A Parent’s Guide to Helping Kids Make the Most of Their Summer Camp Experience

Off to Camp

Participating in a summer camp program can be a pivotal time in a child’s life – the developmental benefits are endless. And when it comes to choosing which camp is best suited for your child’s needs and interests, there are a wide range of options. Here, we discuss the wonderful takeaways that camps have to offer, and we provide parents with some helpful Qs to consider during the selection process. Lastly, we equip you with a checklist to review as you prepare your kid for the adventure ahead. Ready, parents? 1, 2, 3, 4, scroll down the page to learn some more. 5, 6, 7, 8, summer camp is really great!  


By Olivia Halverson


three small children painting birdhouses at summer camp


Benefits of Summer Camp


Social and Emotional Learning  

Being away from home and exposed to a new group of peers, building relationships, trying new things – these are among the many camp dynamics you can count on to foster your child’s social and emotional learning. These activities not only teach important life skills like self-discipline and problem solving, they are also known to benefit children academically, professionally, and socially. A quality summer camp experience can yield significant growth in your child’s self-esteem, independence, leadership, and social comfort. 

Technology Hiatus 

Many camps prohibit the use of phones or electronic devices. Breaks from technology have been linked to improved sleep, decreased body mass index, and better grades. Additionally, the lack of digital access encourages kids to spend their days exploring new activities. Many children have been known to uncover a new skill during their time at camp. One bullseye later, your daughter may discover that she’s a master archer in the making. After a night of scouring for constellations, your son may realize he’s an astronomy fiend. All of this to say, summer camps provide countless opportunities for impressionable youngsters to encounter activities they wouldn’t otherwise experience in front of a screen. 

A Break for Kids and Parents 

However well-meaning your involvement in their lives may be, it’s healthy to periodically take a step back and let your child have a break from you. In the same way, parents need a break too. Sending your child to sleepaway camp can provide you and your significant other with the opportunity for some much-needed couple time. Go on a date and enjoy each other’s company without any distractions. Be warned, however, that you are likely to experience a dose of “kid-sickness” while your child is away. This bit of sadness and anxiety is normal. When these feelings strike, remind yourself of the wonderful benefits your child is gaining from their experience. You can pass the time by taking care of yourself. After all, your child is spending his or her time at camp growing and making great memories – why shouldn’t you do the same? 


little girl smiling in a canoe on a lake at summer camp


Pre-Camp Checklist


There are a lot of preparatory steps involved in getting your child ready for summer camp. Being proactive is key to helping your camper have the best experience. Here are some tips to help you avoid any stressful last-minute to-dos and send your kid off to camp feeling prepared and confident. 

Book doctor appointments ASAP.

Most camps will require medical forms with a doctor’s signature. If your child needs a physical to attend camp, you’ll want to get an appointment right away before time slots fill up. 

Follow packing guidelines.

This may sound obvious, but it’s important. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where your child is missing something they need to participate in camp activities, like a swim suit or goggles. 

Label everything.

Put your child’s name on all of their belongings. You can use permanent marker or fabric labels in sew-on and iron-on form. 

Talk about homesickness ahead of time.

Assure your child that these feelings are normal and that you know they can handle it. Also let them know that staff will be able to help them through it. 

Do a trial run.

If your child has never stayed away from home before, arrange a sleepover at a friend’s house before they leave for camp. This will warm them up to the concept of being away from home in a fun and comfortable environment. 


happy kids doing a high ropes course at summer camp


Questions to Ask When Choosing a Camp


The camp selection process can be overwhelming when you realize just how many different options there are. Day camps, sleepaway camps, traditional camps, specialty camps – the list goes on and on. When making this decision, it’s important to factor in your child’s unique needs and interests. Here are some questions for you to consider during the camp selection process so that you and your camper can make a decision with confidence and peace of mind. 

Qs to ask yourself …

  • What kind of activities does your child tend to enjoy?
  • Does your child struggle with homesickness?
  • Would your child be better served by a traditional camp or a specialty camp catered to your child’s specific interests, such as the arts, STEM, academics, etc.?
  • What do you want your child to gain from their camp experience?
  • What’s your budget?


Qs to ask the camp …

  • Is the camp accredited?
  • What does a typical day of activities look like?
  • What are the safety and medical arrangements?
  • Will there be opportunities for parents to visit? 
  • Is there a process in place for helping children overcome homesickness?