For many of us, some of the best childhood memories have to do with summer camps and those weeks of sun, fun, and friendship that everyone was so eager about. There’s no denying that summer camps can play a very important role in a child’s growth and development, and they can also create wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
That’s why, as a parent, sending your kid to a summer camp can be a great idea. This will help your child learn new skills, expand their horizons, make new friends, develop self-confidence, become more independent, and ultimately have tons of fun. Yet as with any new experience, going to summer camp and being away from home for a relatively long period of time can also make children feel anxious and scared.
Some children might be thrilled at the thought of spending a few weeks at a summer camp, while others might be less enthusiastic about it. It’s important to pay attention to your kid’s feelings and prepare him for the big day, especially if this is his first time going to summer camp. So, here’s what you can do to help your kid make the most of his summer camp experience.
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Make sure your kid is ready for summer camp
Since children grow and develop at different rates, and they have different needs and preferences, there’s not a certain age at which a kid is ready to go to summer camp. No one knows your kid better than you, so it’s up to you to decide if your child is ready to attend summer camp or not.
If your kid is extremely reluctant to the idea of going away to summer camp and you simply can’t convince him to embrace this new experience, it might be better to give them some more time or maybe take things slowly and start with a day camp. If you notice your kid is already interested in the activities that are performed at summer camps and he seems excited about it, you can start your search and choose a great summer camp that you think will be perfect for your little one.
Kids are curious by nature, but it’s also normal for them to feel afraid when trying new things. Just because your child wants to go to summer camp doesn’t mean he won’t experience fear or anxiety. Some children might even change their minds about going to summer camp when they’re faced with the reality of it.
That’s why it’s best to set expectations early on and make sure your kid knows exactly what’s going to happen when attending summer camp, so you can avoid a meltdown when the big day comes. If your kid knows exactly what to expect, it’s less likely for him to feel scared or anxious.
Visit the camp
Most camps allow parents and kids to visit the camp and have a look around before they join their programs. If you have the possibility to attend an open house or orientation activity, you should definitely take advantage of it.
Visiting the camp and getting familiarized with the place can dissipate the fear of the unknown that most kids experience. And if visiting the camp isn’t an option, you can always check the camp’s website and take a look at the photos and videos they have available. This is a great way to keep anxiety at bay and build enthusiasm.
Talk about your own summer camp experiences
Another way to get your kid excited about attending summer camp is by sharing your own summer camp experiences from when you were a kid. Needless to say, you should focus on the positive aspects and leave any unpleasant events out of the picture.
Talk to your kid and tell him about all the wonderful things you’ve experienced at the summer camp, from the games you played and the things you learned to the friends you made and all the fun you had during those times. This will get your child curious enough to try these things as well.
Acknowledge your kid’s feelings
When fear and anxiety rear their ugly heads and make your kid shy away from going to summer camp, denying his feelings or saying things like “you should be brave” or “there’s nothing to be afraid of” won’t help. In fact, denying your child’s feelings can only make matters worse as he’ll probably just keep his fears for himself and suffer in silence.
When your child shares his feelings and fears about going to summer camp with you, the best thing you could do is acknowledge them and try to comfort him. Reassure him that it’s completely normal to feel the way he feels, try to encourage him, and get him to focus on the positive aspects.
Get your kid involved in the preparations
Don’t approach summer camp preparations like another thing that you have to check off your to-do list. Try to make the whole process fun for your kid by getting him actively involved in the preparations from the very beginning.
Start by looking for summer camps together, go shopping for supplies that he might need at the camp, ask him to help you pack, and so on. For kids, these preparations won’t feel like a burden but rather as a way to start the fun a bit earlier.
Speaking of packing, make sure your kid will have all the necessary items with him to make his stay at the summer camp as comfortable and as pleasant as possible. From clothing and towels to toiletries, hats, or SPF cream, you should make a list of all the items that your kid might need.
Some summer camps will provide some sort of packing list to make your job a little bit easier. You might also want to include a small reminder of home to comfort your kid in case he gets homesick.
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