Summer camp! Long, sunny days spent making new friends, taking part in exciting new activities, sleeping away from home...
For kids that have been to camp before, the run-up to summer camp is full of anticipation and excitement. For out-going first-timers too, this is a thrilling time. But, for anxious kids, nervously wondering what to expect, these next few weeks can be full of apprehension.
Parents of nervous first-time campers can be equally jittery about packing their little darlings off for a few weeks in the summer. But, if you are a bag of nerves, how are you going to help your kid be in the right frame of mind to make the most of the life-affirming adventure that is camp?
As the mother of two polar opposite kids, I feel your pain. My eldest is a dare-devil, he is an afraid-of-nothing, makes-friends-everywhere-he-goes kind of kid. I have never had to worry about him being homesick or fitting in and of course, he took to summer camp like a duck to water.
My youngest though, she is as nervous as a cat in a doghouse. She's smart and very funny, but her social awkwardness has always meant she had to try so much harder than her brother to make and keep friends. But she grew up listening to him rave about the great time he has at camp, so perhaps I should not have been so surprised when she agreed to give summer camp a try.
I don't think either of us got much sleep in the weeks before her first summer camp. She lay awake fretting about being away from home and I lay awake worrying about her being friendless and lonely, miles from home. Not that she ever knew that. To my shy daughter, I did nothing but sing the praises of summer camp and the adventure ahead. And made some plans to make sure she was as comfortable as possible when she got there.
Things you can do to make your child's first summer camp experience a success:
Your child is going to be away from home, maybe for the first time ever. One thing that you can do to make it easier for them, is to provide the items they need to have control over their environment like suncream, sunhat, mosquito repellent, sunglasses, umbrella, rain slicker.
Many camps have a straightforward 'no cell phone' policy with warnings that any digital device will be confiscated. The reasons are obvious. Summer camp is an opportunity to step outside the comfort zone of home, school, and friends. Kids have the opportunity to step a toe into the unknown and meet new people and experience new challenges. They are not going to do this with their nose stuck to a mobile phone or iPad.
And that is not all. Should your child take an expensive phone to camp and another kid accidentally steps on it, who is responsible for the damage? Most camp organizers do not want this hassle.
Clearly, if your child is going to a more permissive camp, you would protect the device with security apps, distinctive covers, and a prominent name label but it is more likely that your child's summer camp discourages mobile use. If that is the case, what is your child going to be doing in the downtime? This is especially important if your child is on the shy side. Not every kid leaps joyfully into every new friend-making opportunity offered by the camp. The quieter ones may take a little time to warm up and this is when a book or comic book will be very welcome. Depending on camp rules, a favorite board game like Chess or Uno or a pack of cards might be allowed - and these are great for breaking the ice and making friends.
Make Sweet Music
While many musical kids will aim for performing arts camps, some camps that are not focused on the arts will still allow musical instruments. Encouraging your shy first-time camper to take his or her instrument (if allowed, check first) gives them the comfort of a familiar object from home, and the confidence of having a talent to share. Again, a great ice-breaker.
This applies not only to shy kids but to all summer campers. Imagine how many blue t-shirts there are, or white training shoes, similar bottles of sunscreen, and so on. Having everything clearly labeled from the get-go eliminates any minor squabbling over items and vastly increases the chances of your kid returning from camp with all the same items he or she left with.
Happily, at Starlight Labels we have a Camp Labels Savings Pack that contains exactly what you need to label everything from underpants to umbrellas and in even better news we are offering a whopping 30% discount until April 15!