How to Prepare Your Child for Summer Camp

June 29, 2023
6 min read

Get your sunscreen ready! Summer’s here, which means you may be gearing up to send your child to summer camp. Follow along with our checklist to set your mind at ease.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of parents prepare to ship their children off to have a fun-packed summer camp experience. But how can you know if your child is truly ready to spend time away? And of equal importance, how can you know if you’ve taken all the proper steps to prepare for this moment?

Don’t fret! Just by reading this article, you are already on the right track. Here we’ll go over our complete educator’s guide on how to get your kid ready for summer camp, how to find the perfect summer program for your child, and more.

Let’s get started!

How to Get Your Child Ready for Summer Camp

Summer camp can feel daunting, especially for first-timers! Whether they’re homeschooled, attend traditional school, or have never been away from home for an extended period, preparing your child for summer camp is essential for a smooth transition and a memorable experience. 

Here are some excellent ways to prepare your child for summer camp.

1. Ensure They Know What to Expect 

Show your child plenty of photos of the camp they’ll be attending and talk to them about each activity they’ll participate in. You can build anticipation for camp and create a sense of excitement in your child by having conversations for several weeks about what summer camp will be like. 

Consider sitting down with your child to make a list of new things they can try at camp or drawing pictures of what summer camp looks like to them. Whether they’re excited to learn a new skill or make new friends, framing camp as a fun adventure will help them feel less anxious about spending time away from home. 

You should also walk your child through the camp rules. Although this is a less-fun preparation step, it’s important that your child knows how to behave in an independent setting. Make sure they know to respect their counselors and that camp is a privilege that should be treated as such.

2. Pack Resourcefully

Although you may be tempted to, avoid sending your child away with everything but the kitchen sink. Your packing list should be concise and resourceful so that nothing precious gets lost at camp and your child has easy access to everything they need. Here’s an example of a summer camp packing list:

  • Clothing: Pack an outfit for each day of camp and 2-3 extra options just in case. Do this with your child to make sure they feel comfortable and confident wearing everything you pack.
  • Bathing suit: It’s summertime, don’t leave the swimsuit at home! Goggles may also come in handy.
  • Sunscreen: Kids often don’t think about sunscreen before running out of the house, so it’s a good idea to walk your child through how/where to apply sunscreen. Packing a baseball cap or sunhat and sunglasses is also a good idea.
  • Bug spray: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends applying sunscreen before bug spray. Make sure your child knows how to apply the spray safely and to keep it away from their face. 
  • Toiletries: Include a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant, wet wipes, shampoo/conditioner, and any other toiletries your child typically uses. For example, if they have long hair, you should also bring hair ties, etc.
  • First Aid kit: Your camp should have first aid supplies, but it may be a good idea to pack a few bandaids and polysporin.
  • Flashlight: This is an important tool for late-night bathroom runs - and for ghost stories!
  • Water bottle: Make sure your child knows it’s important to drink water throughout the long sunny days to avoid heat stroke. 
  • Bedding: Inquire about the sleeping arrangements at your child’s summer camp to find out what bedding you need to pack with your child. Even if everything is supplied, sending them away with a comfortable pillow is a good idea. 
  • Specific items required by the camp: Your camp may provide a packing list that is specific to the activities they’ll be doing. Make sure to ask them before zipping up the suitcase. 

You should also involve your child in the process of packing for camp. Make your checklist with your child to ensure they know what they’ll have access to and how to find it. Label your child's belongings to prevent them from getting lost.

3. Prepare Your Child for Homesickness

Even if your child is over-the-moon excited for summer camp, they may still find themselves feeling homesick while they’re away. Teach them about homesickness and go over ways to cope with it, such as writing letters to home, arranging phone calls or video chats, and sending them away with a little photo. 

There are some excellent children’s books about homesickness that can also make for preparatory bedtime stories. Some examples include “The Moon Sees You & Me” by Caleb Boroughs, “Homesick and Happy” by renowned child psychologist Michael Thompson, and many more.

4. Talk to Camp Staff

Just as you’re preparing your child to be introduced to the camp counselors, it may also be a good idea to prepare them to meet your child! Make sure to call and discuss any questions or reasonable special instructions you may have for your child’s care. For example, if your child has allergies or dietary restrictions, you should inform the camp as soon as possible.

If your child is especially anxious, shy, etc., it’s a good idea to let the camp counselors know this over the phone or via email before you arrive. Talking about this to the camp counselors in front of your child when you arrive can make your child feel even less comfortable, so it’s best to set both your child and the camp counselors up for success independently first. 

5. Make Sure Your Child Can Contact You 

You don’t need to give your child a phone; in fact, summer camp is an excellent way for your child to develop independence. That said, they should absolutely have a way to contact you if need be. Make sure to be clear with your child about how to contact you. Writing your phone number down somewhere they’ll always be able to see it is a good idea. 

