Spring Break is just around the corner, and so is the advent of overnight camping for many children. While there are a myriad of choices these days – Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, church, academic, athletic, band, parks and recreation, youth leagues, etc. – there are certain Dos and DON’Ts that cover any one that is selected as best for your child(ren).
Tidewater Parent Magazine asked two camping experts, Jeanette Henderson, program director at Triple R Ranch in Chesapeake, VA and Mercy Germanotta of the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Council, for a list of the dos and donts of preparing for overnight camping. Their suggestions are paraphrased for you below. A select list of camps will be included so parents can do further study to determine which camp is the right investment for their family.
- Sign up: Camp is a great place to practice independence, make new friends, learn about teamwork and experience many new activities. Sign up as soon as registration opens to ensure your child is guaranteed a spot.
- Encourage your child: Talk to your child often about all the fun and new experiences that are available at camp.
- Involve your child in the selection process: Children typically do better in situations in which they are personally invested.
- Allay fears and concerns: Instead of quashing your child’s fears and concerns, allow him/her to share them.
- Assure your child you will be there to pick him/her up when camp is over.
- Address homesickness: Help your child select something to provide comfort while he/she is away. Let him/her know everyone misses home, but you are sure homesickness will be overcome once all the activities begin.
- Be prepared for tears: If your child calls home due to homesickness, there may be tears. Keep a stiff upper lip, have words of encouragement prepared in advance and remain positive. Staff will alert you if things have gotten out-of-hand,
- Write frequently: Be sure emails and/or letters are cheerful. Always remind them to have a good time. Get the camp’s address in advance and remain positive so you can mail a letter before your child leaves home; most likely, they will receive it at the first mail call.
- Follow the camp’s list of items to bring: Pack as light as possible. Pack a game or snacks that can be shared with everyone.
- Label everything: Put your child’s name on everything.
- Talk about friendship: Remind your child about meeting new friends. Talk about how to be a good friend in order to make good friends.
- Read camp policies and Code of Conduct: Carefully review these with your child. Emphasize the purpose of the rules is so everyone can be safe and have a good time.
- Remember the staff at camp is trained: Members of the camp’s staff are ready and able to help your child with whatever may occur.
- Suggest calls home: Many camps do not allow cell phones or calls home unless there is an emergency.
- Sabotage the experience by saying to your child, “I just don’t know what I’ll do without you while you’re gone.” That will only make your child worry.
- Let your fears keep your child from having a great, new experience.
- Bribe: Children should find their successes in camp from the things done there, not due to bribery.
- Plan an exit strategy: Children should not go to camp with the expectation you will be there lickety split if they want to leave.
- Make your child feel like a failure: In spite of all done to prepare for camp, some children just cannot finish. Instead of browbeating them, praise them for how long they stayed and encourage them to try again next year.
- Advise them to break rules: Would you want anyone advising your child to break your rules? Enough said!
- Tell ghost or scary stories about camp: It’s tough enough for camp staff to make everyone feel safe and secure at night without your conjuring up evil spirits in the minds of potential campers.
- Pack things on the do not bring list: There’s a reason the camp asks for these items to remain at home. Otherwise, refer back to Don’t advise them to break rules.
- Over pack: The more that is packed, the less that comes home.
- Pack bars of soap: If at all possible, pack liquid soap. Bar soap gets very gooey, hard to handle and creates a safety hazard when it falls on the floor (usually no one will claim it).
- Expect camp staff to be behavioral specialists: If your child has special needs, be sure to ascertain whether or not the camp’s staff is trained to meet his/her needs.
- Worry: If you don’t receive mail right away (or at all), it is likely a sign he/she is having a great time and is too busy to write.
*The camps contained in the list in conjunction with this article are not listed in any particular order. They are provided just to show some of the camps from which parents and children can choose.