The calendar may say March, but it’s the opportune time to begin preparing your kids for summer camp. What summer camp should they attend? What is summer camp etiquette? Sleepaway camp vs. day camp? Those are all questions to consider. Here are some tips on how to get your kids summer camp ready.
Talk to your kids about what type of camp they are interested in: Make sure you involve your kids in the discussion. Make a list of their interests and add your suggestions. (You may want to consider an academic camp, arts or science camp. The CDC runs the CDC Junior Disease Detective Camp. That may be a unique experience your child would be interested in.
Begin researching camps online and if you can attend a camp expo where you both can talk to camp directors and past campers about their experiences, make sure you do so. Talk to teachers, parents and students at your child’s school to get additional recommendations.
Overnight vs. Day camps: Gauge whether they are ready and mature enough to handle a sleep away camp or a day camp. If they have gone on sleepovers at their friends’ houses or spent the night at grandma’s they may be ready to spend the night with strangers at an away camp. If this is their first time spending time away or you can’t tell how they will handle it, find a camp that offers overnight mini-sessions.
Check out Camp Westminster which has developed a three-night “mini session” for first-time campers who have never been away from home for more than a night.
Away camps can develop your child’s independence and autonomy. But make sure they are already able to handle their own personal hygiene and can pick out their own clothes by themselves.
Involve your kids in shopping for all of the materials they'll need for sleep away camp: Sleeping bag - check. Sunscreen - check. Toothbrush- yes. Extra socks - yes. Canteen - yep. Of course camps will provide a list of what kids should bring with them. Make sure your kids take part in this process of packing the right stuff.
Discuss camp etiquette: Just like you would discuss school etiquette with your kids, make sure you go over camp etiquette. What is appropriate behavior and what is not? Your camp should have a list of rules and regulations that you can go over. And you also should discuss what good behavior is based on your own home rules. Discuss how to handle bullying and difficult situations too.
Discuss how to handle homesickness: Being away from home may not be as fun as your child thinks it is once he or she gets to camp. Come up with a plan for dealing with homesicknesses. Will you be the parent who will pick up your child immediately an hour after he or she is at camp because homesickness has already set in? Will you tell your child to just tough it out if you get a call? Also know what your camp’s policy on leaving early is. Will you get a refund or will everything be forfeit?
Need more advice on how to choose the best camps? Check out this article from Atlanta Parent.