Getting ready for a great summer at camp

By Amy Catlin
Info Guru,

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smiling girl with backpack
Your child will never forget the fun at summer camp
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Roasting marshmallows under the clear starlit sky while sharing ghost stories or singing in the chow hall while waiting for the weekly camp Olympics to begin are just some of the ways friendships and fond memories are created at summer camp.

If you are sending your child off to camp for the first time, you might have a lot of questions. Here are some helpful ideas and tips when you are getting ready for camp:

Camp Options

Which camp should my child attend? Many of the camp brochures start arriving in the mail early in the year, just after January. There are camps that feature everything from horseback riding or repelling, to soccer and water sports. Some camps have a specific theme while others offer a variety of activities for your child to enjoy. Spend some time discussing the various options with your child to find a camp that's the best fit.

When selecting your camp:
  • Make sure the camp is accredited, the counselors are well trained and that there is a medical staff onsite.
  • Check with other campers who have gone in the past to find out about their experiences - good or bad
  • Be sure to note the dates deposits are due and consider fitting summer camp into your budget. Some camps allow you to start paying early and or on a monthly basis prior to the camp.
  • Visit the camp's website often. When deciding where to send your child you'll be looking at the location, prices, dates and condition of the facilities of the camp. After you have settled on a camp, spend time on the different pages of the website to allow both you and your child to become more comfortable with the camp.
Packing and Preparing

Once you've decided which camp your child will attend, start making lists of the things your child will need to take. Some camps offer this list either in the welcome packet or on their website. Don't forget to check the items that are not allowed too.

Be sure to send:
  • Plenty of clothes. Impromptu water fights, snagged swimsuits, chillier-than-expected nights, falling out of the canoe, rain… all of these things can and do happen. You will want to make sure your camper has plenty of warm and dry clothing.

  • Rain gear. A little rain generally doesn't keep campers indoors for long. Even an inexpensive rain poncho can help your child enjoy the time spent playing in the puddles.

  • Books, games, puzzles. Most camps have down time in the afternoon where the campers return to their bunk for quiet time. If your child isn't inclined to take a nap, you will want to be sure they have things to do during this quiet time each day.

  • Postcards and stamps. Your child will want to keep in touch with everyone at home, including you, siblings, other family like grandparents, and of course friends back at home. Be sure to send enough supplies so they can keep in touch and share all their exciting experiences. It's also a great way to head off homesickness.

  • Money for treats. Treats are often permitted once per day and can be purchased at the camp store along with t-shirts, hats and postcards so be sure to send a small stipend for your camper.

  • Address book or notebook. Your child will want to fill up their address book with the screen names, emails, and cell phone numbers of all of their new camp friends.

      Here are some final things to consider:

    • If your child requires medications of any type do not pack them in your child's luggage. These generally need to be placed with the counselor at check in.

    • Remind your child to use one towel strictly for bathing and one towel for swimming and water activities. This advice will keep them from drying off with a sandy towel from an afternoon spent at the beach.

    • Hope against but prepare your child for the possibility of sunburn, poison ivy and mosquito bites.

    • Most camps ask that you send sun screen. For camp opt for a higher SPF than you might normally purchase as your child will probably be exposed to the sun for longer periods of time during activities.

    • Send mosquito repellant if allowed. Be sure to select a type for the deep woods.

    • Show your child pictures of poison ivy and poison oak plants and talk to them about washing their hands and showering as often as allowed.
    Finally, when you're getting ready for camp see if the camp you selected offers ways to stay in touch online either through email or pictures. If so, I would recommend signing up. A quick emailed hello from them or a picture of them involved in some fun activity might help alleviate your "home sickness" while your child is enjoying their stay at camp. And a similar note or photo from you might do the same for your child.

    Be sure to keep your note upbeat – instead of saying how much you miss your child, say that you can't wait to hear about all the fun they're having at camp.

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