As you sit down with your soon-to-be camper, it is important that he fully understands what is to come at day camps for kids (of course a lot of fun and new activities!). Although this is all really exciting stuff, it can also be a little scary at first, and making him feel as confident and comfortable as possible is key to a great camp experience.
Here are some great talking points you can share and explain to him about what he can expect at day camp. Keep the door open for him to ask questions galore, and let him express his feelings and feedback. Lastly, reassure him that he WILL have a lot of fun, and you are just as excited as he is.
What Traditional Day Camp is Like
It will kind of feel like a school day— I wave goodbye in the morning, then you will go play and learn with new and maybe some familiar friends. Next, there will be a time for snack and lunch, more play and learning, then I will pick you up. If you aren’t ready for an all-day camp, we can try half-day. You like to play outside with your friends, right? You will get to do that at camp! After I pick you up, you can tell me all about your day.
PARENTS: It’s important to remind your children daily that you will be picking them up and dropping them off so that they know what to expect, and it helps them to feel safe.
“When children know what the schedule is it helps them to feel more secure,” says Tisha Luthy, nature preschool director and director of preschool CincyNature Summer Camps.
Day Camps You Can Choose From
From sports camps and art camps to STEM-based camps, there are all kinds of camps for you to choose from. You can try new sports, swimming, arts and music at places near home like the YMCA or even at a new school. The STEM camps are cool because you get to act like a scientist, engineer or even a mathematician. If you want to do a nature camp, you can explore creepy crawlies in the creek, fish, shoot a bow and arrow and make cool nature crafts. At sports camps, you can play the sport you love. If you like basketball, for example, you will get to do fun activities that teach you everything you need to know to be really good at it. Trying a new craft activity or learning a new camp song can also be so much fun!
PARENTS: You can begin telling your kids about camp by reading the description of the camp to them, says Luthy. You want to make sure it is something they are definitely excited about. Afterall, camp should be fun.
“If a child has never gone to camp before, after reading the description to them, go over the schedule of drop off, packing a lunch and pick up,” she continues. “The more your child knows about the camp, the schedule and the expectations, the more secure they’ll feel.”
Try Something New
Did you ever want to try horseback riding? Paddling a canoe across the lake? Learn to survive in the woods? Conquer a ropes course? There are a lot of fun adventures if you want to learn something new.
PARENTS: Excitement is important for them. Luthy recommends mentioning how excited you are after their first day and be all ears. Also let them know it is OK to feel a little nervous to try something new.
“It’s always helpful to remind kids that it’s okay to feel their emotions and it’s okay to be nervous before starting something new,” emphasizes Luthy. “Encourage them to ask you any questions or talk about their feelings. And, of course, making sure your child gets a good night’s rest before camp is really important and helps to set them up for a good day!”
If You Miss Home
Let’s make a calendar together that shows what activities you will be doing every day. I’m so excited you get to go to camp, I promise you will have a lot of fun, and before you know it, I will be there to pick you up. If you feel like you need help, ask your nice counselor. That’s what they are there for! You can tell me all about it when you get home!
What to Bring With You
Depending on the camp activities you will be doing, we need to make a list of things you will need to bring. You’re going to need a nice, comfortable backpack, too.
PARENTS: Prior to going to camp, get your camper really pumped up by taking him to the store prior to camp to pick out some special items he will need such as a new water bottle or backpack, suggests Luthy.
“Even taking your child with you to the grocery store to pick out food to pack for lunches can help a child get excited about camp,” she continues.
Talking to Your Counselors
If you ever need anything, you can ask your camp counselors anything you like. They are there to help and make sure you are having fun. A lot of kids are nervous on their first day and that’s normal. If you have to use the restroom, you need water or don’t understand an activity, your counselors want you to tell them. But if there is a time where you really aren’t feeling good or you really have to come home, have them call me. If there is ever an emergency or something is wrong, tell your camp counselor right away.
PARENTS: Always remind your kids that the counselors have your phone number in case anything happens and you will be called and come get them, says Luthy.
“If the child is young, they can bring a special item with them to camp, such as a family picture or a note from a parent saying, ‘I love you and I will be back soon’” she says.
Be sure to explain that the camp counselors are there to help, just like you do.
“Let them know that counselors are there to lead the group and make sure that the children stay safe,” Luthy continues. “Giving them examples is helpful. You can say something
like, ‘If you need to use the restroom or feel sick, you can go to your counselor and let them know.’” Other examples might be something like, ‘If you are having trouble with another child, you can ask the counselor to help you,’ or ‘If you need help with opening something in your lunch, you can ask your counselor to help.’”
Ask About Their Camp Day
PARENTS: Getting your kids to talk about their day can be hard sometimes. It helps to ask specific questions if you really want them to elaborate, says Luthy.
“Asking specific questions about camp can help your child to open up more about their experience and lead to a deeper conversation,” she continues. “Some example questions are, ‘Who did sit by at lunch?’; or ‘Did you find anything interesting on your hike?’”
Expect your busy camper to be tired at the end of the day. Let them decompress then ask some questions during your bedtime routine or even around the dinner table. You may be surprised to hear the enthusiasm about their fun day.
DAY CAMP CHECKLIST
Your child’s sense of security hinges on knowing what’s happening around him. Empower your kids by going over day camp details until they emphatically tell you they’ve got this!
_ A Change of Clothes – (In case you get wet or there is an accident.)
_ Swimming Gear – A towel, your favorite goggles, swim shoes or flip-flops and a swimsuit (if they have swimming or other cool water activities.)
_ Bug Spray – You will be outside a lot, so make sure you have your bug spray with you.
_ Sun Protection – Try and remember to put some more sunscreen on your face when you take a break! We can also pack you a nice hat to shade your face and some chapstick.
_ Toiletries – You’ll need tissues, hand sanitizer, a first aid kit and some hand wipes.
_ Water – It will be hot, so you’ll need plenty of water throughout the day!
_ Snacks and Lunch – The camp may provide this or I will everyday.