Sleepaway camp is an exciting experience for kids to take part in. But how do you prepare your kid – and yourself – for this big event? Here are our top tips for preparing your camper for sleepaway camp.

First-Timer? Try Sleepovers First

If your kid is a first-timer to sleepaway camp, this may be their first time being away from you, especially for a longer period of time. While camp is a great place for young people to get used to being away from home and family, sometimes it’s not the best place to begin the experiment. Some kids have no problem adjusting, while others need to take things slow.

If your kid needs to dip their toes in the water first, set up a few sleepovers at their friend’s house. Then try sending them away for a weekend at a close relative’s house. These are all good practices for dealing with being away from home and familiar items like their bed.

Prepare for Camp Together

Set the foundation for a positive camp experience by preparing for it together with your child. After all, you want your kid to take ownership of this exciting experience! Shop for items together and pack jointly using luggage they are able to carry.

When you pack together, you’re also setting the stage for the camp experience where your kid will be responsible for all their belongings. They should know what they are bringing with them and how to pack everything so they can pack it all back when camp time is over.

Double-Check Packing List

Speaking of packing and shopping, make sure you double-check the packing list. Most camps will provide one for you. Review it early so you have enough time to get the necessary items, and review it again after packing. Also, you know your child best, so if you see something irrelevant on the packing list, don’t feel the need to bring it. For example, if you know your child hates wearing sandals, don’t send them to camp with sandals, even if they’re on the packing list.

Bonus tip: if you want your kid’s items to make it back home, label everything. And we mean everything. If you don’t, you not only could lose items, but your child could come home with all kinds of wild clothes you’ve never seen before! So label clothes, hats, shoes, swimsuits, towels, toiletries, and stuffies with your child’s last name.

Set Expectations Ahead of Time

Of course, another part of preparing together is setting expectations leading up to the first day of camp. Discuss with your child what they can expect to do, the rules, and the expectations they’ll have during their sleepaway camp experience. To help them get a visual of camp life, check out photos on the camp’s website.

If you want to share camp stories from when you were a kid, try and avoid the scary-funny stuff. The story about a bat flying into your cabin might be hilarious to you now, but it could backfire and scare your kid instead of getting them to giggle. Instead, focus on neutral or positive memories.

Preparing for Worries

Sleepaway camp can seem a bit intimidating, so anxiety about the summer experience can pop up. It’s common but can be difficult to deal with. Here are some strategies to help ease worries and build confidence in your child.

  • If your child is expressing worries, discuss with them what they are. Let them lead the talk about worries so you prepare them for addressing their worries and not yours. Based on what they bring up, target their worries with information and planning. For example, if they are worried about the food, look at the website with them for information about meals. For many common fears, information reviewing and planning can help a child know better what to expect and help them feel less anxious.
  • But what if your child is feeling nervous about taking on a new experience, and no amount of information is helping? This is a good life lesson: how to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Let your child know their feelings are heard and that new experiences can make us nervous, and that’s okay! We can be nervous about sleepaway camp and still show up to the first day.
  • Hype it up! When your child is getting stuck thinking about their worries, it’s important to get them out of that mindset. To do that, talk about all the cool and exciting parts of the experience they’re going to take part in. If you have family friends whose children have been to sleepaway camp, have your child hear from them firsthand how fun the experience was.
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Sleepaway camp is an exciting adventure for families, and we hope these tips help you prepare! Your child is sure to have a blast and make some incredible memories.

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