Camp Roundup: The Best Advice Over the Years
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• Don't worry about planning special activities with your stay-at-home child. "All children are more caught up in the moment than adults, but younger kids especially so," Ditter says. "Once their brother or sister is at camp, they can easily get back to their regular routine at home."
• Remind your younger child that camp is still in their future when they are a little older.
- Peg. L. Smith, chief executive officer of the American Camp Association (ACA)
Give picky eaters a real choice.
Talk with your child realistically about the food that will be available at camp, advises Becky Sarah, M.P.H. - and give him a voice in whether to go. On the positive side, it can be a chance for a picky eater to get better at coping with an unpleasant situation. "It might be worth eating the same few foods all the time, or trying to be less picky, in order to have access to all the fun parts of camp," she says. On the other hand, if the choice to go to camp was forced upon your child, and she genuinely disikes all the food, she might be all the more miserable.
"I don't believe children choose to be picky eaters," Sarah says. "It's just how the food tastes to them. Imagine an adult who really dislikes spicy food being served a constant diet of very hot dishes and being called picky when not eager to finish them all off!" At camp, positive peer pressure may induce a child to try other foods. (So, you never know - your child might come home from camp craving asparagus!) -Alison Hogan
Yes, they may indulge in sweets.
At sleepaway camp, kids often have access to unlimited food at mealtime - and treats from their fellow campers.
"It's the kid's job to test," says Dr. Laura Jana, author of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup. If your child comes home from a sleepover or camp and tells you that he ate five cupcakes for breakfast, "It doesn't mean you've failed as a parent," she says. Or if your daughter comes home having gained weight, you can take the opportunity to point out that now she understands what she needs to do to be healthier.
Becky Sarah, M.P.H., agrees. "The ideal thing, of course, is to choose a camp that serves healthy food. But this is also the time to trust the parenting you've already done. If the child is used to a healthy diet, she will probably be more likely to make healthy choices at camp. But she may also take this opportunity to try out all the things not available at home. Talk to your child about the fact that eating only refined carbohydrates and sugar, especially for breakfast, can make a person feel low-energy and grouchy. Your child may still try that out, but she might also realize it is not making her feel good." - Alison Hogan
Our Camp Guide, for more camp advice, plus a roundup of camps in your area