Summer camp is one of those childhood memories that can stay with you for a lifetime – both as a parent and a child. Getting ready for summer camp can be an adventure. How do you pick a camp? Should it be an overnight sleep away camp? What should you pack? There are so many questions to answer and things to do before (and after) the camp experience. I’m sharing some tips to try and make the experience less stressful for everyone.
Kids starting to get a bit anxious before leaving for camp? Try using these tips to help them.
Is your child ready for camp?
Only you and your child can answer this question. You’ll want to think about the following things when you’re deciding if your child’s ready for summer camp this year:
- Independence. Are they able to take care of themselves without a lot of assistance from someone else? Most camps will require campers to be able to use the restroom and feed themselves to be able to attend.
- Outgoing. Is your child one that’s outgoing and will make friends with the other campers? Talking and interacting with the other campers isn’t a requirement but it can make the overall summer camp experience a more positive one.
- Medications and health issues. Can your child speak up if they’re having a health problem or are allergic to something being served at camp? Of course you’ll provide important medical information as part of the paperwork to get ready for summer camp, but sometimes things happen no matter how careful anyone is. I would want to be sure my child is confident enough to speak up if they’re having any kinds of concerns.
- Separation. Does your child need to be with you 24/7? Part of making sure your child is ready for summer camp is being sure that they’ll be able to be on their own (at least without the people they’re closest to) during the camping experience.
- Siblings. How are your children going to be spending time apart? Sure they fight like cats and dogs when they’re together but the second they’re apart, it’s a different story. You’ll also want to have a plan together if your older siblings help watch younger siblings while you’re working.
What types of summer camps are there?
Depending on where you live or how far you’re willing to travel, you can find a summer camp for just about anything! From sports to academics, there really are camps for all interests and they come in all different types.
Vacation bible schools for example are usually a week long and only a few hours each day. These are a great way to get ready for summer camp by trying out the experience slowly before jumping in to a full day or sleep away camp option.
Sports summer camps can also be shorter, half day programs. These are usually aimed at beginners who are new to the sport. They can also be offered as a very specific skill to help improve the player. Sleep away sports camps are generally available for older athletes to spend time interacting with other players and work on skills.
Don’t worry if your child isn’t religious or athletic. You’ve still got plenty of summer camp options available to you! And if your child isn’t ready for a summer camp focused on a specific interest or activity, you can always choose a more general summer camp.
How do I find a summer camp for my child?
You can find summer camps in a ton of different places. Try some of these options to find a camp that’s a good fit for your family:
- Mom friends. Ask around among your mom friends to see where their kids are going. They can give you the scoop on places they’ve already tried or ones they want to try.
- School fliers. Often times schools will send home fliers about different summer camp options are available in your community. Be sure to review all the information provided and do your own research to see if it’s a good fit for your child.
- Facebook groups. If you belong to a community based general or mom group on Facebook, chances are someone’s asked about getting ready for summer camp. Scroll through the responses on the post to see if any of those might sound appealing to your child. No one’s asked yet? Nothing wrong with being the person to start the conversation! Someone else is probably wondering the same thing so go ahead and ask away.
- Online searches. Search on Google or Pinterest to see if there are any summer camps that might be a good fit for your child.
- Recommendations. Talk to coaches, teachers, or previous camper’s families to see if the camp will be a good fit for your child and your family.
What type of summer camp should I choose?
There are so many different summer camp options! Here are some things to look at when you’re choosing a summer camp for your child:
- What’s the focus of the camp? Make sure that it’s something that aligns with the values and beliefs of your family. It should also be something that your child is interested in participating in.
- How long is the camp? If you’re working full time and the camp is half day, do you have a way to get your child to and from the summer camp? There’s nothing wrong with getting together with other moms and carpooling and helping each other out. For a child who’s never been away from home before, a week long sleep away camp might not be the best choice to start out with.
- How much is this going to cost? The cost of the summer camp can factor in to making a choice about which camp to choose for your child. If it’s an issue for you, consider looking into if any financial help is available from the camp.
- Where is the camp located? Picking a summer camp that’s close to your home can be a good choice for the first summer camp experience. Think about how long it might take to get to the camp if your child decides they want to come home in the middle of the day (or night).
How do I get ready for camp?
First things first, if this is your first time getting ready for summer camp, take a big deep breath. This can be a very emotional experience – for you and for your child.
Look at the packing list provided by the camp. Regardless if you’re doing a day camp or sleep over camp, there are likely things your child will need to bring to be ready for the summer camp experience. You’ll probably have a lot of things you’ll need already but in case you need things, Amazon is always there for you.
One of the most frustrating parts of the summer camp experience for me is knowing how many things are likely to get left behind or misplaced. To help keep that to a minimum, I label everything! Figuring out how to label things so the labels don’t come off can be a challenge. Labels from Name Bubble are the best. You can label clothes, water bottles, and so many other things with them. To make sure you’ve got enough for everything you’re getting ready for summer camp, grab the School Label Packs” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>grab some for back to school too!). Name Bubble labels are easy to apply but won’t peel or rub off like normal labels. They’re also bug spray, sunscreen, and waterproof so you can put them on almost anything! Now when your camper leaves something, the camp counselors and other campers will know just who to return it to and you won’t spend time during pick up searching for it or digging through the dreaded lost and found bin.
What to do on drop off or arrival day?
The very first day, you’ll likely have some paperwork to look over or complete. You’ll also want to introduce yourself and your child to their camp counselor. Be sure to mention any things you feel it’s important for the counselor to know about your child. You can work these into some casual conversation or ask to speak with the counselor privately. There will be an opportunity to say goodbye to your camper then they’ll be on their way. Be respectful of the camp’s wishes about when and where parents are allowed at camp. If your child is attending a sleep away summer camp, there may be a visitation day for you to come visit your camper and see what they’ve been up to.
What should I do when I pick my child up from summer camp?
Again, if it’s your first time at summer camp pick up, take a deep breath. There can be lots of big emotions from campers, parents, and their siblings.
Try to follow your camper’s lead. Don’t be upset if their excitement gets the best of them and they don’t run up for a huge hug. They’ve probably got things they’d like to show you from their time at camp. Art projects they’ve created, new friends they’ve made, and lots of other things.
Before leaving camp, ensure that you’ve got your camper’s belongings. Because you labeled your camper’s items with Name Bubbles labels, it will be a quick visit to the lost and found to make sure none of their things wound up there accidentally.
We’re back home. Now what?
Rest. Chances are good your camper is going to be worn out. There’s nothing wrong with a nap or a family movie night and taking things a bit slower the first couple days after getting back home.
Laundry. Normal laundry is never ending. Summer camp laundry can be next level – especially if your camper’s been at a sleep away camp. Sweaty, gross, smelly laundry coming back home. The first thing I do is go through everything my camper brings home. Make sure that they only brought things home that belong to them. See what things need to be put away, thrown away, or washed. For things like this, I wash everything together in one load to keep the gunk and grime contained as much as possible. Don’t worry about your Name Bubbles labels – they’re not going to come off in the wash and they’ll be all labeled for the next time you need them.