Preparing Your Child for Their First Time at Summer Camp

child paddling on the lake first time at summer campFirst Time at Summer Camp!

You’ve made the big decision to send your child to camp this summer! Going to camp for the first time, whether day or overnight, is exciting but like with any new experience for a child, it’s always best to prepare them for what it will be like. It’s also vital for you to get into the camp mindset so you can best support your child. Check out these six tips to help your child have the best time at camp this summer and for many years to come.

Looking for summer camps to send the kids to? Check out The Best Summer Sleepaway Camps for 2020 in New York and the North East

1. Meet the Leadership Team

“Preparing your child for camp begins when you tour the camp and meet the director and leadership team. This time together starts the relationship that will continue throughout your child’s time at camp,” says Sam Borek, Owner & Director of Woodmont Day Camp in New City, NY. Matt Krouner, Owner & Director of Camp Schodack, a coed overnight camp in the foothills of the Berkshires always encourages families to meet with the leadership team to help set up your child for success. “If you didn’t’ have the opportunity to tour the camp, ask to have a home visit that your child can also be a part of. The more invested your child is in the process and has positive feelings about camp, the more successful the experience will be.”

2. Don’t Force Camp Conversation

Krouner says parents often get anxious about camp and they feel the need to constantly talk about it to prepare their child. “If your child isn’t asking questions about camp, there is no need to bring camp up constantly all winter long. Follow your child’s lead throughout the year and discuss camp here and there when relevant.”

3. It’s OK to Be Nervous

It’s completely normal for a child to be nervous as camp approaches. “It’s important to allow your child to voice hesitancy about camp. Let them know it’s ok for them to be nervous but make sure to share positive messages about camp letting them know it will be great because you selected a safe place with activities they enjoy,” says Borek. “However, if you are feeling anxious, as the parent you have to shield your nervousness from your child so you don’t put it on them. Discuss camp in a positive way before camp begins and throughout the summer.”

4. Allow Your Child to Have Their Own Experience

Parents should keep in mind that this is your child’s camp experience, not yours. “It’s important to not have your own thoughts and memories of camp taint your child’s experience,” comments Borek. “Maybe you loved dressing up for special days at camp but your child isn’t thrilled at the idea once the camp calendar arrives. It doesn’t mean he isn’t going to have a good time at camp. He may just have a different experience than you did. Let your child experience camp in their own way that feels right for them.”

5. Review Camp Materials

Borek says, “When winter passes and you feel spring in the air, it’s a good time to go over the materials the camp has sent throughout the year. Watching the camp video and discussing all the activities the camp offers will get your child excited about camp and build the momentum which will allow for an easier transition to camp.

6. Attend Open Houses & New Camper Get-Togethers

Most camps offer a number of opportunities to become accustomed to camp life. “Day camps often host open house spring events for prospective families and enrolled families. I always advise parents to jump at the chance to attend,” explains Borek. “Whether you toured the camp or not, this event will give your family the chance to see camp just a few weeks before camp begins. The more time a child spends at camp, the easier the transition will be when camp begins.” Krouner says that new camper gatherings in the off-season can be helpful but with a caveat. “While camp get-togethers throughout the year can be great for some children, they might not be for others. An ice cream shop get together in the winter is not as structured as a camp event, so it can feel like forced interactions which can be awkward for some children. For some, it might be better to not attend at all. The structured new camper get-together at camp in June, however, is a great opportunity for new families. Children get to be in the camp environment, meet new friends and see the cabin they will be in. These events are huge for camper readiness and to help parents feel more comfortable.”