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The Dos and Don'ts of preparing for camp

Quick tips on getting ready for the big send-off

Preparing for camp can be an exciting time. It is important to understand what is needed for preparation – from packing to communicating, and all the in-between. This DOs & DON’Ts checklist should serve as a guide to help while you prepare.

Dos

  • Communicate: Let the camp director know if your child is reluctant, apprehensive or worried about heading off to camp. Counselors can help ease the camper into the first few days.
  • Paperwork: Ensure all registration and information forms are fully completed. This provides valuable and critical information on all campers. The counselors study this information prior to camp and are ready when the campers arrive.
  • Orientation: Attend a camp orientation or open house; this is a chance for you and your child to meet the staff and learn about their programs. Ask questions and make notes on important issues for you. (I.e. Is the camp equipped to deal with campers who have allergies?)
  • Connect: Check the camp's website, social media links, DVD and information packages. Connect with the camp you’ve chosen through their social media profiles and keep important email addresses with you.
  • Get Involved: Talk to other parents and involve your child in the process from the start. The more they learn about camp, the less anxious they will be.
  • Update Information: Let the camp know if a regular medication has been discontinued recently. And if your child is getting over any sort of communicable illness, the camp needs to know.
  • Label Items: Iron-on labels are great for fabrics while permanent markers or even colourful nail polish works for everything else. Send along extra labels, just in case.
  • Training Camp: Sleepovers can be great practice for avoiding separation anxiety, especially for first-timers. Additionally, some camps now offer family camp, where parents can accompany their young campers for trial periods.
  • Choose Wisely: It’s camp and kids will get dirty. Pack older clothes or items your child has almost outgrown.
  • Pack Medication: Send along prescription medicines, in their original containers, making sure instructions are on the label. If your child needs an EpiPen, asthma puffer or other special medications close at hand, they can be kept in a fanny pack for easy access. Remember to discuss these issues with the camp director and counselors.
  • Get Your Child Involved: Independence is a great byproduct of going to camp, so have your child pack her own bag. Help her plan what she will need: use a detailed checklist and oversee the operation, but let her pack. With youngsters, pack the bag together.
  • Keep In Touch: Mail a letter to your camper a week before camp starts, so it arrives before they get there. Pack self-addressed, stamped envelopes so that they can write you back.

Don'ts

  • Force It: Don’t force your youngster to attend camp. Be sure they are ready, willing and able.
  • Make Promises: If your camper is reluctant, suggest that they “give it their best,” and tell them that you will re-evaluate for next year. Never suggest that you will come pick them up if they don’t like it. Instill the expectation that they will stay for the entire session. Even the most apprehensive camper will often surprise Mom and Dad with: “I want to go for a whole month next year!”
  • Pressure: Don’t set your child up for disappointment by overselling how wonderful the camp experience was for you. Stay positive but let them enjoy camp in their own way.
  • Worry: Stay positive about your child’s camp time. Don’t dwell on telling them how much you will miss them (though you will), and don’t overplay all the “fun” things you have planned while they are away. Encourage them to enjoy camp their way.
  • Send Valuables: Money, cell phones and jewelry are not needed at camp. Crafty campers will create their own new bracelets and other adornments.
  • Criticize: Don’t criticize or belittle your child if their camp experience isn’t totally positive. Be encouraging.
  • Overpack: Never overpack. Follow the camp’s guidelines. Each camp offers suggestions on what to pack and how to pack. They’ve done this before—heed their suggestions.
  • Burn: Don't forget the sunscreen.
  • Be a Heli-Parent: Camp directors and counselors are focused on the campers. Don’t send them daily emails, letters or phone calls to check up. If there are issues, they will contact you. If you need to touch base, once a session is sufficient.
  • Procrastinate: Don’t leave things until the last minute. Pack ahead of time.
  • Push: You’re a keen kayaker who also loves long hikes and wilderness excursions. Your son prefers the arts and drama programs. Don’t push your kids to follow your trail. Let them blaze their own.

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