It could be a music, art, or wilderness camp. Whatever your child’s interest, attending a sleepaway camp can be an exciting adventure. A few weeks away from home with kids their age? It’s like a super-sized sleepover!
If it’s their first time sleeping away from home for more than a night or two, it’s a big deal. Your child could be nervous or scared — and they might not say it. That’s OK. Even if they’re 100% fine with being on their own for a while, you can still help them prepare.
To put your child’s mind — and nerves — at ease, take these seven steps. They will build your child’s confidence for a memory-filled experience.
1. Pick a Phone
Do you remember sending postcards or weekly letters to your parents from camp? Maybe you waited for the daily mail call to see if you got a package from home. It’s different for kids now. Today, you’re just a phone call away.
Sleepaway camp is a great time to get a first phone for kids. Your child can call if they need you, and you’ll get more frequent updates. Giving them a phone doesn’t mean handing them the entire internet, though. Phones that limit online access and social media will ensure they stay engaged at camp.
2. Share Your Camp Experience
If you had a summer camp experience at their age, tell your child about it. Knowing what it might be like could amp up your kid’s excitement. Fun stories from your past can help ease any nerves they have about attending camp. This is especially important if it’s the first time they’ll be away from home for a while.
Think back to your favorite memories. If you loved making s’mores around the campfire, tell them how to avoid burning the marshmallow. Talk about playing midnight games with your bunkmates. Sing some of the fun camp songs you remember — many of those same tunes get passed down!
3. Pre-Connect With Other Campers
Heading to camp without knowing anyone can be scary. Knowing a friend or two who are also going may reduce your child’s stress. Even if it’s just someone to sit with during orientation, seeing a familiar face will calm their nerves.
You can connect with other campers in several ways. Ask camp staffers to put you in touch with other families in your area. If there’s a pre-camp orientation, be sure to attend. Community social media posts are also a good option. Lots of parents turn to these pages to find families engaged in similar activities.
4. Explore the Camp’s Website Together
Does your child not like surprises? If so, doing some research on day-to-day camp activities is likely a good idea. Knowing the daily schedule will give them a sense of routine and security. The camp’s website is a great resource for those types of details.
Dig a little deeper to find out about cool classes your child can take while at camp. They could learn to make a pot or weave a blanket that you’ll keep for years. Knowing what activity options are available will help your child create a camp plan. It’s something they can look forward to and get excited about!
5. Pack Carefully
Deciding what to put in your child’s suitcase can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, the camp staff will assist you with this. Don’t go rogue — follow the camp guidelines. There’s a rhyme and reason behind what they include on the packing list.
Resist the temptation to overpack. If you send too many shirts, they could end up everywhere and get lost. Keep in mind, too, that this is camp — not a fashion show. Send clothes your child can play comfortably in. Know that tears, holes, and stains are going to happen.
6. Label Belongings
Sleepaway camp means your child will be sharing space with other kids. They might borrow and loan shirts, books, or accessories. After a while, the kids may forget what belongs to whom — everyone owns everything! If you want most of your child’s belongings to come back home, spend time labeling their things.
Set aside some “label time” a week or so before your child goes to camp. It’s as easy as using a black marker to write their initials on their clothing tags. Stickers are a great option for other belongings. Otherwise, kids could end up in a free-for-all tussle over who takes home the high tops or the slap bracelets.
7. Include Reminders of Home
Sleepaway camp is an important step for kids. It’s a chance to spread their wings and experience some independence. Nevertheless, reminders of home can be beneficial and will keep homesickness at bay. While you’re helping your child pack, sneak in a few reminders from home.
You might include a family photo from your last vacation. Write a few letters and label them with “open on” dates. You could also think ahead and send a package for your child to open once they arrive. Fill it with treats and reminders of home that will lift your child’s spirits if they get down.
Preparing for a week or two at a sleepaway camp can be a big task. There’s a lot to think about beyond what your child should throw in their suitcase. If you follow these recommendations, your child will be set to maximize their time spent away from home. They may even request a repeat adventure next summer!