8 tips to get your kids ready for camp

CampKidBy Betsy Stein

Getting anxious about sending your child off to camp? Here are eight tips to prepare kids for camp from Janice Williams, senior vice president of program development at YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, and Trev Dalton, resident camp director at YMCA Camp Letts in Edgewater.

Preparing kids for camp

  1. Get your kids involved from the beginning in planning the camp experience and activity choices. By having a say, they'll feel ownership of the experience and look forward to what piqued their interest.
  2. If it's their first extended time away from home, plan several sleepovers before camp starts. If they have a cell phone, send them without it so you break your need to constantly check on them. If something happens, the other parent will let you know.
  3. Attend an open house or visit the camp ahead of time so you and your child become familiar with the camp grounds. On drop off day, your child will know what to expect and be more comfortable with the environment.
  4. Resist the urge to pack for your campers. Have them pack their own bag and you can assist. This way, they know what they have and where it is. Make sure you throw in extra pairs of socks and towels. They'll need them!
  5. Make sure campers are open to new experiences. If they are hesitant to try a new activity or make new friends, guide them in gentle and supportive ways. Share personal experiences that resulted in pleasant surprises and opportunities. Do something outdoors as a family to gradually expose them to what they'll experience at camp.
  6. Homesickness is common during an overnight camp experience. Keep frequent letters cheery and newsy in a way that will not make your campers feel homesick. Do not dwell on how much you miss them or share your worries and anxieties. Ask them about the new people they've met or the new challenges they've faced. Prepare campers to trust in themselves and the camp staff to help them through.
  7. Wean them off electronics and social media in advance. Most camps do not allow cell phones, tablets or other electrical devices. Warn your camper of this in advance. Kids, especially teenagers, will begin to feel separation anxiety about leaving their game systems, phones and social media accounts behind. Before they leave, they can tell their friends they will be offline for a while and when they will be back.
  8. Expect your campers to come back from camp a bit different. They will be more independent, confident and a little dirty.