Many parents can be quite nervous about sending their child off to sleepaway camp for the first time—where will they sleep? What will they eat? Will their counselor notice their talents? What about that weird thing they do when they sleep?
As a camping professional, these are questions that I get A LOT. Parents are usually more anxious than campers on check-in day, and understandably so. Your child is precious and unique to you—all children are—and you want them to have the best experience possible.
Here are 5 quick tips to make your child’s summer camp experience the best it can be!
- Start talking about camp ahead of time with your child so that you both can get questions answered and know what to expect from the camp of your choice. Calling the camp office and asking for a personal tour, a copy of the menu, or anything else is NOT asking too much! Camp staff are eager to help you and to make your family’s camp experience as special and memorable as possible.
- Start talking with your child several weeks before camp starts about what it will be like—how they will be sleeping in a cabin, making new friends, learning new skills, and whatever else your camp might entail! This way your child will start to get excited for camp and those butterflies in their stomach on check-in day can be calmed by all of the fun conversations you have had.
- Try not to emphasize how much you will miss your child while they are gone. Instead, try to focus on how excited you are for them and how you can’t wait to hear all of the details after camp is over. Sometimes parents, in an effort to let their child know how much they are loved, burden their children with worry while they are at camp. I have often heard “I need to go home because my mom will miss me too much.” While this is natural, letting your child know that you are excited for their experience can help ease their worry and potential homesickness.
- Let your child help you pack their bags for camp. Campers often feel more comfortable at camp when they know exactly what they have and where it is in their bag. This can help the first night go more smoothly, and cut down on lost and found items at the end of the week too! Stick to the packing list and know that many camps have lots of extras for campers who forgot to pack something. It’s okay—it happens all the time!
- On check-in day, meet and shake hands with your child’s counselors. Ask them any questions, relay any pertinent information, and make sure to get their name (they should introduce themselves to you!) It will make you feel better knowing who is caring for your child while they are at camp.
Following these steps will help smooth out some of the bumps along the road in your child’s first camp experience. Camp Alta Mons, where I work, has many great “intro” camp options for kids of all ages! Check out Day Camp, Mini Camp, Elementary Resident Camp, and Bridge Camp on our website at www.altamons.org/summer-camp