Going away for overnight camp for the first time might be pretty nerve-wrecking for you and your kids. Instead of looking forward to all the fun they’ll have jumping in lakes and learning to ride a horse, you’re losing sleep over what they’ll eat at camp and whether they will make any friends.
In order to calm some of your pre-camp jitters, we asked Andrea Richardson, camp director at Circle Square Ranch Brantford in Ontario, one of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s nine camps across Canada, for some advice on how to prepare for overnight summer camps – for your young campers, your older campers, and for yourself as parents.
For younger campers:
1. Practice sleepovers.
Arrange for your child to sleep over at a relative’s house for one night, then try two or three nights. Make sure there is no parent contact with the child – this might be harder for you in the end! But it gives your child practice with the sleep-away experience in a more familiar setting before they get to camp.
2. Practice living out of a suitcase.
When your child is at camp, she will need to know where to put her dirty laundry and where to find her pajamas. Practicing with a suitcase at home helps her learn these skills before she is in a cabin full of other girls and their stuff.
3. Practice putting on bug spray and sunscreen.
It might be easy to overlook these simple tasks, but they are things that campers have to do several times a day at camp. Get easy-to-use bottles that enable kid-friendly application.
4. Talk about when to ask for help in resolving conflicts.
Some kids will struggle with poor peer dynamic all week and wait until they get home to talk about it. Encourage your child to talk to their cabin leader or counselor when they feel upset. Leaders are trained to help kids work through conflict and ensure that everyone is having a good time.
For older campers:
1. Help them prepare for the break from technology.
One of the great things about being away at camp is the chance to be outdoors and interact with other kids. But this might be an adjustment for kids who are hyper-connected on their electronic devices during the school year. Talk about the benefits they can gain when they take a break from their screens.
2. Remind them that rules at camp may be different than rules at home.
Your kids might be used to a certain bedtime or wake up time at home. When they are away at camp, they will have to live by the camp’s schedule and rules. In order to have a good time at camp, they need to learn to respect a new set of rules.
1. Stay positive when talking with your kids about camp.
Avoid statements like “I don’t know if you’ll make it” or “I think you’ll be homesick.” Instead, go for statements like “You’ll have such an adventure, I can’t wait for you to tell me all about it.”
2. If you kids call and say they’re feeling homesick…
On a first call home, parent shouldn’t offer to come and get the child – if they do, the kid will take them up on it. Once it’s on the table, it’s hard to take back. Instead, help your kids remember the positives of the day. Congratulate them on their successes so far. Assure them that everything at home is fine. Avoid statements like “I miss you so much too, I don’t know how I’ll last to Saturday.” Someone has to be sure things are going to be okay, and it’s going to have to be the parent.
Who knew that a week away at summer camp would create so many opportunities for learning – not only do kids get to learn how to paddle a canoe or take care of a horse, they also get to learn life-long skills like asking for help and taking care of their belongings.
If you haven’t signed your kids up for camp, there’s still time! Visit our camps’ websites for more information. Have a fun and safe summer!