Are you ready for Summer Camp? We trust you were able to find the perfect budget-friendly summer camp for your kiddo. So what’s next? Preparing for camp is more than just packing a bag. What do parents need to do to prepare? What should a parent do if their child is afraid of camp? And how do you ease those fears? Here are our tips for a successful summer camp experience!
Mail to and from camp
Every camper likes mail, so be sure to write notes they can open while they are there, or start mailing cards a few days before camp even starts. If you plan to send care packages with toys or treats, make sure you check the camp’s guidelines to see if they allow this. Also, you can save a ton on shipping if you hand deliver these to the camp on arrival day and label them for “delivery” on particular days during their stay. You can also send pre-addressed and stamped envelopes for them to send notes back home. Don’t panic if the first few sound blue. They may write a lot in the initial days when they are adjusting, but by the time those reach you, I guarantee they’ll be having too much fun to bother writing at all!
You are not getting back most of what you send to camp, and the things that come back are unrecognizable. Pack clothes they can ruin or literally throw away, pack daily outfits in Ziploc bags, label everything! Include your kids in packing so they can find stuff later and have a sense of control over the planning process. This is when you can discuss the importance of actually using what you pack, like sunscreen for their safety, or toothpaste. I must admit, I once picked up my son from a week long sleepaway camp and realized he literally never once brushed his teeth. So I need to heed my own advice on this one.
Orientation before you arrive
Give your camper the lay of the land before they leave home. Spend time together looking at pictures and videos on the camp website, look at sample daily agendas so they can see what a fun packed day they’ll have (stress the importance of resting during rest hour!), review a map of the camp so that your camper feels like they already know their way around when they first arrive
It’s important to have safety talks with your kids, because our children interact all week with adults that we don’t know. For example, they may have your permission to share contact information with other campers, but it would not be appropriate to share that info with adult counselors. I’ve volunteered as a camp counselor in the last few years, and most camps have a “three’s company” rule. Kids should never be alone in general at camp, and certainly not alone with one adult, even a trusted counselor.
You need a homesickness plan, for mom too! Explain that homesickness is totally normal but will also pass! Remind them of success in their past like starting the new school year away from their old friends and teachers, or their first sleepover. Odd as it may seem, assure your camper that you will also miss them but that you are also going to have a great time! My daughter stressed out during her first sleepaway camp that the rest of us were pining away for her at home and being sad. Once she understood we were going on date nights and managing to have a great time without her, she relaxed and enjoyed the next summer much more. But moms do get homesick for their kiddos, too. Especially during that first summer. Your camp may offer online pictures you can scan for your kiddo’s smiling face. Most camps don’t allow phone calls between campers and parents, but I call my kids’ counselors every single day just to check in on how they are doing.
The benefits of sending your kiddo off to camp?
I can assure you that the child you pick up from camp is different than the one you dropped off. Confidence is the biggest change. There is something special about knowing they successfully functioned as a person without their parents. They have undoubtedly tried new things, like a ropes course, or passing a swimming test, or just making new friends. And you can see that in them right away at pick up. It’s a sort of bitter sweet feeling, because they will treasure your hugs a little bit more and be so glad to see you, but they may also be really sad about leaving camp. As a parent, you need to prepare yourself for that so you don’t take it personally, but instead praise your child for being so adaptable and making this place their own. It really is their own, and that’s a great example of their resilience that you can point back to later when they need to be reminded of how well they handle change and new experiences. And I must admit, having a week of date nights with Dad is probably my favorite part of sending my children to camp.