6. Walk Your Child Through Some Worst-Case Scenarios

Accidents happen! Your child should know that no matter what happens while they’re away, they will have people around they can reach out to. Walking your child through some unideal scenarios will help them to feel prepared and confident to reach out for help if they need it.

For example, if your child were to have an accident at camp - where would they go? What are the steps they need to take right away? Even if your child already knows what to do in this type of situation, it’s a good idea to refresh their memory before they go away. 

How to Find a Good Summer Camp

Finding a good camp can be anxiety-inducing. However, there are a few tell-tale signs of a top-notch experience that you can keep an eye out for. Here are some summer camp tips for research.

Online Reviews

There are plenty of platforms you can look at to check summer camp reviews from other parents. The best places to look are open platforms like Quora, Reddit, Yelp, Google, and Facebook. Avoid only looking at reviews that are on the official website of the camp, as user-generated reviews tend to be the most honest.

You can also take a look at Facebook groups for parents. There are a ton of helpful resources and online communities that can give you options to review and feedback to help you make the most informed decision.

Check for Certifications

Consider how established the summer camp is. Have they run a tight ship for several years? If so, they likely have certifications to help put your mind at ease regarding your child’s safety. Generally speaking, most camps require their counselors to have CPR, First Aid, and/or AED certification.

Some camps are also led by certified teachers or industry professionals. Get familiar with the people who will be leading each camp before making a final decision!

Ask Other Parents at Your Child’s School

Your child’s friends may have already picked out an excellent summer camp option! Attending summer camp with a friend can help make the experience feel a little less overwhelming. It can also help to reduce your anxiety, knowing you have another parent to turn to discuss the camp.

Above all, it’s important to involve your child in the decision-making process. Once you’ve found some acceptable options based on their reviews, reputations, and your budget, ask your child which one they’re most interested in. Considering their preferences will help them feel comfortable and excited about summer camp. 

How to Create a Checklist for Summer Camp

Here's an example checklist table tailored to preparing your child for summer camp:

Checklist Item Description Status
Review Camp Guidelines Familiarize yourself and your child with the camp's guidelines, rules, and expectations for behavior, activities, and safety measures. [ ] Done
Discuss Camp Expectations Have a conversation with your child about what to expect at camp, including activities, schedule, accommodations, and making new friends. [ ] Done
Pack Necessary Items Help your child pack essentials such as clothing, toiletries, bedding, sunscreen, insect repellent, medications (if needed), and any specific items recommended by the camp. [ ] Done
Label Personal Belongings Label all of your child's belongings with their name to avoid mix-ups or loss during camp activities. [ ] Done
Practice Independence Skills Encourage your child to practice tasks like making their bed, organizing belongings, and managing personal hygiene independently to foster self-reliance at camp. [ ] Done
Discuss Safety Precautions Review safety measures with your child, including staying hydrated, using sunscreen, recognizing staff members, and following instructions during activities. [ ] Done
Address Homesickness Concerns Talk openly about any concerns your child may have about homesickness and reassure them that it's normal, offering coping strategies like writing letters or keeping a journal. [ ] Done
Encourage Positive Attitude Encourage your child to approach camp with a positive attitude, emphasizing the fun experiences and friendships they'll make while away from home. [ ] Done
Arrange Transportation Arrange transportation to and from the campsite, ensuring punctuality and confirming any necessary paperwork or pickup instructions with camp staff. [ ] Done
Review Emergency Contact Information Provide camp staff with updated emergency contact information, including phone numbers and any relevant medical or allergy information for your child. [ ] Done

This summer camp preparation checklist is designed to help parents prepare their child for a positive and successful experience at summer camp. By completing each item and addressing any concerns or questions, you can ensure that your child is ready for a fun and memorable adventure away from home.

FAQs: Summer Camp Tips

Still have some questions? Here are our answers to some frequently asked questions about how to get ready for summer camp.

1. What Is the Best Age to Go to Summer Camp?

The best age for your child to go to summer camp is typically around the age of 7 or 8. Your child will have already experienced going to school, so introducing them to a new social environment won’t be as scary.

2. What Should I Prepare for Summer Camp?

Your packing list should be concise and resourceful so that nothing precious gets lost at camp and your child has easy access to everything they need. Here’s an example of a summer camp packing list:

  • Clothing
  • Bathing suit
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Toiletries
  • First Aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Water bottle
  • Bedding
  • Specific items required by the camp

3. How Long Is Summer Camp?

The length of summer camps can vary from only a few days to several weeks. Typically, sleep-away camps are around 10-14 days in length, while educational summer camps are on the shorter side.

Final Thoughts

Summer camp is a terrific extracurricular for highschoolers, middle schoolers and even elementary schoolers. It offers opportunities for personal growth, independence, and building lifelong memories. 

By taking the time to prepare your child for the experience and providing them with the necessary tools and support, you can help ensure they have a fantastic time at summer camp. Here's to a summer filled with fun, new adventures, and endless possibilities! Have a great summer!

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