One of the best experiences kids have during summer is going to summer overnight camp. In the weeks and even months before camp, they will talk with friends planning camp week. As soon as summer sleepaway camp was announced, my kids were ready for me to sign them up to go. But sometimes, especially the first time campers, kids can be nervous and afraid to be away from home for the first time. Here are some tips to help you and your child prepare for a summer sleepaway camp.
Summer camp is an awesome experience for kids. They will make new friends, have new experiences, and get away from electronics. If they are going with church camp, not only will the kids have fun daily activities, but they will also be able to grow their Christian faith, too.
Is my child ready for summer camp?
Your child might be asking to go to overnight camp, but you might not be sure they are ready. Here are a few things to consider:
- What is there age? Kids that have completed 3rd grade or higher are usually mature enough for overnight summer camp. But don’t push your child if they are not ready. My oldest did not like to go on sleepover activities until he was in about 6th grade and then he loved to go on sleepovers.
- Have they stayed away from home for one or two nights successfully before? If yes, it’s more likely they will be okay with a week of camp.
- Will they have any friends at camp? Being in a strange place can be lonely without your friends. If your child will have one or two friends they already know it can take away some of their stress of being away from home (and home mom).
How do you prepare for sleepaway camp?
To help your child be well prepared and less afraid during summer camp week, start preparing a few weeks before camp. Here are are some ways to prepare your child for sleepaway camp:
- Tell them what to expect at camp. If you know the daily camp activity schedule, share the schedule with your kids so they know what types of activities they will be doing. Letting kids know what they will be doing will help them be more relaxed at camp.
- Show them pictures of the camp online or from brochures. Again, first-time campers are often nervous. If you let them see where they are going and what the cabin they will be sleeping in looks like, it’s easier for them to relax.
- Plan a meet and greet with their camp counselor. This year, my daughter’s camp counselor invited all the girls from her cabin for a meet and greet about one week before camp. They had fun playing together and it was nice to meet all the girls and their moms before camp, especially for girls like my daughter who are shy.
- If your child has never stayed away from home with a friend or family member, do a test night or a test weekend. You don’t want camp calling and asking you to pick up your child at 3:00 am one night.
- Remind your child to drink lots of water. It can be very hot during summer camp, being dehydrated will not make camp a fun experience.
- Get lots of rest and go to bed early a few days before camp, so your child doesn’t start camp week tired.
- Assure your child you love them, you will miss them every minute they are gone, and you can’t wait for them to get back. Sometimes children have fears that are hard to explain, we just need to reassure them we love them and wesds are coming back.
What do you pack for overnight camp?
- One clean outfit – tops and bottoms for every day of camp plus one extra outfit
- Camp t-shirt
- Clean underwear for everyday
- Appropriate shoes
- Swimming suit and towel
- Water bottle
- Sheets/blanket/pillow (many camps do not supply bedding)
- Favorite personal item (like a small stuffed animal)
- Snacks if allowed
- A good attitude and a friendly smile
If you think your child will have trouble falling asleep at night, send a favorite small stuffed animal or personal item to give them comfort and help them relax. Simple comfort items from home make a huge difference to kids who are afraid when away from home. I remember even as a teenager some girls still brought stuffed animals to summer camp week.
If the group you are going to camp with has provided guidelines of items to bring, follow their guidelines and checklist carefully, too.
Most of all, encourage your child to have fun, make new friends, and be willing to participate in the camp activities.