Getting Ready for Summer Camp
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.