Is Your Child Ready for Camp?
Ask yourself these questions to help determine when your child is ready for camp.
- How old is your child? Before age 7, children may find it difficult to adjust to being away from home. Having your child attend a day camp first can help gauge readiness and prepare for the overnight camp experience.
- What’s behind your child’s interest in camp: has it arisen from within, or is it primarily a result of influence by parents and friends? Does your child often talk about the possibility of attending camp and participating in camp activities?
- Think about your child’s overnight experiences away from home, e.g., visiting relatives or friends: have these been positive? Was separation easy or difficult?
- What does your child expect to do at camp? Learning about the camp experience ahead of time allows you to create positive expectations.
- How do you feel about sending your child to camp? Share your feelings: your confidence in a positive experience will be contagious.
For more information, visit: Gauging your Child’s Readiness for Camp.
Advice on Homesickness
For many children, overnight camp represents the first experience with homesickness—and that’s normal! A recent study showed that 83 percent of campers reported homesickness on at least one day of camp.* Don’t feel helpless around homesickness. Follow these tips to prevent and, if necessary, deal with homesickness:
- Foster your child’s independence throughout the year. Encourage practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend’s house.
- Involve your child in choosing a camp.
- Discuss what it will be like for your child to be at camp—including such mundane details as using a flashlight to find the bathroom and how to stay healthy while at camp. (See ACA Article Healthy Camp Starts at Home)
- Agree ahead of time on how to communicate with your camper, and honor the camp’s parent communication policies.
- Pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal, and send a letter to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say “I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a lot of fun, learn a lot and I’m very proud of you.”
- Try not to bribe your child into sticking it out at camp—it sends the wrong message.
- If you get a “rescue call” from your child, stay calm, offer reassurance, and offer your adult perspective. Avoid the temptation to take the child home early. Talk candidly with the camp director to obtain his/her perspective on your child’s adjustment.
- Don’t feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. The first experience of independence can play an important role in children’s development.
- Trust your instincts. While homesickness usually passes in a day or two, a small number of cases can be severe and the camp may recommend that your child return home. If your child’s stay at camp is cut short, don’t make your child feel like a failure. Focus on the positive and encourage your child to try camp again next year.
For more information, visit: Homesickness: Expert Advice for Parents. *Source: American Camp Association® (ACA) report on a study by Phillips Exeter Academy psychologist Dr. Christopher Thurber of homesickness among 329 boys between the ages of 8 and 16 at resident camp.
Preparing and Packing for the Perfect Camp Experience
Maine’s a perfect place to spend summer: warm in the daytime and cool at night. So your child will want to bring shorts and bathing suits as well as something warmer to wear around the campfire at night. The Maine camp you choose will provide its own specific guidelines well before your child’s departure, but in the meantime, here are some general guidelines from The American Camp Association® (ACA) to help families prepare and pack for a fun-filled camp experience.
- Plan ahead. Remember your happy camper may have limited storage space. Packing light helps campers keep track of belongings.
- Review camp packing lists. Individual camps should provide a recommended camp packing list—including a list of items that are not permitted, such as electronics. If you have questions, be sure to speak with the camp director.
- Label everything. Laundry pens, iron-ons, and press and stick labels will distinguish your camper’s belongings from others’. Label each item, including clothing, personal items, and toiletries. Make sure that your child can identify the label used.
- Break in shoes and boots before camp begins. Make sure that your child’s footwear is comfortable and appropriate and meets camp recommendations. Sending a camper in brand-new hiking boots can result in sore feet and time spent sitting out of exciting activities.
- Prepare together. The more ownership your camper has in all decisions about camp, the easier the adjustment and transition to camp will be.
Contact your camp director with any questions. They welcome the opportunity to assist you and your camper as you prepare for this exciting and life-changing experience. For more information on preparing and packing for camp, families can also visit ACA’s Camp Resource for Families. Use our easy-to-use camp matching tool to find a Maine camp for your child!