Many adults remember the days of attending sleepaway summer camp as being one of the most monumental moments of their lives. Being away from your family for an extended period of time can do wonders for a child’s growth and development.
Summer camp offers many life skills from social skills to problem-solving, independence, confidence-building, and physical exercise.
However, the thought of being away from parents for a few consecutive nights can inflict many emotions and fear in any child’s mind.
So the problem is, how can we encourage our children to be comfortable with the idea that summer camp is going to be awesome so that they can make the most out of their experience?
Thankfully, we have the answers. Keep on reading to learn some tips to make your first-time campers have a memorable experience at sleepaway summer camp!
Let’s get started.
1. Try Out Some Sleepovers
If the sleepaway summer camp is your child’s first time sleeping in a location different than you, they are probably feeling a lot of anxiety about it. Chances are, you are feeling it too.
In order to work through this anxiety, they must have the experience beforehand, kind of like a test run. Ask a parent of one of your child’s friends if they could stay over for one to two nights, so they can experience what it is like to be away from you for a couple of days.
This experience will teach your child (and yourself) that they can have fun and survive without you always there, which will invoke a great sense of independence from a young age.
2. Teach Them Self Care Early
Sleepaway summer camp is going to require your child to have some self-responsibility. This includes activities such as washing their hands, brushing their teeth, washing their face, putting on their pajamas and separating their clean and dirty laundry.
Since you will not be around to remind them, it is a good idea to practice their ability to do these activities without your request. Sure, there will be a camp counselor helping them, but it still is up to your children to take care of themselves.
3. Get Talking
It is to be expected that your child will experience some anxiety. So instead of telling them everything will be okay and insisting they stuff their feelings, this is a time to embrace the vulnerability and encourage they talk about why and what they are feeling.
Any authentic conversation with your child about feelings will not only strengthen the bond between you two, but it will also teach your child that opening up about their feelings is important. In addition, this conversation will also give your child some knowledge about what to expect and how to handle it.
Remember that your child will pick up on any uneasiness that you are feeling, so keep the conversation positive and calm to ease their nerves.
4. Get Packing – Properly
Most sleepaway summer camps will send you a packing list months before your child’s start date. This packing list will also include essential items to bring, as well as items that your child should NOT bring with them.
Read this list carefully and follow all the rules. Many camps will not allow certain electronics such as video game players, MP3 players, or iPads on location, so embrace these rules and teach your child the importance of doing what is asked of them.
Encourage your child to get packing on their own, with the understanding that you will help them finish the list in the end. This starts them off with a sense of independence that they perform important tasks on their own.
5. Label Label Label
Some sleepaway summer camps involve sleeping in tents, which means that at some moment every child will have all their belongings in a big pile on the floor. If many children are doing this at the same time, it is a recipe for an item-mishap disaster.
Your child could end up a few pairs of underwear short for the week, or lose some important possessions by mistake. Kids are usually not very organized, so you can imagine what could happen when they start to unpack.
To prevent this mishap, label every single item with your child’s name. You can either do this with a permanent marker or purchase some iron-on or sew-on labels to add yourself.
6. Do Your Research
Doing your research will help you to find the best sleepaway summer camp fit for your child, individually. You may have heard of a summer camp from another parent, but make sure you ask yourself if that camp is a good match for your child and their interests.
There are countless types of sleepaway summer camps with various themes and focuses that target specific interests. For example, if your child is very active in sports, you wouldn’t want them to attend a summer camp that focuses on Mindcraft and computer games.
Once you have found a camp that best suits your child, ask around with other parents and their experiences during that camp. Never be afraid to ask too many questions, most camp advisors and facilitators are used to answering questions from curious parents.
7. Do Your Medical Checks
Before you register your child for camp, they will need to have a full medical form signed off by their doctor. Do not wait around until the last minute, get this done as soon as possible to avoid any hiccups.
8. Get Them Socializing
A great way for your child to feel comfortable at sleepaway summer camp is to find out another child who is attending and schedule a play-date beforehand.
This will give both children a feeling of familiarity, friendship, and comfort for the week ahead.
Learn More About Preparing For Your First Sleepaway Summer Camp
By following these tips, you can ensure your child’s first experience at sleepaway summer camp will be one of the best moments of their lives.
If you would like to learn more advice like this about summer camps and how to prepare, feel free to set up an appointment with one of our camp advisors.