Your child’s enjoyment at camp, like most things depends on their level of preparation. Managing their expectations of activities, routines and discussing concerns they might have in the weeks leading up to camp is a great way for you to oversee preparations.
According to Connie Coutellier, director of professional development for the American Camping Association in Martinsville, “Camp is a very intense experience because it’s 24 hours a day away from home,” she says. “That’s exciting, but it’s different from going to school and coming home. It’s making new friends and having a new daily routine.”
Here are a few tips that can help your child prepare for positive camp experiences.
Talk to your kids about the new things they have tried and succeeded at over the last year. Examples may be if they tried a new sport, made a new friend, had a sleepover, started a new class or even tasted a new food. This demonstrates their willingness to try something new that turned out well.
If possible, attend an open house at the camp so your child gets an idea of the layout of the camp and what to expect. If this isn’t possible, show them the camp website or brochures and talk about the activities they will do there and what it will be like. Did you go to camp? Tell them how it was for you, how much fun you had and what wonderful friends you made.
Share many details about the facilities to help prepare your child. Will they have to walk to the bathroom at night? Practice sleeping with a flashlight under their pillow and taking little walks outside. Consider a family camping trip so they get used to the great outdoors, nighttime noises and being away from home. Plan a sleepover so they get used to sleeping away from home.
Work through the checklist provided, gather all of the items and pack them together so your child knows where everything is. Show them to keep their dirty clothes separate to be laundered, to hang out their wet towels and swimmers to dry, and to put clothes that are muddy in a plastic bag.
Put a little collection of things from home in an inside pocket of their suitcase – a picture of the family, the family pet and a little note from you. Let them take their favourite stuffed toy or blanket along. Stick little stars or circles to the inside lid of their case and each morning they pull one down. It can help them see how many days are left.
Chat about how you will stay in touch while your child is away. Camps have different philosophies on phone calls, some discourage them, others allow them at certain times of day. Find out which applies for your child’s camp and pre-arrange what you will do so your child knows what to expect. Plan some alternate ways to communicate such as e-mail or letter writing and give your child a supply of stationery and self-addressed, stamped envelopes. For an extra surprise, send some mail to your child before camp starts. There will be a pleasant surprise waiting for your child when they arrive. Often the first few hours of camp is when the realization of being away from home sets in – a letter will remind them that home is not that far away!
If your child has never shared a bedroom, explain the basics of learning how to live with others, sharing space and cooperating. Some camps sleep up to eight in a room, show them how to keep their belongings organized so they’re easy to find and remind them of the importance of keeping their things in their own space.
Leave valuable items such as MP3 players, phones or jewelry at home. These items are often discouraged at camp as they can be broken, stolen or lost. It also alleviates the stress of being responsible for them for your child.
If your child has allergies speak to the camp beforehand about your child’s requirements. Many camps provide their menu plan so you can talk to your child about the food options they will have. Find out which leader they should approach if they have any concerns about the food and encourage them to speak up if they have any concerns. If you have a fussy eater, let them see the menu so there will be less anxiety about eating different foods.
Lastly, do not forget to prepare yourself for your child’s time away from home! When you drop them off remember to keep the farewells positive even if you later shed a tear at the thought of your grown up child away at camp.
Do you have any things that you and your kids do to prepare for camp? We would love to hear any tips or things that work well for you!