Every summer in America, more than 11 million children attend camp. At summer camp, kids develop independence, self-confidence, responsibility, and interpersonal skills. They are free to be themselves with peers while enjoying new experiences and activities.
My husband, a Professional Camp Director with over 20 years of summer camp experience, recently shared with me that a successful camp experience often depends upon choosing the right-fit camp for your child, then letting camp work it’s magic! I couldn’t help but ask him, “Is that all? Isn’t there more parents can do to help make camp awesome for their kids?”
Shared below is his response.
How Parents Can Help Their Child Succeed at Camp
Parents have an important role in summer camp success. Shared below are 10 tips from camp professionals of how parents can help make summer camp awesome for their child.
Would you believe that sometimes children get dropped off for resident camp without bathing suits, shampoo, or underwear? When packing for summer camp, take care to follow the camp’s suggested packing list. The professionals that direct your child’s camp consider camp’s terrain, weather, and activities while writing that list. Everything is on it for a reason!
From the Craft Director: Don’t forget to pack plain, white t-shirts. Campers get really bummed if they have nothing for tie-dye day at Arts & Crafts.
I can guarantee that your child will lose something and completely forget they ever owned it. It makes a Camp Counselor’s life simpler when they can easily find a name on abandoned shorts, flashlights, and toiletries. And those expensive iron-on labels? Kids LOVE to peel them off! Nothing works better than a Sharpie®.
Parents who feel nervous or hesitant about camp unintentionally transfer those feelings to their children. It’s best to remain positive, optimistic and encouraging while preparing your camper for their stay.
Drop-Off and Pick Up Your Camper On Time
Camp begins the moment drop-off time ends. If your camper arrives late, she may miss out on choosing a bunk or playing community-building games. It’s best for kids to arrive during the designated drop-off time. Often, children feel self-conscious and emotional when they are dropped off too early or late.
Related: Taking Nature Walks with Kids
Get to Know Child’s Counselor
When my husband hires his summer camp staff, he considers their skill set, references, maturity, and qualifications. He asks himself, “Would I trust this person with my very own children?” Your child’s Camp Counselor is an interesting, energetic, and bright young person. Shake their hand, introduce yourself, and ask a few friendly questions!
Keep Drop-off Short and Sweet
After meeting your child’s Camp Counselor, help your camper settle into his bunk, then say goodbye. Counselors have been well-trained to take it from there! Long, drawn-out goodbyes often make kids feel anxious and insecure.
Mail delivery is a sacred moment at camp; kids look forward to it all day long! Send several letters a week and encourage grandparents and siblings to do the same.
From the Camp Counselor: Last summer, one of my campers received a letter from her mom that went on and on about a beach vacation and all the fun she and the girl’s father were having. There were tears from the camper and a lot of damage control from me and the Assistant Counselor. When you send mail, send boring updates that don’t make your child feel like they are missing out on fun at home!
Send Your Child a Care Package
Letters are awesome, but packages are epic! Even better? Including a treat for the entire cabin! If the camp your child is attending has rules about sending edibles, please take care to respect them.
Communicate with the Camp
Food allergy? Bedwetting? Sleepwalking? Fear of the dark? Rough school year? These are all things camp professionals need to know about to help set your child up for success! Take time to thoughtfully and completely fill out camper information sheets. If a form can’t cover it or you wish to explain further, speak to the Camp Director.
From the Ranch Director: Last summer a parent wrote on their child’s information sheet that she was an experienced horseback rider. It turns out, the camper hadn’t been on a horse since elementary school and was terrified to even approach one. Being honest on information sheets is so important. It helps camp staff know what to expect.
If Camp Holds a Visitor Day, Go
You child wants to see you and will feel so happy you are there. He wants to show you the ropes course, the salad bar, his swim buddy tag, and his favorite horse. Leave your phone in the glove compartment of your car and enjoy camp through your children’s eyes!
Through camp, kids are given the opportunity to reconnect with nature, develop life-long friendships, conquer fears, challenge themselves, and grow confidence. It’s a great experience for the entire family!
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