Tips to get kids excited for camp

Camp canoe WSome kids are excited to head to summer camp for the first time, while others are less thrilled and need a little help getting on board.

Dylan and Gabrielle Dumler of Centreville were pretty familiar with Camp Pecometh ­— having visited the camp for special events throughout the year ­— so when it came time for their first year of summer camp, they couldn’t contain their excitement.

They were excited about the cabins and the college-aged counselors at the Centreville camp. They couldn’t wait to play on the climbing apparatuses in the river, zip along the water in a speed boat and try paddle boarding. Because the kids were gung-ho about camp, their mother, Danielle Dumler, felt great about leaving them that first year, and Dylan, 12, and Gabrielle, 9, have returned every year for the past three years.

“The whole idea of camp was exciting,” Dumler says.

But not all kids are as eager to head to camp as the Dumler kids, so sometimes parents need to work a little harder to rally up some excitement for the experience. Whether it’s shopping for camp supplies, signing up for a fun camp activity or registering with a friend, parents can help their children understand what a great experience camp will be, says Megan Sweeney, camp programs coordinator at Camp Pecometh.

And most camp directors, parents and campers agree the experiences at camp are unlike any other.

“A quality camp experience provides children with the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in the community — character building, skill development and healthy living —in a meaningful, engaged and participatory environment,” says Tom Holland, CEO of the American Camp Association.

Here are some tips to help get kids excited about camp this summer.

Visit Camps

Before signing up, visit a few camps to decide which is the best fit for your child, Holland says. This also allows children to become familiar with the camp setting. Some camps host open houses, events or festivals during the off-season. When children see where they’ll eat, sleep and play, their minds are put at ease, says Kaitlin Horvath, associate director at Camp Wright in Stevensville.

Involve Your Kids

Children should always be involved in the search for camp, says Holland. This will make them feel like they are part of the decision making, and allows them to choose a camp that fits their interests and personalities.

“The kids are going to be most successful at camp if they’re doing something they choose to do,” Sweeney says.

The Dumler children visited a few area camps before deciding on Camp Pecometh, their mother says.

Invite a Buddy

Going to camp with a friend can amp up the excitement, Sweeney says. Seeing a familiar face at camp puts children at ease, and even though they are going with a friend, they are bound to meet other children too.

“We encourage campers to come with a friend,” Sweeney says. “If they have a good friend from school or another activity, we encourage them to invite them to camp.”

Pick Out Camp Supplies

Start shopping for the fun stuff, Horvath says. This might mean games, sidewalk chalk, hair accessories, swimsuits, sunglasses or a journal. Picking out these camp supplies might just help your child eagerly anticipate summer camp.

Camp Wright puts camp supply lists online early, and sometimes parents give supplies for Christmas. [will this seem out of touch since it comes out after Christmas? Just asking ...]Packing early is also a way to encourage enthusiasm, Horvath says.

“You can never have too much time to pack,” she adds.

Role Play

Most camps will provide a general daily camp schedule that helps kids become comfortable with what might go on at camp.

“Going over the camp schedule is a good idea just so they know what they’re getting into,” Horvath says. “They know what their days will be like. They have a general outline so they don't have anxiety about what’s going on.”

It’s also a good idea to role play certain situations to make your child more comfortable, Holland says.

Kids can practice by sleeping over at friends' or family members’ houses or by using a flashlight to find the bathroom. Talk about scenarios your child might encounter and how he or she might handle each situation.

“Camp teaches kids how to be active participants, ask questions, ask for help and try new things. They leave understanding that it’s OK to feel a little uncomfortable sometimes, because that’s generally what happens when you’re getting ready to learn something,” Holland says. “The camp experience translates back in real-world experience — in an ‘I can’ attitude.”

By Kristy MacKaben