Whether it’s their first time or their third, preparing for sleepaway camp is an exciting and sometimes stressful adventure for kids and parents alike. We asked a mom and a dad who are sending their kids to sleepaway camp this summer for the first (or the fifth!) time for tips on how they prepare and what to expect.
Amy (mom of 10-year-old and a 14-year-old campers)
It’s my daughter’s first summer sleeping away and my son’s fourth. We just dropped them off for the three-week camp. My son, who already has his group of friends from previous summers, was really excited and maybe a little nervous, since his cabin has a bunch of new kids this year. We weren’t too worried about him. His first time, however, he had pretty bad homesickness. To help ease that, we had all of our relatives send letters to him talking about their summer camp experiences. We also mailed a care package in advance of our dropping him off, so the first day there was a mail call, he had a package waiting for him and a letter from his grandparents. We also made sure he had his favorite stuffed animal, family pictures to hang on the wall, and a pillow from his bed at home.
With our daughter this year, she’s very excited to be as “big” as her older brother now, and she’s a pretty fearless kid. She takes to transitions pretty well and is very independent, but we’re worried because she has been recently diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. Of course, we notified the camp and had our pediatrician make contact with the camp’s doctor, whom we also spoke to. The bunk counselors are aware of it and the camp has notified all of the staff as well. We recently bought her a pink silicone medical ID bracelet, which she loves! It has her medical info on it and she can wear it in the pool, lake, shower, and camping. It’s lightweight and looks those regular rubber bracelets kids wear. We also got her a small pink fanny pack that has a medical card and an inhaler in it. The counselors will make sure she’s wearing it in the morning and she has to pass it off to whatever counselor is in charge of the particular activity she’s participating in. We’re hoping this is a good solution in case she needs immediate assistance and the nurse’s office is too far away. Though we’ve prepared for her asthma, I have a feeling I haven’t prepared myself enough for the next three weeks without my children! It’s a tough transition at first, but then it gets kind of nice to have a quiet home and the chance for several date nights. Take advantage of it!
Nick (dad of 7-year-old and 10 year old campers)
This is the first time I’m getting the boys ready for camp. It’s my 10 year old son’s second year going. He’s in a bunk with all of his friends from last year, which is great and he’s really psyched for it. He has more friends at summer camp than he does in school, so this is his moment to shine, socially. My seven year old is really nervous. He was really excited when we signed him up in the winter, but now I see he’s losing sight of the fun part and is focused on the leaving mom and dad part. It’s hard because my wife and I are recently divorced and both the boys are going through a lot moving back and forth between houses, etc. But once they’re settled in at camp, I think they’re both going to be happy and have a great time. My wife has talked to the staff about what the boys are going through personally, so the counselors will be more in tune to that.
Since this is the first time I’m getting them ready and dropping them off at camp alone, it’s been a little crazy. There’s so much stuff to buy every year – even though I thought we had it all already. And everything has to be labeled. The boys have helped me shop with multiple trips to Target. They’ve also taken Sharpies and labeled their own clothes and toothbrushes, and sleeping bags. We’ve pre-addressed and stamped envelopes and postcards. Every night these past few days during our nighttime books, I’ve asked my son questions about camp so his brother can hear about all the fun they’ll have. I’m a little nervous about how my younger one will react when I drop him off. I think we’ve prepared him as much as we can. It will be tough to go a full week without talking directly to them (camp rules) but I can call the staff to check in and we can email them. The boys have been with me full time for the past few months while my ex-wife is away for work, so I have a feeling the hardest transition in the whole camp process might end up being for me to come home to an empty apartment after dropping them off – no one’s prepared me for that!