Disclosure: This post is sponsored and I was compensated for my time, however the stories, feelings and opinions are all my own. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.
Our older two boys have been to Summer Camp a number of times over the years but this will be the first year for three of our middle kids. It’s been almost a decade since I first sent a child off to camp. I’m always a bit nervous before their first time going to sleep-away camp and sometimes, they are too, but there are things that can help to prepare them (and you).
1. Talk to your child about their fears.
Your child may have fears about being away from home, sleeping in the dark, what types of food will be served, or how they will be accepted by the other kids at camp. Let them know that it’s okay to express their feelings about those fears.
2. Address any concerns with information.
Most camps have websites and brochures that can answer most of your questions. The more information you can arm your child with, the better they will feel. Some camps even offer a camper orientation.
3. Let your child be involved in packing.
The camp should provide you with a list of items to pack. Allowing your child to pack with you will help them to know what will be coming with them. Be sure to pack things that are well worn as they may get stained or lost at camp. You may also want to label the clothing that you send with sewn or iron-in labels, permanent markers or dabs of nail polish colour.
4. Send a family picture or comfort item.
If your child has a hard time being away overnight, it may be wise to send a comfort item such as a favourite stuffed animal or a special blanket with them. They may also find comfort in a family photo or small album of pictures. This also might give them something to be used as a conversation started with the new kids they meet.
5. Look together at pictures or videos of the camp.
Many camp websites have pictures and some even have videos. Not only will seeing pictures of smiling kids enjoying themselves likely comfort your child, it will do them a lot of good to familiarize themselves with the sights of the camp. This way, when they arrive, things will look familiar and be less intimidating. If the camp is nearby and allows it, you may even want to visit the grounds to have a look around and be able to answer any questions that arise for your child.
6. Talk to others who have been to camp.
Summer camp is usually an exceptionally positive experience and creates lifelong memories. You will likely not have to go far to find someone who can share positive memories about their own camp experience that can share that with your child. In my case, I have many wonderful camp stories of my own to share with my kids. Their older brothers can also regale them with their tales!
7. Let the camp know if your child is nervous.
If your child is particularly apprehensive, let the camp staff know so that they can be sensitive to this. They have dealt with anxious and homesick campers before and will know how best to handle the situation. But you know your child best, so if there are things that may help the camp staff, be sure to pass those tips along.
8. Involve your child in decisions.
Some children are mature enough to be part of the decision as to which camp to attend while with others, you may want to choose the camp yourself but let them in on simpler decisions such as which bathing suit to pack. Depending on the camp, there may also be options for activities and letting your child choose those themselves will empower them. Allowing your child to participate in decisions will help them to feel more in control and build excitement in them.
9. Involve your child in the plan.
By allowing your child to make a few of the decisions, showing them pictures or videos of the camp, providing them as much information as you can, and letting them in on the plan and scheduling such as telling them what time you will be leaving to drive them to camp, how many days (and nights) they will be at camp, who will be picking them up and when, you will ensure the best chance of success. Knowing what to expect eases many worries.
10. Send a little love from home.
Include a little note in your child’s bag to surprise them. In the note, be sure to not only tell them that you love them, but also include an encouragement about them continuing at camp instead of mentioning you missing them so that it doesn’t contribute to any feelings of homesickness. Then, do your best to enjoy your week of quiet while your child is enjoying themselves and making memories of a lifetime at camp!
I am really excited to let you know about an opportunity to win a free week of Summer Camp for your child as well as an iPad mini! These camps are in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. To enter, you must be a resident of Canada (excluding Quebec). Please read the full rules and regulations on the contest site for additional things to note.
You can also receive a 15% off coupon for this year’s summer camps by sharing about the contest after you’ve entered (details about that are available upon entry submission)!