When the school year draws to a close and the lazy summer days are getting nearer, parents start to make plans to keep their little angels busy and out of trouble. Family vacations can’t last forever. Mom and dad need to return to work. This means that kids will have all this time for mischief! But there is one thing anxious parents can do: send them to summer camp.
Summer camp is a rite of passage for kids and one day will be the source of some of their fondest childhood memories. It gives them the opportunity to build confidence, make friends and try new things. Most importantly, they get to have fun while parents get to relax.
But still, a great summer camp experience doesn’t just happen, especially when your child is a first-time camper. It takes some planning and these five tips that every parent should know.
First Make Sure They Feel Ready
The first step is to make sure your child feels ready to go to summer camp. Most kids start to go to sleepaway or resident camp when they’re 7 or 8 years old, while younger kids go to day camp. You can decide if they’re emotionally ready by considering past experiences. Has your child spent any nights away from home with their friends or relatives? If so, how did they react? Were they comfortable or anxious? If they have trouble separating from you even for one night, that can be a sign that it’s better to wait.
You can also talk to them about camp and see if they seem excited or hesitant. If it turns out they’re not ready for such a big step, you can consider alternatives like Queens day camps that will give them an idea of what camp is all about while allowing them the comfort of knowing they’ll leave at the end of the day and sleep in their own beds, close to mom and dad.
During this time, you can prepare them by arranging sleepovers with their closest friends or at their grandparents’ house, so they slowly get more comfortable with the idea of sleeping away from home.
Let Them Have Their Say
A great way to get kids excited about summer camp is to let them have their say in the selection process. This also helps ease their anxiety and make the most of their experience. Plus, their feedback is valuable. Ultimately, you want to choose a camp based on their interests, not yours. They’re the ones going. Simply ask them what they’d like to do.
Many parents like to enroll their kids in camps with a more academic profile to improve their math or reading skills. They want what’s best for them, and this is a good way to prepare for the next school year. But put yourself in their position. If you were their age, would you consider this fun? Probably not. You might get them to agree to one or two of these types of camps, but not if it means that their summer break will be all about studying.
Sit down with them and look at some options. If all they want to do is roast marshmallows, catch fireflies, and play sports with other kids, find them a camp that offers all these things. Of course, if they’re actually into math and would gladly spend their summer break improving their skills with other kids that share their passion, then a math-focused camp is the perfect choice.
Do Your Research
Once you’ve talked to your kids and know what kind of camp they’d like to go to, it’s up to you to choose one that offers the things they want but is also safe and has a good quality program. Be thorough. Any summer camp can increase its appeal by simply hiring a good photographer and web designer. Everything might look great on their website, but what is it really once you’re there?
To find out, you can look for reviews on social media platforms and contact parents to give an insider’s perspective. It might be a bit tedious and time-consuming, but it will save you heaps of trouble later on. Remember to keep an eye out for the camp’s medical policies, particularly if your child has special healthcare requirements or allergies.
Lastly, most camps start enrolling quite early – usually in winter or spring – so you want to do your research before this, or you might find yourself struggling with a lot fewer options and very long waiting lists.
Take Them Shopping
What your kids need to pack for summer camp depends on the duration of their stay and the kind of camp they’re going to. Most will give you a packing list, so you know how to prepare. Regardless of the profile of the camp, you’ll most likely need things like towels, bedding, hygiene products, comfortable clothes, bug spray, flashlight, and stationery supplies.
If they’re going away for a week, you should pack enough clothes to last them ten days. Kids tend to get their clothes dirty rather quickly, especially when surrounded by other kids their age. They inspire each other. You’ll also want to ask if there are any “dress-up” events like talent shows or dances.
Just as it was important to let your kids have their say when choosing what kinds of camp to go to, you should take them shopping with you and let them pick some of the things on the list. It’s an excellent opportunity to get them excited about all the fun activities they’ll be doing while they’re away at camp. Moreover, the things they chose will bring them some familiarity and comfort when they start feeling anxious or missing home.
How To Deal With Separation Anxiety
Anxiety is often caused by a fear of the unknown. If they don’t know what to expect from an experience, they’ll feel anxious and want to avoid it. Therefore, the more your child learns about what it means to go to a summer camp, the less worried they’ll be.
You can break the ice by telling them stories of when you were little and how you were scared as well. This reassures them that what they’re feeling is normal, and it will help them open up and discuss their fears with you. Then you can show them pictures of the camps you’re considering, read them the reviews and talk to them about what kind of activities they can expect if they go. Most camps also allow visits. Take them with you so they can see what it’s like for themselves. This will boost their confidence and ease their worries.