It’s your kid’s first day of summer camp and they are nervous about what the day will bring. You want to reassure them and give them good advice to help them feel brave and ready to take on the day.
We are here to help! We spoke with some camp professionals (directors and program managers) to see what kind of tips they could offer for kids (and parents) heading off on their first camp adventure. With this great expert advice, you and the kids will be prepared for anything; just remember to pack the sunscreen!
Tip #1: Be Brave
This tip mostly applies to kids (but to parents sending their kids to a non-school environment for the first time, it could also apply to you). Being brave will help kids with all aspects of camp: activities, making friends, learning new skills. Tamara from Bravo Academy said, “Don’t be afraid to try something new – you never know if it’s going to become your new favourite thing!”
Also, as Maggie from Nike-Lytton Sports Camps said, “It’s ok for kids to be a bit nervous or shy the first day – but give them time, and encouraging smile, and they’re always ready to join in and make new friends.” She then added that it’s important to remember bravery can be contagious. “Your child looks to you first when judging a new situation, and your positivity will rub off.”
Tip #2: Ask Your Counsellor
Let your kids know that if they’re not sure where they’re supposed to be, or are feeling shy, or just want to share that great joke you taught them; their camp counselors are there to help! For parents, it’s nice to know that camp has experienced and caring staff willing to go that extra mile, and for kids, it’s nice to know you have somebody looking out for you.
Tamara let us in on a little secret: “Summer camp counsellors are there for YOU, and will do everything they can to make sure you’re having fun. If you have a suggestion for an activity, let your counsellor know and they may just add it to the schedule!”
Maggie reminded us that this tip applies to parents as well. “It’s hard dropping your kids off at a new place, we want to make sure you know you’re kids are safe and having a blast. So ask away,” she said.
Tip #3: Make A Friend
For some kids, making friends is as easy as walking up and asking, “Will you be my friend.” For other kids, things aren’t so simple. Social interactions don’t come easily to everyone (even some adults), but making a friend can make the day(s) pass so much quicker and make kids feel that much more confident. And, as Laura from Glama Gal said, “Memories of summer camp and what they did and the friendships they formed are what summer camp is all about.”
If your kids need some friend-making advice, Tamara suggested that you, “think of one thing that you really enjoy, and walk around and see if anyone else likes the same thing. It could be a special toy, or ice cream, or a TV show! Easy as that, you’ve got a friend!”
You could also try talking to the kids around you; you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make new friends. Jeff from Royal City Soccer said, “Talk to people in your group and ask them questions! Find campers who like the same things that you do, or that look like they are the same age as you. It is very easy to make friends at camp because you are together all day and a lot of the campers will have the same interests as you do!”
The great thing about signing your kids up for a camp program that interests them is that like-minded kids will be everywhere. And if you’re still not sure and want to be more involved, Evan from Branksome Hall had some great advice: “For a child who is a little more shy, it can be a good idea to arrive a few minutes early on the first day and see if you can talk to another parent with their child. One friendly face can make all the difference to a child who is a little unsure!”
Tip #4: Prepare Ahead
Making sure your kids know what happens at camp will make them feel more at ease and get them ready for the experience. Laura suggested, “Go over the agenda of each day with him or her. Prepare them for what things they will be doing at camp and ask questions to them with is this something you want to do? Are you comfortable doing this?”
Asking questions will help you figure out why your kids might be nervous or scared. It will also help you turn the tables, by focusing on the positive aspects of camp and reminding them of all the fun activities and new skills they will get to try out. Preparing ahead isn’t just about making the kids feel better, it’s about making them excited for their adventure!
Kids should know that the first day or two might be confusing or overwhelming because there will be new people and new routines. However, Nancy and Danielle from Camp Pal-O-Mine added, “There will also be new fun activities you’ll enjoy, new friends you’ll make, new skills you’ll master. You’ll be part of a team, having fun outdoors, making new crafts. At the end of the camp day you might be tired but you’ll be very happy!”
Tip #5: Pack Your Bags
Aside from sunscreen, the most important item to pack is your water bottle(s). “You are going to be having so much fun running around that you will need to make sure to keep hydrated,” said Jeff.
“When kids are busy running around, sometimes they forget about their water bottles,” said Maggie. She suggests that when packing their bag, include “lots of juicy snacks, like fresh fruit, that will help make sure they stay hydrated all day.”
Thanks to the ever-changing weather, packing for camp can be confusing and overwhelming. Evan suggested, “For outdoor camps, summer weather can sometimes be unpredictable. It’s a good idea to send your child to camp with sunscreen, bug spray, a wide-brimmed hat, and a raincoat and umbrella, if the weather report calls for rain. For indoor camp, a comfortable pair of non-marking indoor running shoes will keep your child focused and ready to go.” Basically, prepare your kids for all camp situations.
Nancy said, “Parents – please make sure your child has sunscreen on when they arrive at camp in the morning. There will be time for your child to re-apply sun screen before outdoor activities, but it helps to have a base.” Jeff suggested spray-on sunscreen because it’s easier for kids to apply themselves.
Jeff also reminded us that, “Comfortable foot wear is a must, as you will be on your feet quite a bit.” And lastly, “Don’t forget snacks and a lunch! Make sure they are nut free, as other campers may be allergic to nuts and we don’t want them to get sick.”
For a complete list of things you should pack, check out our Ultimate Kids’ Summer Day Camp Packing List, complete with a printable PDF.
Tip #6: Have Fun!
As we mentioned above, the councellors and camp staff are there to make sure the kids have a good time; however, it makes it a lot easier if the kids arrive ready for fun. Luckily, the goal of summer day camp is to have fun!
To help get the kids in the right mindset, Jeff suggested that kids, “participate and get involved with all of the activities. Don’t worry about being the best at everything. Have fun playing the games! Make friends! Laugh! Make sure you follow the rules though, because that will make your experience even better!”
Danielle added, “Camp activities are geared towards the interests of the campers. Any learning or education that happens at day camp (and it does happen) is a by-product of fun camp activities.” The kids are going to learn a lot, but they are going to have so much fun in the meantime that they won’t even realize just how much they will gain by the end of their camp experience.
Jeff concluded, “Coming out of camp you will feel more confident in your abilities. You will be more social and have so many new friends! You will become more responsible for yourself and be aware of how to stay active in order to continue being healthy.”
*A special thanks to all the camp experts who shared their wisdom with us.
READ MORE LIKE THIS:
- How Do Kids Benefit From Camp?
- How To Find the Right Camp for Your Kids: Tips From Camp Pros
- How Camp Improves Kids’ Self Esteem
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