they’re ready.
Has your child spent the night with a friend or relative before? Children who are able to be away from parents before are more likely to be good candidates for an overnight camp experience. However, if this is your child’s first experience with overnight camp, see if any of their friends are also attending so they’ll be less likely to experience problems.
Consider sending your child for a shorter session for their first time at overnight camp. By having only one or two weeks away, instead of the 4-8 week sessions which were common in the past, your child will be more likely to stick out the entire session.
How responsible is your child? Can they keep track of their own things and wash their clothes if they’re going to be gone for several weeks? Are they responsible enough to use camp money to purchase things they need rather than candy or other junk food?
Each child is an individual. Even if you were eager to go to overnight camp at the age of nine, that doesn’t necessarily mean your child will when they turn the same age. If they are uncomfortable spending one night at a friend’s without calling you, they are not ready for overnight camp.
Is your child comfortable seeking help from other adults or authority figures if you’re not around? Children who are still attached to their parents often want help only from those they are comfortable with. A child with this tendency may need more time before going to overnight camp.
Picky eaters may also have difficulty at overnight summer camps. The staff may prepare special meals for a child with allergies or religious beliefs which limits what they can eat. However, they’re not going to be willing to prepare a special meal for a child simply because they don’t like what’s being served.
If you ask other parents how they could tell if their child was ready for overnight camp, you’ll likely get a number of answers. When it comes to staying at an overnight camp, you’re the best person to determine if your child is prepared. Look through these tips to help, but then ultimately trust your child to know if they’re ready or not.
Tips on How to Choose the Right One for Your Child
Even though it’s not yet time for it to happen, before you know it school will be out and your children will be looking for things to do. Have you considered summer camp? Here are tips on how to choose the right one for your child.
If your child has never been to summer camp, now is the time to begin thinking about it. Give yourself plenty of time to do research – this will ensure your choice is good for your child. Ask friends and relatives whose children have gone to summer camp for their suggestions. You can also look online at websites such as Go Camps, Christian Camps and Conference Association, and American Camp Association for listings of summer camps.
There are a number of types of camp to consider. Resident camp is for children ages 7 and older who will stay in cabins or tents. Day camp is for children 4 to 7 who aren’t ready to stay overnight. Specialty camps concentrate on a particular activity. Special needs camps are for children with mental, medical, or physical limitations. There is usually a higher counselor/camper ratio to ensure the child is safe. Length of sessions can vary from between a few days to as long as the entire summer.
What do you need to consider when searching for a summer camp?
Cost – If the camp costs more than you can afford, it may not be a good choice this year.
Location – Local camps may be the best choice if your child has never been away from home. They are often less expensive, too.
Staff – This is probably the one of the most important things to consider. Is the camp director trained? How many staff members are there to campers? How do they hire counselors and what type of training are they required to take? How do the camp counselors interact with the campers?
Activities – Be sure to get your child’s input. Since they are the ones who will be attending the camp, you want to choose one which has activities your child will enjoy. Some camps emphasize horseback riding, water sports, or outdoor survival skills. If you find one offering activities your child enjoys, and it’s in your budget, write down the information to compare it with others.
Facility – If possible, go to the camp before you make your decision to check out the facilities. Are they well maintained? How many children will be in each dormitory or cabin?
If you aren’t able to visit the facility, you may want to scour their website, if they have one. Quite often a website will answer any question you might have, contain photographs, menus, and schedules. Some will also have a virtual tour and map so you can get a mental image.
The above tips on how to choose the right summer camp for your child are the minimum to consider. Take your time comparing camps and you’re sure to find one that meets your child’s needs. Once you have the summer camp chosen, get the necessary paperwork so you can secure your child’s spot.
How to Create a Summer Camp Checklist
Summer camp can be such a great experience for children and sometimes their parents. After you’ve made your choice about which camp to attend and made all financial arrangements, it’s time to gather together items to pack. The facility may send a checklist of items each camper will need but just in case they don’t, here’s how to create a summer camp checklist.
A day camp packing list would include a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen and lip balm. Toss in insect repellent, a hat, two filled water bottles, comfortable tennis shoes, sandals, at least one extra set of clothing, and a raincoat or umbrella.
If your child has serious allergic reactions or is taking prescribed medication, they should also be on the list. Give the camp director a note to explain how any medicine your child should take is administered, to ensure they’re aware of your child’s situation and can deal with it properly.
Check to see if the day camp will provide lunch and a snack. If those aren’t offered, pack a sandwich (not peanut butter; most camps avoid peanuts because there are so many children with allergies to them), a piece of fruit and juice in a box. Avoid sending chocolate as a snack, choosing granola or an energy bar as an alternative.
It would be a good idea to bring along a snack when you pick your child up. They’ve been busy all day and will probably be hungry and thirsty. And having a snack available will be cheaper and healthier than stopping through the drive through on the way home.
Overnight camping requires the same basic list as for day camp except more is added. Begin by knowing how long the camp lasts. Many camps are one to two weeks but there are some which are longer. Pack twice as many socks and underwear as the days of the camp if washing machines aren’t available.
