How to Prepare your Child for Summer Day Camp
No matter how many times my girls have attended summer camp, they always get a little nervous about a week or so before. Making new friends, learning new skills and going into a new environment seperate from parents and the routines of school can be stress inducing for some kids. Also, this year my youngest (age 6) will attend day camp for the first time and while she is over-the-moon excited, she is already asking questions about who she will know, activities they will do and where the camp is located.
If your child is a summer camp first-timer or they have some anxieties about attending camp, here are some simple and fun ways to prepare them for a magical camp experience:
- Look at camp pictures on the website & talk about things they may do
Sit down with your child and pull up the camp website which likely has tons of pictures from camps in past years. Talk to them about all of the incredible things they may do depending on the type of camp they are attending – from learning camp songs to discovering new mountain biking paths; from learning about bee habitats to making crafts. Plus, they will make tons of new friends (more on that in a minute). Once they have a picture in their mind of some of the experiences they may have, their fears are calmed a bit.
- Go shopping together
Take your child along to get camp supplies depending on what is needed (i.e. a life jacket for sailing camp, water shoes for creek exploring or a new water bottle for the days outside). Also, let them pick out some things themselves – a fun hat or pair of sunglasses – to give them a little ownership and confidence. And, make sure to label everything with your campers name!
- Teach your kids how to apply sunscreen & bug spray
While camp counselors are there to help apply and/or remind to re-apply, I like to make sure my kids know how to apply their own sunscreen and bug spray throughout the day. Again, this gives them a little ownership during the day and they can also help friends and other campers do the same. Consider sunscreen sticks for little hands, sprays for the back of the neck or a pump lotion for easy access. Also, you may want them to wear shirts with SPF or rash guards to help protect from the sun and bugs.
- Discuss making new friends
If possible, we like to schedule camps with friends or siblings to ease anxieties, but we still like to have lots of conversations about making new friends and being kind. Even if they are attending with a buddy, it is a nice reminder for kids to look out for other campers who may not have a friend and include them in groups and activities. If your camper is particularly nervous about making new friends, try role-playing with them, letting the counselors know and/or talking to them about how they do this at school or how they have done this before.
- Visit the camp or talk to a counselor before camp starts
If you have any concerns, feel free to talk to the camp counselors or the director beforehand. You can call and make an appointment to meet with the staff. You can also visit the camp location (whenever we play at the creek or lake, we talk about how the kids will get to do this at camp) or talk to kids and/or siblings who have attended the camp before. It is nice to have some familiarity with the surroundings, especially when attending camp for the first time.
Camp is full of confidence-building, friend-making, out-of-their-comfort-zone experiences that help our kids grow confidence and grit! If your child is having anxieties, remember that it is totally normal! Overcoming anxieties can be a big confidence booster and increases resilience and self-awareness in kids. Be sure to talk to your kids to find out how you can help and what specifically they are nervous about.. Despite my girls’ anxieties before camp starts, they always have a wonderful time and these preparation activities and conversations about anxieties and fears open up the lines of conversation with my kids too.
Sarah is a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant in Nashville. Sarah, her husband Brad and their three girls love to adventure both Nashville and around the world. Sarah writes about kid-friendly Nashville and expanding your family’s worldview through travel, food, books and engaging in our local and international communities at TheWanderingRumpus.com. She is the Director of Travel Communications at TheFamilyBackpack.com, a lifestyle company designed to make family travel easier.