Kids Swimming at the Y
05/28/2024 - 12:45 PM

Summer camps make some of the most memorable childhood experiences. For many parents, the main appeal of summer camps is that they help children become independent, make new friends, and explore different interests. However, for children to enjoy all these benefits, you need to prepare them adequately for those days they'll be spending away from home. 

Proper preparation helps eliminate pre-camp jitters and creates a fun and enchanting experience that enables kids to grow and develop. Below are the essential ways you can prepare your child for a successful summer camping experience.

Find the Right Summer Camp

The first step in preparing your kids for summer camp involves choosing and booking the camp. So, how do you find the right camp for your child with so many available options? Here are a few pointers:

  • Start early: Start looking for camps in the spring and take advantage of early bookings. 
  • Consider your child's interests: Choose a camp based on your child's personality and interests. Do they need a camp that specializes in one activity, such as sports or academics, or one that offers a wide variety of activities?
  • Check the reviews: Read reviews from parents and campers to get an honest opinion of the camping experience. Reputable camps are glad to provide references.
  • Speak to camp leaders: Speak to the camp representatives to understand the camp's safety procedures, risk management policies, and abuse prevention protocols. 
  • Allow for some downtime at home: Be careful not to overwhelm your child with camping activities by ensuring you schedule some time for them to enjoy a bit of their holiday at home. 
  • Consult a friend: You might want to consider involving one of your child's friends' parents in the planning, especially if it's your child's first camping experience. Try to avoid involving too many friends because you want to provide your child with an opportunity to be independent and make new friends. 

Get a Medical Exam Before Camp

Before sending your child off to either day or overnight camp, you should schedule a physical exam. This helps ensure they're healthy and capable of participating in all camping activities. Some camps may require you or a health care provider to fill out health forms before you drop your child off. 

Additionally, get acquainted with the camp's medical policies. Download your child's health history, and inform the camp directors of your child's food allergies, medications, special health needs and emergency action plans. Pack any necessary emergency medications, such as EpiPens and inhalers, and hand them to staff members or camp directors for safety. It's best not to change your child's medication in the days leading up to camp to reduce or avoid negative side effects or drug interactions while they're away from home.

Talk With Your Child

Talking with your child before sending them to camp helps to set and manage their expectations. Start by having simple open-ended conversations to gauge their nerves or expectations. Talk to them about the emotions they might experience, such as missing home or their pets. Help them understand these feelings are normal and that they can handle them. Also, remind them that you will only be a phone call away. 

Looking through the camp's website and social media profiles for pictures and videos also helps kids overlook their fears and gets them excited about attending the camp. You can also talk to them about what they hope to achieve during the camp. For example, if they're attending a soccer camp, they can look forward to improving their passes. Focus on realistic goals and expectations — these will make it possible to enjoy the experience more without focusing solely on the outcomes. 

Camp packing

Pack Early and Appropriately

When you start packing for an overnight camp, check the camp's packing list. The list should include all the things that children need for the duration of the camp and some of the items they should not bring along. Involving your child in the shopping and packing allows them to get excited about the camp and start fostering the independence they'll be practicing while at camp. Here are a few essential summer camp packing tips:

  • Label all your child's belongings with their first and last name.
  • Pack a small reminder of home, such as a blanket, a stuffed animal or a family picture.
  • Add items like sunscreen and bug spray that are typically not included on the camp packing lists.
  • Leave valuables that may be stolen or broken, such as money or jewelry, at home. 
  • Pack plastic bags to help them separate items.

While you may need to add backup items like extra underwear, toothbrushes and water bottles, avoid overpacking because it makes it difficult to stay organized. 

Teach Your Child Organization and Independence 

Most camps, especially overnight camps, are focused on helping kids become more independent. However, you can get the ball rolling early. Before they go to camp, have your kids help out with chores like organizing their rooms, packing their school bags, and making their beds. This way, they won't feel too overwhelmed when they head out to camp. 

Encouraging them to pick out their own outfits in the days leading up to the camp will also make it easier for them to make good fashion choices while they're away. Being organized will prevent them from losing their items, help them gain a sense of responsibility, and elevate their overall camping experience. 

Create a Communication Plan 

Many overnight camps don't allow digital devices, so writing letters is the best way to communicate when your child is away. Your child can write to you detailing their adventures, and you can keep them updated on everything happening at home. Keep your letters positive and affirming without being overly enthusiastic about all the fun you're having while they're away. 

You should also encourage them to keep a journal to record their favorite summer camp memories and help them verbalize their feelings and emotions. Share journal prompts that help encourage self-exploration, such as:

  • What made you smile? 
  • What new activities did you try today? 
  • What's your favorite camp experience? 
  • What is your favorite camp activity?
Active Campers

Get Your Child Ready and Excited for Summer Camp

Looking for the right summer camps in the greater Philadelphia region? The Greater Philadelphia YMCA has amazing options that focus on helping your child learn new skills, make new friends, and have a ton of fun. We have numerous camp options focusing on different interests — including sports, theater, and science — designed for all kids of all abilities.

Whether you're looking for a local summer day camp or a destination summer camp, we have you covered. Contact us today for more information about our summer camp offerings!