According to the American Camp Association, there are more the 12 thousand summer camps in the United States with 7,000 overnight camps and 5000 day camps. That translated into more than 6 million children (about twice the population of Arkansas) and an additional 5 million adults attending camps each year. Summer camp is intended to be a safe place for children to learn new skills, foster long-lasting friendships, grow mentally and spiritually, and have a chance to experience what “college dorm life” is like. Unlike the old days, today we have so many camp options to choose from. Traditional, Religious, Allergy Friendly, Sports, Science, Eco-friendly, Theatre, and Fine Arts are some of the summer camp options we have personally seen. Many of the camps have top-notch facilities with laundry service, health spas, fitness centers, and even gourmet chefs cooking gluten-free and allergy-free meals.
Overnight camps sound great but there are things to consider before sending your loved one away for 2-3 weeks. Since the coronavirus pandemic, summer camps have either shut down permanently or slowly re-opening their doors with many challenges and obstacles to clear. At the top of the list is finding seasoned counselors, many of which have changed careers since COVID-19, food supply shortages, specific medical needs, mental wellness care, bed bugs, food allergies, emotional distress, and that is all on top of the extreme cost to attend camps. Parents can expect to pay up to $1000 a week for day camp and a minimum of $2000 a week for overnight camps some go as high as $14,750 per camper. (source)
But once you have decided that Summer Camp is the right investment for your child, what can you do to prepare them for a wonderful experience? What should you pack? Do you need a COVID-19 test? Will you be able to communicate with them? It really depends on the type of camp your child will be attending so it’s vital to do your research and ask questions, be sure you pick a Summer Camp that aligns with your child’s interest and passion which will provide new learning opportunities and impactful experiences. We wanted to give you a jump start on the Summer Camp prep list, we scoured the internet and put together a comprehensive guide to surviving Summer Camp.
SUMMER CAMP CHECKLIST
- Reusable water bottle for daily activities.
- Sweatshirt, jacket, hoodie for cold nightly temperatures.
- T-Shirts, shorts, sweatpants, and gym clothes for outdoor play.
- Sunscreen, bathing suit, and beach towel to enjoy ample sunlight.
- Sandals, Crocs, sneakers, and socks to protect feet when running.
- Personal toiletries, bath towels, undergarments, and pajamas to stay fresh.
- Bug spray, aloe vera, and medication to keep you safe.
- Favorite non-toxic pillow to keep away bed bugs and remind you of home.
- Reading books for the quiet times and board games.
Some other things to consider when packing and preparing for your children’s trip. Use a solid trunk for clothes and a duffle bag for sheets, pillows, a mattress topper, and towels. Make sure to put your last name on as many personal belongings as possible. Pack zip lock or plastic bags for storage and wet clothes and have a raincoat/poncho, flashlight, and batteries available.
Things not to bring are knives, firearms, dangerous sports equipment, video games, computers, valuable jewelry, and hazardous materials. The goal is to disconnect for the next few weeks and learn to enjoy the outdoors, make new friends, and gain a sense of freedom.
Image source: American Camp Association
OUR TIPS TO MENTALLY & EMOTIONALLY PREP FOR SUMMER CAMP
Homesickness happens often so be prepared for it. Prepare your child for nights away from home with sleepovers at a relative or friend’s house and practice it a few times. Discuss and identify fears and anxiety about being away from home and reassure them that everything is going to be fine. Once you have selected the camp, visit, and get familiar with the settings, facilities, and camp directors. Let your child take charge and feel invested in the decision. Know when camp starts and don’t wait until the last minute to start packing. Do all the little things like getting a haircut, visiting the doctor or dentist, getting your prescriptions, and checking for lice and mites. Most camps have lice checks on the first day and no one likes being treated for bugs on the first day. Have open communication with camp directors about medication and special food instructions.
This is also a good time to prepare them for independence and good hygiene habits. Teach them to separate laundry, as well as how to wash and fold. Discuss the importance of brushing teeth, flossing, daily showering, washing hands, and requiring 8-9 hours of restorative and healthy sleep. Sleep routines will be one of the biggest adjustments to make with unfamiliar beds, bunk mates, or cabin mates. How your children sleep at camp is just as important as how they sleep at home. You can create a clean and healthy sleep environment with just a few items.
If you have ever been to camp, you know the mattress is stiff and smelly, foam pads are cracked and provide little support, cots are wooden and tend to lean on one side and bunk beds are cramped and noisy. It is your responsibility to provide bedding for your children so why not take the opportunity to invest in a non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and organically clean mattress topper? Essentia mattress toppers are durable and come in the perfect size for most camp beds. Sleep peacefully at home knowing you created a safe sleep zone with organic sheets, pillows, and a sleeping bag. Don’t forget to pack them two sets of sheets! Accidents happen, and you can never be overprotective.
All the anticipation comes down to the big day you drive your child out to camp! You pray that you packed everything, nothing physical happens, and you don’t get a phone call from the camp director at 1 am in the morning. Take a deep breath and relax because everything is going to be fine. Many modern summer and overnight camps have addressed most of the concerns parents have about safety and communication. Refer to your contract and read everything as if you are a lawyer. Know your responsibilities and make sure you have all your questions answered.
Now just sit back and enjoy your time at home.