Getting Ready for Summer Camp

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Sending the kids off to a summer camp can be exciting and also a little scary. Whether it’s an overnight, or a day camp, with some advance preparation you can ensure it’s a fun time for everyone.

Pack the Essentials

While the camp should provide you with a list of what will be needed, it’s always a good idea to make sure your child has the essentials, including:

  • Sunscreen that contains either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and protects against UVB and UVA rays
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Bug spray
  • Proper footwear such as hiking boots or athletic shoes. Open-toe sandals can result in injury if a child will be running or jumping.
  • Proper clothing for whatever activities they’ll be doing, including pants, light-weight long sleeve shirts, rain jackets, swim suits, etc.

Health Concerns

If your child needs regular medications – such as for asthma – make sure the camp nurse or counselor knows and understands how to administer the medicines and pack an extra supply just to be safe. If your child has food allergies or other dietary concerns, you’ll also need to make the camp counselors aware of the issues. Your child is probably already aware of how to negotiate food allergies within environments such as the school lunch room, but talk with him or her about the camp environment and what to anticipate.

Homesickness

Whether it’s the first time your child will be away, or they’ve gone to many camps, homesickness is common. It can be helpful to have your child involved in the decision to go to camp in the first place and have it be his or her choice. Before ever leaving home, talk about what to expect and listen to fears and concerns. It can be easy to reassure a child by saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll have a great time!”, but what she or he really needs is to express concerns in order to process them.

Consider role-playing as well, whether it’s an overnight with grandparents or at a friend’s house. Give kids a chance to experience a night away from mom and dad, and start developing their confidence.

Once at camp, it’s very common for children to be unhappy and scared at first. But, try to resist the urge to go pick them up when you receive that phone call or text. Instead, reassure them their feelings are normal and listen to their concerns. Acknowledge their feelings and encourage them to give it a little time before making a final decision. Reach out to the camp director to find out what might be going on. Often if a child is truly having a difficult time, the director will reach out to parents to help develop strategies for supporting the child through the challenge.

Helping kids work through their fears will help their confidence grow.

Prevention

Talk to your kids about the importance of regular hand washing, and not sharing things like hairbrushes or even sleeping bags to help prevent the spread of illness. And ensure there is proper safety equipment, like helmets for horseback riding. If you have any concerns, bring them up with the camp director.

Be Realistic

Accidents and illnesses can happen despite our best efforts – stomach aches, rashes, scrapes, even broken bones. The camp staff should all be trained in first aid and able to address minor issues. If you have concerns however, ask and know what the procedures are for notifying parents.

Summer camps can be a great way for kids to develop their sense of confidence, have fun, make new friends and develop great memories that will last a lifetime.

30 comments

  • Thank you for the reminder of lip balm! we are ready for camp

  • We printed off their supply lists for camp & went right down the list until they had everything they needed. Not doing it last minute also helped us from having surprises if we didn’t have everything they needed here at home & needed to go shopping!

  • We always make a list of everything she will need for camp. Including clothes, sunscreen, bug spray, and a first aid kit. We make sure she knows her address and phone numbers in case of emergancies.

  • Aside from the essentials listed in the blogpost, I’d make sure my child had something from home to sleep with, so as to not be so homesick. My kids are still too little for camp, but once they get older we’ll see if they are interested enough to leave home for a few days.

  • My son is not old enough for camp yet (7 months) but I have worked at a number of camps, and one of the best ways parents prepare their campers is involving them in a day camp program for a summer or two before sending them to sleep-away camp.

  • We get them up when they would be roused for a few days ahead of time, get them packed up and check it twice.

  • We always buy a new bottle of spray-on sun block. It’s easy for my daughter to apply, which makes all the difference in whether she’ll take the time to do it. The checklist from camp includes this, and other essentials that we shop for every year! It’s a fun way to get her excited for camp in the weeks leading up to the big day.

  • We camp as a family and always pack the toys, sidewalk chalk, and beach toys, then pack the suitcases!

  • Real mail is lovely.
    Included stickers with addresses and stamps.

  • My kids are to young for camp but they often get shipped off to grandma’s house for the weekend. I know grandma’s house is not stocked with bug spray and sunscreen so those items are always in the overnight bag. I also like to send their favorite blankies so they don’t get home sick and two pairs of footwear for each kid – you never know what might happen when they are running around outside all day. The change of scenery is good for my kids and keeps them from getting stir crazy at home.

  • We always make a list and include all natural when possible for sunscreen, bug repellant and others.

  • I don’t send my kid to camp, so I don’t need to get him ready!

  • We love and go camping each and every summer so kids know the routine and are ready to enjoy their own adventure anytime.

  • Before heading off to camp, we always use checklists for packing to make sure we don’t forget anything! The lists stay pretty similar from trip to trip, so that makes things easy.

  • pack a surprise note and photos in their bag. so they can find them in a couple of days.

  • A camera and a journal so they can tell you all about their experience. I think sending your kids mail is also really neat. They love that!!

  • Although not old enough for camp yet, I think remembering the chapstick and a nice reminder from home, as well as some hidden notes in their bag would be a nice reminder you are missing them.

  • A small book of photos tucked in their bag to ward off homesickness and everything labeled!!

  • We use checklists too and have lots of last minute trips to Walgreens and Target. Sunscreen, bug spray and a journal are on the top of the list!

  • Jessie Potterton

    Role playing before camp to develop skills and tips on how to deal with friend issues, homesickness, competitive games, etc. works wonders!

  • At the beginning of every summer I prepacked all of our camping bins so when its time to leave everything is packed. We also have a list for all the stuff that can’t be prepacked. It makes everything a lot easier and less likely to forget stuff.

  • Pack clothing for all types of weather and extra clothes since they can get so messy camping!

  • Sharon Rothschadl

    We make a list of what they need to take. Then I have them pack there bags so that they know what to bring along back.
    I give them a big hug and kiss and tell them to have fun but be safe in what they do.

  • Thanks for the list. We like to include a flashlight and extra batteries. Extra clothes also come in handy.

  • We print a list & my son checks off each item as he packs it. Then we go through the list together, and he shows me each item.

  • We are just doing day camp this year. We have to send their lunch, so our prep will be packing one that will keep them fueled for the full day.

  • My child is not old enough for camp but we will be camping out in our back yard next week.

  • My kids are to young to go camping yet. But since I had kids I have been wanting to go camping a lot more and can’t wait for them to get older. I’m excited for the no TV or cell phone type of camping. I like the list idea I prolly would have never done that. I do see myself forgetting a lot of things at all different times. So I think that when we do go camping that the list will come in handy and I will for sure use it. Thanks

  • I always pack too many clothes!
    My kids are too young to camp alone, but we go camping as a family and I am always sure to start packing early so I don’t forget anything for them! Bug spray, sunscreen, and a shovel and pail are always at the top of our lists!!

  • My kids go to day camp where they are outside for about 7 hours a day. In addition to the sunscreen and bugspray recommendations, I also make sure they have good supportive summer shoes. Crocs just don’t make the cut for active boys at camp. We go with Keens because they are closed-toed, sturdy, comfortable, and washable!