Preparing Your Child for Their First Sleepaway Camp
The first time away from home can be stressful for the majority of kids, but the benefits of attending a sleep-away camp far outweighs the concerns your child may have about leaving home. There is no optimal age that denotes children are ready for their first sleep-away camp. Getting your child prepared to leave for camp can be an emotional experience if you don’t start early.
The optimal age for sleepaway camp is between nine and ten. So, unlike teens, your elementary child will need extensive assistance from a parent to pack any prepare for camp. Parents interested in sending their child on their first overnight camp experience should follow a few tried and true steps to get everyone ready for this hallmark family event.
Choosing the type of camp you will attend is an important part of a successful sleep away experience. Some children do not have a choice in the type of camp they will choose, for example, sports camps and music related camps are often requirements for membership in bands and teams. If your child can choose their camp, start with internet searched based on interest. Make a list of the camps the fit your criteria and visit the ones that are close enough. Once a camp has been chosen; it’s important to talk about it on a regular basis. “Camp is coming up soon; are you excited?” Try to ask engaging questions that remind them of what they have to look forward to in the coming weeks.
If your child is displaying some concern about leaving for camp, assure them that feeling scared is okay. Remind them that feeling homesick is also okay. Depending on camp rules, if your child has a friend attending the same camp, consider requesting roommate assignments with a buddy. Visiting the camp in advance of the first day will also help alleviate feels of fear and insecurity. Each camp has different rules regarding contact with parents during attendance. Many traditional camps have a community phone. If your child is permitted to make calls, then schedule a weekly call schedule using the camp’s activity plan. If the camp allows cell phones, then develop a phone call schedule so your child will know when they can expect to hear from you. Knowing when they will speak to you will give them confidence that they can get through this new and maybe even scary experience.
Once you are enrolled in a camp and you’ve submitted a deposit, you will receive a welcome packet. Most camps include a list of must have items. The packet may also include a “not allowed” list of forbidden or restricted items. Camp policies are individual to the type of camp. Before you get started purchasing everything on the provided list, compare your home pantry to the items on the list. To eliminate unnecessary duplicate purchases. Also, because it’s easy to lose belongs during camp, make sure you have names or initials in all your child’s gear.
Once you’ve helped your child mentally prepare for being without you for a week or so, encourage them and reiterate how well they will do at this challenge. The biggest job of preparing for summer sleepaway camp is packing. Make sure to pack linens, toiletries, a bathing suit and extra clothing. Many parents with first-time campers work with their child to create a packing system. Most of these systems include Ziploc bags that can later be used for dirty laundry. Because much of camp is spent outside, clothes can either get covered in dirt or drench in water. Regardless of how the clothes get soiled, your camper will need an extra few sets.
A first trip to overnight camp unusually happens during elementary school, so helping your child with any concerns or fears about being away from home for the first time will only help build their confidence and prepare them for future experiences.
To help your child acclimate, surprise them by packing an extra bag in their luggage with memories of home. The bag doesn’t have to be large. Send a favorite book or puzzle from home or reading light for lights out. If your child wants to take a blanket from their bed, or their favorite pillow, this is a good idea and will make camp feel more like home. Don’t forget to pack a picture of mom and dad or a family portrait to help your child’s temporary quarters feel more like home. Longer camps of more than two weeks will require more extensive packing. Some camps will provide laundry services, so please check with the camp or the provided materials.