With the end of the school year in sight, are your kids yearning for the adventure of summer camp: playing sports, building campfires, making friends, and close encounters with wildlife creatures?
With the end of the school year in sight, are your kids yearning for the adventure of summer camp: playing sports, building campfires, making friends, and close encounters with wildlife creatures? Sure, there are tents to pack and granola bars to buy, stamps, postcards and throw-away cameras, but what do moms need to do to get their kids—and themselves—ready for this summertime rite of passage? Here are 8 tips from Circle of Moms members.
1. Find the Right Camp
These days there are many options, from adventure camps to heritage camps for adopted children, to sports camps for your junior jock. Circle of Moms members point out that it's crucial to do your homework and pick a camp that will meet your child's needs. Kristin J., whose daughter Abby is 11 and attended a specialized camp for children with diabetes last summer, says she was looking for a camp that would understand her daughter's needs as a diabetic. "I highly recommend specialized camps because I think children with special needs or interests need to be able to be around other children that have the same challenges they do," she says. "I think they also learn a lot from each other"
Many Circle of Moms ask ‘where do you look to find the right camp for your child?" Several suggest camp search organizations, such as Tips on Trips and Camps. "It's a great way to figure out what's best for your child," says Meg S., whose 12 year-old will return to camp for the third time this summer and whose 10 year-old will be joining his older brother too. Zandria L. recommends checking in with your child's school counselor, sports coaches and even your child's pediatrician, if he has specialized health needs.
Another option say some Circle of Moms members, including Meg S., is a day camp, especially if your child is new to the idea of camp. "Try a day camp first or some that offer half week sessions," says Meg S.
2. Paying for Camp
The cost of camp, especially during these tough times, is a barrier for many families. But several moms, including Jessica G., whose 10-year-old son went to a day camp last summer, suggest looking into free or low-cost camps run by local churches and schools.
3. Pack Carefully, and Together
Many Circle of Moms members advise using a detailed checklist to make sure your child packs everything she needs, and to ensure a much more relaxed experience at camp. Erin B., who has posted guidelines for getting ready for camp on her blog, advises involving your child in the packing process. "She'll get to spend less time looking for lost items, and more time playing," she explains, adding that kids also learn lifelong organizing skills from this process.
4. Label Everything
Another important step in organizing your child's camp gear is to label everything with your child's name. Separate categories of items into plastic bags that will then go into the suitcase or camp gear bag. Use an indelible marker to label the bags with category names, such as underwear, swimsuits etc., and your child's name. Erin B. adds that the bags can be re-used to transport dirty laundry home.
5. Check in with Camp Counselors
It's very important to discuss any special needs your child might have with the camp counselors and organizers before you drop your child off at the camp, Circle of Moms member's advise. Make sure the camp is aware of any allergies, health or emotional issues before your child arrives, says Kristin J.
6. Seal it with a Kiss
Several Circle of Mom members recommend slipping in cheerful letters or other reminders from those at home to ease any homesickness. It will make you feel connected too, they add. Also include some "fun" items in your child's camp bag such as playing cards, a book, a notebook, markers, and pencils that will keep your camper busy during quiet time, adds Erin B.
7. Goodbyes are Tough
Moms who've sent kids off to camp before say to be prepared for a few tears (their child's and sometimes their own) when you drop your child off for camp the first time. "Camp was the best thing for my daughter," says Michelle W. "She hated it the first day and cried for me not to leave her there. But by the second day she didn't miss me at all."
8. Just Relax
Finally, Circle of Moms recommend that moms relax and realize that camp can be a learning experiences and a rite of passage for many kids. As Ramona C. puts it, "Going to camp fosters independence. Today's kids are so hovered over; it is healthy to have that break." And, she reminds, camp is good training for college. "In five years, you will drop her off on campus and hope she fares well. This is a wonderful building block to help that moment go smoothly."
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