Summer is on its way, which for many kids means a trip to camp. Summer camp can play an important role in shaping young lives, encouraging new friendships, creating awareness about the natural environment and fostering independence. But before getting on the bus (or jumping in the car), your child may be facing some pre-camp jitters. Whether sending your kids to a day or overnight camp, a little preparation can go a long way toward ensuring they have a rewarding and enriching experience.
1. Generate excitement by involving kids in pre-camp preparations. Involving kids from the beginning of the camp selection process and talking about the activities and experiences they will have can help generate excitement about going to camp. “Getting kids involved in the process of choosing which camp they want to attend, how long they want to go away for and the activities they’re interested in signing up for is also a wonderful way to ease anxiety,” says Erin McLaughlin, communications specialist at Our Kids.
2. Visit the camp or look at photos. Anxiety is often caused from fear of the unknown. If visiting the camp in advance isn’t an option, check out the photos and videos on the camp’s website and ask the camp for referrals so your child can talk to other kids who have attended. The more familiarity they have with the camp, the less nervous they’ll be.
3. Prepare for overnight stays. Arrange overnight stays with friends or grandparents to get kids used to spending time apart and sleeping in a new environment.
4. Dealing with separation anxiety. If your child is worried about being homesick, reassure them that it’s a normal feeling and that they will have support from other campers and staff. “If your child is especially apprehensive, inform the camp director so counselors can pay special attention,” says McLaughlin.
5. Foster independence. Camps encourage children to be self-sufficient. Help foster your child’s independence ahead of time by getting them to help out with chores, such as making their bed, organizing their belongings and packing what they need to bring to camp.
6. Go shopping. Getting your child to help with shopping and packing for camp will allow them to see everything they’ll be bringing with them and can help them get excited about camp.
7. Check the camp’s packing list. What your child needs to bring to camp will vary on the camp type and length of stay. Most camps will provide a packing list of suggested items for that particular camp. Make sure to include comfortable clothing that your child won’t mind getting dirty and sturdy footwear, and ensure they have any medication with dosage instructions.
8. Label belongings. Prevent lost or mixed-up belongings by labeling all clothes and equipment with a permanent marker. Keep a packing list of all items to make sure you haven’t left anything behind at the camp.
9. Leave expensive items at home. It’s advised not to bring any expensive video game consoles that can get stolen or broken, and avoid packing any money or jewelry.
10. A last-minute surprise. If your child is nervous about being away from home, slip an encouraging letter into the bag to surprise them on their first day of camp. You may also want to pack writing supplies (paper, pen and stamped envelopes) in case they get the urge to write home.
Lisa is a health and fitness freelance writer.
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