Camp, Outdoor fun, Parenting

Getting The Most From Camp

6 Easy Tips to ensure your child will have the best summer camp experience!

1) Choose carefully. A preschooler will do best at a camp that has many of the same qualities as a good preschool: a nurturing environment, a relaxed schedule of age-appropriate activities, and a low counselor/camper ratio. Older children who already have some experience in a group setting and are used to moving from activity to activity would probably enjoy the mix of sports, swimming, and crafts most day camps offer. Of course, an older child may prefer to attend a specialty camp that focuses on a particular interest.

2) If you are considering sleepaway camp for the first time, consider the following: How easily does your child spend the night away from home? Does he enjoy participating in group activities, and adjust easily to new situations? Most important, does he want to go away from home? Some children really like new experiences. Summer is a great opportunity to try something new and different. But don’t force it! Many people prefer the comfort of a similar routine and familiar people.

3) Do your homework. Find out in advance how camps handle certain issues: safety, medical emergencies, and discipline. How are counselors selected, and how many are under age 18? What sort of training or experience do they have to prepare them to work with children? What is the counselors’ training in first-aid and water safety? What are the group sizes? How are disciplinary and behavioral problems handled? If there are off-site trips, how are children transported? How does a prospective sleepaway camp handle homesickness? The answers to these questions will help you feel more comfortable in your camp selection.

4) Help your child anticipate. Talk with your child about his or her concerns and let them know what to expect. A preschooler may need to know just the basics: who will drop her off and pick her up; if she brings her lunch; what activities she’ll have; etc. Your child may also want to see the camp before the first day and find out if any of her friends will be there; a familiar face can ease the adjustment.

For kids going away to camp, fitting in socially and learning to cope with new experiences without the familiar supports of home may be sources of concern. Talk with your child about her particular fears, and what kinds of things she can do if she feels homesick. Express confidence that while it might be hard at first, you know she will find ways to manage her feelings. Then discuss what she could bring from home that might help (her own pillow, a stuffed animal, or a family photo, for example).

5) Be organized & prepared. Make sure you have read all of the materials, signed all of the forms, paid all of the fees, and gathered any supplies requested. Help your child remember lunch and anything else he needs to be prepared for each day. In many cases, camp
environments are not as structured and routine as a classroom so help your child stay organized. Forgetting a bathing suit can ruin a whole day! Also, don’t forget hydration and sun protection—a safety “must” when attending camp, especially in southern Louisiana. For more information about selecting a camp, check out the website for parents developed by the American Camp Association:

6) Save room for family time. Summer camps can keep them busy; however, try not to schedule the summer as tightly as the school year. Make it a time to focus a little more on the things you enjoy together—whether it’s singing in the car or playing a game after dinner.

Jenni Evans and Lisa Phillips are parent educators at the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital.

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