Camp, Parenting

Happy Campers

Camp is supposed to be fun. But some young children new to the experience can feel anxious and unsure. There are things parents can do to ease the transition and set children up for successful summer camp experiences.

The right fit
Remember, you are not going to camp. Think about what activities your child enjoys. Preschool age children do best in a camp that has the qualities of a good preschool: nurturing environment, low counselor/camper ratio, and age-appropriate activities, routines, and expectations.  Also consider the schedule; a half day of high-energy camp is enough for most young children.
Ease the transition
1) Visit the camp before the first day. Even if camp is not in session, your child can see his room or area, maybe meet his counselor or other camp administrators, and find out where important things are. Be sure to locate the spot where you will drop off and pick up your child.
2) Ask for a brief rundown of daily activities so you can tell your child what she can expect. Children are comforted by knowing what will happen next.
Talk with your child about his concerns. Remind him that the counselor is there to help with anything you can’t figure out in advance—and that he can always ask about anything he needs to know or forgets.
Be prepared & stay in touch
3) Read everything! Make sure your child has all of the requested items from extra clothes and swim suits to the right number of towels and sunscreen to lunch. Send your child in comfortable clothing that she can play in. Consider self-help ability when choosing camp clothes so she can handle most wardrobe changes herself.
4) Give yourself enough time to get ready and get to camp without rushing and creating extra stress—or arriving after organized activities have begun. Your child will have an easier time adjusting to the new environment and routine if she has had enough sleep and a nutritious breakfast.
Check in with your child’s counselor now and then to make sure things are going smoothly. Also,
5) keep track of field trips and snack days or other special events that may require extra planning or participation on your part.

Jenni Evans and is a parent educator at the Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital.

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