Here’s what you’ll need if laundry service is available. One t-shirt for each day of the week, several sweatshirts or a jacket in case it gets cool, a pair of shorts for each day of the week as well as two pairs of long pants, two pairs of long pajamas, two pairs of comfortable shoes (tennis shoes or hiking boots) and a pair of flip flops for showering.
Include toiletries such as shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, biodegradable soap, hairbrush and comb, two wash cloths and at least two towels. Also list feminine supplies if your child menstruates, a disposable camera, and a fishing rod and tackle if fishing is an option. A government-approved lifejacket that fits properly is absolutely necessary if swimming or canoeing is planned.
A pillow, sleeping bag, bed linens, and an extra blanket should also be included. Add a heavy-duty piece of plastic for putting under the sleeping bag or sitting on if the ground is wet. Don’t forget to pack a flashlight with batteries.
As well as things that should be packed, there are some items which should remain at home. These include chewing gum, a cell phone, money, mp3 player or other music device, or handheld video games.
You’ll want to label everything your child takes with their name. Waterproof markers are fine for most things but you can also find press-on labels for clothing. Several pre-addressed and stamped envelopes or postcards are also a good idea along with a pen or pencil to write with. A book or two for down time or for a rainy day would also be good.
How to Prepare Your Child for Summer Camp
When school is out, kids feel sweet freedom. But, what will they do during the summer? Summer camp is an option to keep your kids busy. Here are a few tips to prepare them for the experience.
The idea of summer camp can be both exciting and scary. For a younger child who may never have been away from home before, it helps to explain to them what is going to happen.
Types of Summer Camps
Depending on your schedule, budget and ages of your children, there are two main types of summer camps: overnight and day camps.
Day camps allow kids to arrive in the morning and then leave at the end of the day. For that time, they are engaged in fun activities with chaperones.
Overnight camps usually last for a week at a time. Kids arrive and are settled in by parents and then leave at the end of seven days to return home. Some camps might be longer but most are around a week long.
Preparing Your Child
Sit your child down and explain to them what will happen at camp. Ask for literature from the various camps so that you can present it to them. One way to involve your child and put them at ease is to allow them to help in the selection process. Kids new to summer camps may opt for more than one kind of day camp for the first summer.
Older children or children with siblings may opt for an overnight camp. They can meet new friends or spend time with their siblings in a different environment. If the campers have any questions, contact the camp directly in enough time to get the answers and still make an informed decision before the deadline.
Here are some tips to get your kids ready:
Know what to pack – Many camps send lists so that kids know what is allowed and what items to leave at home. This is true of day camps and overnight camps. Pay special attention to what is said about medications. If your child has a daily medication, it will most likely be left with the camp nurse to be administered there.
Discuss camping – Your child may alternate between misgivings and excitement. During those times of misgiving, encourage them with talk about all of the exciting things they will get to do. This is one reason to let the child assist in the decision. They can choose a camp that is full of their interests.
Give a lifeline – No matter where the camp is, you are just a phone call away. This reassurance may be what the camper needs to brave the week away from you. Even if they call in the middle of the night, encourage them to continue instead of offering a “get out of jail free” card.
Summer camp can be both fun and frightening. Preparing well for the experience can go a long way to reassuring your child.
Pre-Camp Jitters – How to Talk to Your Kids about Homesickness
Experts will tell you it’s normal for children going away to summer camp for the first time to be a little scared. It is even common for them to be homesick. If your child is having pre-camp jitters, here’s how to talk to your kids about homesickness.
Explain to your children that you won’t come get them unless there’s an emergency or unless it’s the end of the session. While it may be normal for children to be homesick, as well as for parents to get kid-sick, they need to stay the course.
Cell phones aren’t allowed at most, if not all summer camps, but that doesn’t mean you can’t send letters or postcards while your child is away. They may also be allowed telephone privileges once or twice while they’re at camp, but even then don’t let your child talk you into coming to pick them up.
If you do talk with your child, don’t mention how much you miss them or give them bad news. Ask them about what they’re doing, if they’ve made new friends, and what their favorite part of camp is.
Reassure them other children are probably feeling the same way, especially if they’ve never been away to camp before. Knowing they’re not the only one to get homesick will help them feel less like they’re being a baby.
Ask your child what is giving them the jitters. Some children worry about being away from friends and family. If they are very attached to their pets, this may be another reason they’re having second thoughts. Listen to their concerns and see if you can find a plan to deal with those issues.
Take out any literature you may have or visit the camp’s website to remind your child about why you chose this camp, how excited they were about going, and all the activities they were looking forward to doing.
Suggest they talk to friends who have been away at camp. They may have ideas to help your child cope with homesickness that worked for them.
Think back to an occasion where you felt homesick as a child. Tell them about how you felt but explain that you soon overcame your homesickness because you had such a great time.
Reassure them that no matter how far apart you are from the rest of the family, you love them, you’re proud of them, and summer camp will be over before they know it.
Before you drop your child off at summer camp, talk with their counselor or camp director. Ask them what their procedure is for children that are very homesick. They will be able to determine if your child is homesick enough to warrant a call to you or not.
If you’ve prepared your child by using the ideas above, they probably won’t be as homesick as they think they’ll be. It’s not uncommon for children to have pre-camp jitters, but knowing how to talk to your kids about homesickness may make the jitters go away.