Sending a young child off to summer camp for the first time can be a daunting task for both the parents and the child. It is easy to begin obsessing over the trip because quite often it is the first time this child is adventuring on his/her own!
Here are a few things to know before sending your child to summer camp for the first time:
1. Don’t Overpack
Your first tendency will be to make sure your child have something to wear for every occasion and a gadget for every potential emergency. In reality, the camp will already be prepared for emergency situations and your child will need half the clothes you want to pack!
If you pack too many clothes, a number of things will happen. They will lose a few items of clothing at camp, their room will be messy with clothes strewn all over it and they will have a hard time finding items when they need them!
A young child having a great time at summer camp will often be running around in the same clothes for days at a time. If there is a nearby swimming spot, they will spend nearly every day in their swimmers, so the 5 pairs of shorts you packed won’t be of much use.
2. Organise Their Bag with Military Precision
If you are given an itinerary of the events at camp, you might like to organise their bag with smaller zip lock bags that contain each day’s outfit. You could also have separate zip lock bags for their underwear, swimmers and dirty clothes so they can easily find what they are looking for.
Make sure their toiletries are secured and won’t be capable of getting mixed up with their clothes. Packing two towels is also a good idea in case one gets lost at some point. Same goes for an extra pair of underwear!
3. Label Everything!
In the chaos that is summer camp, it is easy to lose clothing and gadgets. It is especially important to label electronic devices if you ever wish to see them again! You can buy laundry safe labels that will survive a lot of wear-and-tear before falling off or becoming incomprehensible.
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4. Don’t Obsess About Them Flying Solo
If your child is only four or five years old, this may be their first time leaving the house on their own for an extended period. Try not to obsess about this, but instead take joy in the fact they are gaining some independence and about to enjoy some exciting new experiences at camp.
If you are frantically checking the camp’s website for photos of your child, take a breath and step back from the computer! If they don’t appear 110% happy in one of the photos, don’t worry about it either. They need to gain new experiences without you by their side to guide them.
5. Enjoy Yourself!
They will be back by your side before you realise it! Take this opportunity to have a little break for yourself and spend time with friends and the rest of your family.
If all of the kids are away at camp, now is the perfect time to do some things that you enjoy. Remember when you could go to the movies and NOT see a children’s movie? Now is the time to do that again. Read a good book, go to dinner, have a massage, have a great time.
6. Don’t Panic if Your Child Doesn’t Enjoy Day One
There will be a period of adjustment as your child reaches camp and tries to make friends. Don’t tell them to call you if they don’t like camp, because generally you will receive a phone call 2 hours after they have arrived, demanding to be picked up.
Tell them that camp will take a day or two to get used to, and then they will have a great time! Talk to them about the camp schedule and what they will be doing each day.
Don’t over react to any minor complaints that your child has about camp. Often they are using you to vent their frustration over the little things despite enjoying themselves most of the time. If you race to camp and pick them up, you are reinforcing that they are not independent and can throw tantrums to be treated like a baby.
7. Recognise That a Different Child Returns
When your beloved child returns from camp, expect them to have changed. They will be more independent and have developed better social skills. They probably faced a few fears while at camp and learnt a bit about making friends, socialising and learning new skills.
Spend some time talking to your child about what they did while at camp. You will be impressed by their courage and storytelling skills!
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