by Sharon Miller Cindrich
Beyond the clothing and gear checklist, parents can do a few simple things to get their child and themselves ready for summer camp. Good preparation increases kids’ chances of having a great summer experience.
For starters, call your pediatrician and schedule a checkup. Even if your child’s camp doesn’t require a physical exam, it’s a good idea.
“Take those camp physical forms seriously. Your child needs a physical examination before participating, particularly if it is a sports camp. The camp doctor or nurse relies on accurate information to make medical decisions when a parent isn’t around to help,” says Ari Brown, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Making sure your child is physically prepared is only half the job. “From a psychological standpoint, camps foster independence and social interactions,” Brown explains. But new experiences and environments can be overwhelming.
He recommends talking to camp administrators about any concerns you might have. Your confidence in the camp will ease anxiety and help prepare you and you child for the experience. For example, reassure yourself about camp safety guidelines. “Make sure the camp is prepared to handle medical emergencies. Ask if there is a nurse or doctor on site, and where campers are sent for medical care if something more serious happens,” Brown suggests.
Fitness, Facts and Friends
As you check off camp supplies from your list, take some time to prepare your child for camp in these additional ways:
Fitness: Help kids build up endurance. “Parents can start by getting their kids in shape physically,” Brown says. Hiking, swimming and team games can be exhausting to a child who is used to sitting at a school desk or in front of the television for several hours a day.
Take regular walks, bike rides and hikes several weeks before camp starts to get your child ready for the physical demands of camp. Encourage kids to play outside. Get them out of the air conditioning and acclimated to the hot weather and bugs before sending them away for a week in the woods.
Facts: Talk about camp expectations. Conversations about camp routines, events and even feelings are essential before camp begins. “Be enthusiastic about what to expect at camp but also be realistic. Tell them that they might prefer to be at home some days, but that it will be a fun time overall,” Brown says.
Discuss different situations with your child, such as rain, boredom, homesickness and hunger. Prepare by packing extra snacks, fun pads, family photos and stamped postcards as a backup for these worst-case scenarios.
Friends: Find a buddy before camp starts. Especially for the first time at overnight camp, kids do better when they know at least one cabinmate,” Brown says. Attending camp with a buddy helps ease the stress of the experience. “It always helps to have a friend with you,” Brown says.
If your child does not have a friend attending, ask the camp for names of other registered campers in your child’s session who live nearby. Arranging a lunch meeting or phone call before camp can help both kids break the ice.
If you can’t find a buddy, your child’s camp might help him connect with one of the camp counselors by e-mail or phone before the session starts.
Sharon Miller Cindrich is a freelance writer.