Summer camp is a wonderful experience for children. Camp gives children the opportunity to run around and play and be outdoors. Camp will also bring lots of new experiences, and many children (and parents) may be nervous about that.
Here are a few tips that can make your child's summer experience a great one, distilled from our 50+ years of experience at Camp Riverbend.
- If your child has not been away from home much, give her opportunities to do so, even just play dates where you will NOT be present. It's sort of a practice separation.
- Realize that you may feel sad when your child is away from home all day. Separation can be as difficult for parents as it is for children. Give yourself permission to miss your child, but also give your child permission to enjoy his time away from home.
- If your child is nervous about camp, you should acknowledge that it's ok to be nervous! Talk to her about these concerns and try to role-play anticipated situations, such as what to do when she needs to go the bathroom. Remind your child that camp counselors will help if she has a problem!
- Be open with the camp about any special needs that your child has. Also let the camp know right away if your child is having a hard time with something---making friends, swimming, finding a club...the camp staff can help!
- A few days before camp starts, pack your child's backpack together. Decide together what to pack. Show how everything is marked with your last name. Pack clothes and shoes that are easy to change into. We recommend sneakers that slip on or fasten with Velcro.
- Remember that your child will be tired and most likely hungry when he comes home. Give him time to get comfortable at home, and possibly have something to eat before talking about the camp day.
- Most children will answer the question "What did you do at camp today?" with one word: "Nothing." It's better to ask a specific question: "Show me what you did in swimming today" "Who did you sit next to at lunch?" "What song did you sing this morning?"
- Remember that learning new skills and making new friends can be stressful. Just as muscles may ache when being worked hard, your child's emotions may be bruised if a friend is unkind or if she is frustrated while learning a new skill. Give your child lots of support and encouragement, but remind her that it takes time to learn new things.
- If your child hasn't ridden a bus to school, you and your child also may be anxious about riding the bus to camp. But the bus is meant to be a fun experience; in fact, that is really when the camp day starts. The camp counselor who rides the bus will welcome your child, help him on the bus and make sure his seatbelt is fastened.