Preparing “First Time” Campers for Camp
Over the past 12 years, through my work at the American Camp Association – NY section and now at Camp Iroquois Springs, I have spoken to hundreds of parents interested in sending their children to summer camp. Parents who are new to the overnight camp experience, as well as those who were campers themselves. All with the same focus… to find the right summer camp to fit their child’s interests and needs, and to have their children experience all the wonderful and exciting things camp has to offer.
From reviewing camp materials, talking with camp directors, setting up home visits and tours, to speaking with other camp families… choosing a summer camp is a big decision. There are so many factors to consider. Where is it located? How many campers are there? Is it coed or brother / sister? What activities are offered? The list goes on. With so many incredible programs being offered, it’s a process that involves doing one’s homework. When you do find the right camp, it’s a great and exciting moment. It is also a moment when many families ask…”How do I best prepare my child (and myself) for their first overnight camp experience?”
Though it may seem early in the year to start thinking about preparing your child for camp, there are some things you can do now to help make the transition from home to camp an easier one.p home visits and tours, to speaking with other camp families… choosing a summer camp is a big decision. There are so many factors to consider. Where is it located? How many campers are there? Is it coed or brother/sister? What activities are offered? The list goes on. With so many incredible programs being offered, it’s a process that involves doing one’s homework. When you do find the right camp, it’s a great and exciting moment. It is also a moment when many families ask…”How do I best prepare my child (and myself) for their first overnight camp experience?”
If your child has not slept out of the house, now is the time to set up some sleepover dates. Have your child sleep at a friend or family’s house over the next few m
onths to help them gain confidence in being away from home. A successful sleepover will help them feel more independent and may lessen any fears about being away from you and home when camp time rolls around.
Practice “Personal Care” Skills
Children attending overnight camp should be able to dress themselves, shower, brush their teeth and take care of their living space. In addition, they should be able to master simple skills around mealtime. Practice making good food choices, pouring milk on their cereal, or cutting a piece of chicken. For young campers, this may be the first time they are doing some of these things independently. Though help is always available from staff, preparing campers to be more independent will help them feel more confident in their ability to take care of themselves.
Meet Other Campers
Many camps offer new camper orientation prior to the start of camp (Iroquois Springs New Family Orientation is being held on May 20th!!!). These orientations are a great opportunity to meet other new camp families, some camp staff, and to see some familiar faces when getting on the camp bus. If your family is not able to attend these gatherings, it may be helpful to ask the camp about new camp families that live in your area, so you can arrange your own get together. It’s a great way to feel connected before even arriving at camp.
Though not every new camper is nervous about going to overnight camp, some children may express anxiety and trepidation about being away from you and home. Nervousness about going to camp for the first time is common and expected. What will the day be like? Will I make friends? What if I can’t fall asleep? Listen and acknowledge their concerns and let them know you understand what they are feeling. Then… be sure to let them know how proud and confident you are in them and how great they are going to do. Reassure them that there are people at camp who will help them with any problems they have and let them know who those people are.
Get Familiar with the Camp Routine
Watch the DVD and review all camp materials. Campers who are familiar with a typical day at camp will feel less anxious about the unknown. Talk about all the wonderful and exciting activities and events they will be doing, and all the incredible people they are going to meet.
Go shopping together for camp clothing and supplies. Though you have a camp list to go by, get your child involved in some of the decision making and planning in what goes to camp. Have them choose a favorite stuffed animal to bring to camp along with photos of family and friends.
We hope this is an exciting time in your family’s life and one you will look back on with appreciation and pride. We are so excited for our new Iroquois Springs families to join us for summer 2012!!! Call us with any questions or concerns and enjoy your months leading up to camp!