What to do throughout the year to prepare for summer camp
Planning for Camp in February
Continue reviewing informational materials you picked up at fairs, or requested by mail. If you know other families with values similar to yours, ask the parents what camps they sent their kids to, and why. You may find some new leads that way; “parents tend to be very honest with each other about their kids’ camping experiences,” Flax notes.
Planning for Camp in March
Thinking of an overnight camp for your child? See if the camp director or another key staffer will pay a visit to your home for a 1-on-1 meeting. This is a service many overnight camps provide, “and it’s a great thing, especially if you haven’t gone to visit the camp in the summer.” The staffer will spend about an hour with you, telling you more about the camp and finding out more about your child and family. “If you do pick them, it will give them great insight into what would be a good bunk placement for your child,” Flax shares. Make sure you’ve scheduled your child’s annual physical exam if you haven’t already. You’ll want to make sure your child is healthy and lice-free, and camps require the exam records.
Planning for Camp in April
Camps start having spring festivals right about now—visit any you missed in the fall, or have a second look around if you need to. And if you’ll be sending your kid to an overnight camp, “make sure she’s okay sleeping at someone else’s house, whether it’s a grandparent’s or friend’s,” Flax advises. The more practice she gets, the more easily she’ll adjust to sleeping at camp.
Planning for Camp in May
By now you’ve likely chosen a camp. There may be a welcome barbecue or other event for newbies, which you and/or your child should make a point of attending if possible. Encourage your child to share any fears or hesitations he has about camp, so you can get them cleared up with the staff. Anxious kids can often be teamed up with “big brother” or “big sister,” an older camper who can call them in advance and give them their perspective on camp—ask if it’s possible. If your child will be going to sleepaway camp, “make sure he can take care of his basic needs,” Flax recommends. “He’ll have to figure out how to take a shower and wash his hair on his own and brush his teeth consistently. And does he know how to make his bed?” Order camp merchandise if needed. Pack overnight camp trunks; include your child in the process to build excitement (and to help him recognize his belongings once he’s at camp!)
Planning for Camp in June
Finish packing day-camp backpacks. Take care of last-minute things that may be hard to do once your child is busy, such as getting her a haircut. If the camp gave your child a T-shirt, let her start wearing it to school and out, to help her get used to the idea of being a camper, and get her excited about it. Put camp magnets on the refrigerator and decals on your car to show your child that there’s a buy-in for the whole family.