By Michael Vyskocil
Whether you’ve attended summer camp as a child or whether your child is the first in your family to go to camp, sending your child to camp takes some preparation and planning. If your son or daughter will be attending overnight camp for the first time, you have a great deal to think about to give your child the best camp experience possible. Explore some of the following tips and techniques to prepare first-time overnight campers.
Experiment first with sleepovers
While camp provides a real-world experience of being away from home, you don’t want overnight camp to be the first time your child has ever spent the night away from home and family. To get your child acclimated to the idea of overnight camp, try arranging for your child to spend a night or a few nights with relatives or at the home of one of their friends. Staying with relatives and friends you trust can help your children ease into the idea of spending a night or several nights away from mom and dad.
Invite your child to be part of the camp selection process
Parents often feel as though they need to make all of the decisions when sending their children to camp. From researching camps and speaking with directors to organizing and packing, the most important person, your child, can get left out of the process. Help your son or daughter take ownership in the camp experience by involving your child in the process as much as possible. Especially when it comes to an overnight summer camp, the more investment a child has in the decision, the more he or she will feel confident and comfortable with the idea of attending camp.
Keep communication open with your child
Camps have protocols in place for managing communication between campers and their parents. Camps generally have policies in place for managing phone calls, emails and letters from home. Ask camp directors about the best ways to keep communication open with your child during camp. You may want to consider sending a few letters to your child in advance of camp so that your son or daughter receives them when camp opens. A little time on your part can go a long way toward reassuring your child that you love and are proud of him or her.
Alert the camp to any special concerns or needs
Does your child need to take medication? Is your son or daughter concerned about homesickness? Before camp begins, parents should take the time to alert the camp about any special concerns or needs their child may have. Remember that camps are looking out for your child as much as you are looking out for your child. The more information the camp director, counselors and support staff have, the more they all can help your child acclimate to the camp environment and create a positive impression for your child.
Pack some comforts from home
Your child may be away from home at overnight camp for the first time, but that doesn’t mean that he or she should feel totally isolated from home. When you’re packing for camp, include a few personal objects that remind your child of home. A favorite toy, a family photo or favorite snacks are all ways you can help make the overnight experience more comforting and pleasant for your child.
Michael Vyskocil is the managing editor of Baltimore’s Child. Inspiration for
portions of this article was obtained from the American Camp Association, New England.