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Checklist: Preparing Your Child for Sleepaway Camp

By Erica Patino

Summer camp can be a wonderful experience for kids, but it can also be a little scary—especially the first time. Here’s how to get your child ready.

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Camp Logistics

  • Have your child attend a day camp. This will give a taste of what camp is like before going to the big-kid world of sleepaway camp.

  • Ask the camp director for the daily schedule for your child’s cabin group.

  • Ask the camp director for a list of camp vocabulary, such as the name of the building where the campers eat.

  • Make sure important information (such as your child’s medicines and food allergies) is sent to the camp and that the head cabin counselor has a copy.

  • For your child’s first sleepaway camp, keep it short—maybe two weeks. It’s better to end too early than too late.

  • Make sure your child has the right clothing and equipment to be successful and fit in at camp. Make sure, for example, that your child has the right kind of swimsuit and water shoes.

  • Describe what will happen when dropping your child off at camp. Walk your child through what it will be like to meet the staff and the other kids.

  • When you drop your child off, make your exit quick and positive. Offer smiles, not tears.

Addressing Your Child’s Learning and Thinking Differences

  • Speak with the head cabin counselor about your child’s learning and thinking differences.

  • Tell the cabin counselors to contact you if anything happens with your child that you might be able to help them understand or fix.

  • Find out what skills your child must have to clean the cabin and do laundry. You might even practice at home.

  • Role-play some scenarios that might come up, such as homesickness, bedwetting, or arguments with another camper. Make a list together of who your child can talk with at camp if something upsetting happens.

  • Look through all the activities your child can choose from. Make sure your child understands what each activity is, and that trying new things is part of the fun.

  • Talk with your child about strategies that have helped with following directions and routines.

Dealing With Emotions

  • Make sure your child knows that anxiety and homesickness are normal feelings that all campers face, even experienced ones. But those feelings go away.

  • Send a letter the week before camp starts so it’s waiting for your child.

  • Be positive about the experience. Express that you’re confident in your child’s ability to handle camp, even during difficult times.

  • Emphasize that you’re sending your child “to camp” or “to a special experience”—not “away from home.”

  • Don’t make promises about camp that you aren’t willing to keep, such as “If you’re not having a good time, you can always come home,” or “I’m sure we’ll be allowed to visit if you’re having a hard time.”

  • Not all camps allow cell phones. If your child’s camp allows them, establish how many times your child is allowed to call home, and keep it limited. Frequent phone calls can increase homesickness.

  • Plan something fun and relaxing for your child’s last night before camp.

With the right preparation, your child can have a great camp experience—and may even want to return next summer. Here are camp options to consider.

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  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom