Camps can be a time of fun and friendship-building. Getting away from the classroom for a few days and trying your hand at new activities can be so enjoyable. But not for everyone. For many children, the fun of camp is overshadowed by concerns. Whilst some student may bound off to camp with barely a backward glance, many children will need some extra help to see past their worries, to the fun that lies beyond.
Common concerns about camp
- Sleeping away from home in an unfamiliar place
- Responsibility for self-care, in absence of parents
- Who they will share a room with at camp
- If they will like the food at camp
- Feeling homesick or lonely
These are all very natural concerns for a child, no matter if it is their first or tenth time at camp. The good news is that there are many things that we can do as parents, in the lead up to camp time, that can help our child enjoy the camp experience.
Firstly, it’s good to know why camps are such a great experience for your child. Beside all the fun things that will happen at camp, there are also many opportunities for growth and development of skills, such as:
- Social and team work skills, as children connect across the entire year level
- Skills of independence, as children take more responsibility for their own self-care
- Practical life skills, as they engage in a range of activities.
- Building resilience and self-confidence, as they overcome challenges
So, what practical steps can you take to prepare your child for camp, so they too can benefit from all that camp has to offer?
Your child is much more likely to feel positively about sleeping away from home if they have had success doing so in the past. Arrange sleepovers at a friend or relatives home in the lead up to camp time and continue doing so until your child is confident in their ability to sleep well when away from home and Mum and Dad.
Find out as much as you can about the camp. Ask your teacher for the camp schedule, look at camp brochures or websites. Ask an older child over to your house to talk about the fun of camp. If possible, arrange a visit to the camp site before camp time. Familiarity builds confidence.
Find a friend
Buddy your child up with a close friend, or ask your child’s teacher for help with this. Although a confident friend may suit your child, sometimes it is a child who has similar concerns who may be best matched to your child. Friends are big fear beaters!
Make packing fun
Let your child be responsible for planning, gathering and checking off items that are needed for camp. If there are things that need to be purchased, turn it into a fun shopping trip. Having your child pack their own bag also ensures they know what is in it and where to find things.
Pack something special
It may be of comfort to your child to take along a special little something. A soft toy, a photo of family or a little note written by you. Whatever may help ease the separation is perfectly fine. If needed, mention this to your child’s teacher so that they are aware of what is being taken along.
Practice independence skills at home
Build your child’s confidence in their ability to care for themselves by practicing self-care skills. Can they dress and undress themselves in the clothes they will be taking to camp? Can they shower (most camps do not have baths) themselves safely, turning the hot water on last and off first? Can they brush and wash their own hair – particularly relevant for girls with long hair!
Talk to the teacher
If there is anything of particular concern for your child or you, talk to their teacher. It may even pay to write a little note about special concerns or things your child would like their teacher to remember while they are at camp. Remember, teachers are very likely to have taken many children to camp in the past and are best placed to help alleviate concerns.
Talk about camp in a positive way. Tell your child that you think they are ready for camp – point out practical things they can do for themselves. Keep talking about the fun experiences of camp and let them know how much you are looking forward to hearing about camp when they return.
Your child will go on many school camps through their years of school. Hopefully these tips will help make camp a happy, enjoyable time for your child. Do you have any other going-to-camp, tips to share?