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Summer Camp: A Parent’s Guide

Making the Most of Your Child's Experience

A nationwide rite of passage, summer camp is a great opportunity for children to have new and unique experiences all while making lifelong friends. As a parent, there are things you can do to make sure your child has the best summer possible. From choosing the perfect camp, to packing their bags, to making sure they don’t feel homesick, here are some ways to prepare your little one (and you!) for their summer camp experience.  

Helping Them Choose

There are many factors to consider when deciding on the best summer camp for your child. One of the most important decisions is whether you should send them to a day camp or a sleepaway camp. Both options are fantastic opportunities for your child in regard to fun, engagement, and learning – the decision is ultimately dependent upon your child’s personality and preferences.

Generally, sleepaway camps range anywhere from one to eight weeks in length. This can be an amazing opportunity for your child to meet and befriend other children from across the region or even the country, as well as grow as individuals and gain more confidence in their sense of independence. 

pile of sports equipment

However, not all children are interested in or ready for a sleepaway camp, which is why day camps can also be a great option. Day camps usually provide similar supervised activities to sleepaway camps and are ideal for children who might be a little too young to spend multiple nights away from home.

Once you’ve decided if you’re sending your child to day camp or sleepaway camp, you can further narrow down your options. There are specialty camps, which focus on a particular theme or activity such as music or a sport, as well as traditional camps, which provide a more general experience that might include a mix of outdoor activities, sports, and arts and crafts. Once again, deciding on which type of camp your child attends primarily depends on what they would find most enjoyable.

Getting Them Ready

Now that you know which camp your child will be attending, there are some steps that you can take to make sure they have a positive experience. One of the most important things to do is to discuss the upcoming experience with your child beforehand just to keep them informed and help them set appropriate expectations. While camp can be incredibly fun, there will always be ups and downs, just like everything in life. It’s good for your child to understand that occasional bouts of loneliness or boredom are normal. Let them know that in addition to being fun, summer camp is also meant to help them step out of their comfort zones.

If your child is going to a sleepaway camp, it’s important to prepare them for feelings of homesickness. Remind them that it happens to everyone sometimes, and reinforce to them that they can handle it. Try not to offer to pick them up early or take many phone calls from them unless it’s absolutely necessary – camps have staff members trained to handle situations like these. On the other hand, you might need to prepare yourself for “kidsickness.” This may be the first time your child is away from home for a while without you, and of course, you’ll miss them! But don’t forget that they’re having a great time and will come home with valuable experiences under their belts. 

Another guideline to note is that most camps require signed medical releases before your child can attend, so be sure to make an appointment for a physical for them ASAP. Finally, another great way to prepare your child for camp is to simply follow the packing list! Most camps – especially sleepaway camps – will provide attendees with a list of what they should and shouldn’t bring beforehand. For day camps, you may need to provide lunches or snacks for your child. If you don’t follow any packing lists that have been provided, your child may feel left out or forced to sit out of activities because they’re missing something they needed, so it’s important to keep in mind when you’re preparing to send them off. 

While They’re Gone

Now that the time for camp has finally arrived and your child is ready to go, there are a few more things you can do to make sure it’s the best experience possible for you and your child. One good idea is to encourage your child to keep a journal throughout camp to record their thoughts and experiences as the days go by. Not only does this allow them to track how they’re feeling and how they’ve changed during the course of the camp, but it’s also handy for when the time comes for your child to share all their camp stories back home with family and friends!

If your child is at a sleepaway camp, sending them a care package is a great way to connect with them and combat their homesickness. Packing them some goodies or reminders of home can be a welcome surprise – just be sure to check the camp’s rules first. Some items might not be allowed, like food, silly string, or certain electronics. Your child’s camp should provide all of the details.

Finally, be sure to take some time to yourself. Parents work hard and don’t often get downtime. Enjoy this period of relaxation – you deserve it!

Summer camp is an excellent chance for children to learn more about themselves and the world around them, as well as have new adventures they can tell stories about for years to come. By keeping these tips in mind, you can help make their experience unforgettable. HS

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