Summer camp: it’s so close we can almost taste the s’mores. And while the little ones are excited, there are also some nerves and trepidation—as well as a whole lot of packing and prepping to do.
By following these tips for overnight camp readiness, you can quell the nerves and disorganization once at camp, as well as set up the camper to have a wonderful camp experience.
1. Pack together.
This advice has been given many, many times. But as the lead-up to camp gets more and more hectic, it’s tempting to push through and do it quickly and efficiently yourself. Resist that urge!
Take the time to let the camper lead and ask questions while packing, rather than swooping in to do it all. It will help them have a better understanding of what they have with them and where to find it—unlike one camper we know of who didn’t realize he had enough socks for a clean pair each day and came home with socks of an indescribable colour and consistency.
2. Label everything.
Again with the camper leading, label absolutely everything. That means both individuals in a pair of socks or shoes, both top and bottom of a bathing suit, the soap dish…the list goes on and on. That’s why those camp packages from label companies are so robust – you’ll need them.
3. Don’t pack too much.
It’s camp, not Extreme Survivor. They probably don’t need the latest satellite navigation gadget—nor do they need 20 T-shirts. Pack the recommended amount of clothing and keep it simple with the camp gear.
4. Go your own way.
Sure, there’s a recommended packing list supplied by the camp. And for the most part, it’s probably good to follow it, but not necessarily to the letter. If your kid has never, ever used a face cloth to wash their face, you can probably skip that suggestion. The same goes for things that you and your camper know will never happen—from water shoes to wool sweaters, or turtlenecks to cargo pants. There’s no point purchasing and packing some item that will never get used.
5. Don’t opt for all new.
The camp wardrobe does not need to be all brand-spanking new. In fact, the camper might feel more comforted by having some tried and tested pieces of clothing on hand, coupled with the excitement of some new pieces. Keep in mind that some of these items will need to be replaced anyway after a session or two of camp (capture the flag through muddy forests, while exhilarating, is tough on shoes) and save some budget for after-camp shopping as well.
6. Be a smart storyteller.
If you were a camper yourself (perhaps your child is even attending the same camp) or you always wanted to go to camp but never did, you may be excited for your child. It’s totally natural to want to share tales of your own camping experience or boost their excitement leading up their first time at camp.
Just avoid the two ends of the spectrum: If you paint too idyllic a picture, they may be disappointed when not every second of camp life is rainbows and ponies. And if you try to get too entertaining with tales of pranks or misadventures, kiddos could become apprehensive. Sure, you can laugh at the fact that you received thirty blackfly bites on your neck now, but that story may cause some anxiety for the camper who is soon to face such horrors. Keep storytelling light and realistic.
7. Beware “the vow”.
As parents, of course we want our kids to be happy, but be careful about what you commit to. Don’t promise your child that they’ll be bunking with their best friend or cousin if such requests can’t be guaranteed.
And resist the urge to make “the vow”: the pledge to come and get a child who wants to come home. That’s tough on everyone, from the camper to camp staff. It offers up the idea that things won’t work out and that there is an easy solution. Favour open communication with camp staff and leadership instead to set everyone up for success.
Odds are, camp will be a blast. By following these guidelines, and you and your child will be more than ready for that first sleep-away camp adventure.
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