8 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Sleepaway Camp


8 Things Your Child Needs to Know Before Sleepaway Camp


Are you sending your child off to camp this summer? The feelings of excitement can be overshadowed by feelings of anxiety at the thought of all the things they may be unprepared for. To make sure your child – and you – are ready for their first camp experience, make sure you go over a few things before they head off.

1. The Details of the Camp

While the word “camp” conjures up vivid images in your head as an adult, it’s a much more vague concept for new campers. They don’t really know what to expect, and that can cause some apprehension on the part of your child. Go over the details that you know about the camp: what activities they’ll participate in, what their sleeping quarters will be like, and how long they’ll be there. Show them pictures if possible. The more information you can give your child, the more you can reduce any anxiety they may feel about leaving home.

2. Personal Responsibility and Organization

When they’re at camp, your child will be responsible for themselves and likely sharing space with other campers. Label all their belongings with their name, and teach them basic skills like picking up their dirty clothes after getting dressed and replacing their toothbrush into their toiletry bag after its use. Consider also sending simple organizational systems like a dirty-laundry bag to help your child keep track of all their belongings and keep things tidy.

3. Sun and Water Safety

The threats of heat exhaustion, dehydration, and drowning are very real – but you’ll have no need to worry about them if you teach your child how to avoid the afflictions in advance. Teach them about proper hydration, sunscreen application, and – if they don’t know how to swim – appropriate conduct when they’re around water.


4. Easy Hair Care

If you’ve got a girl, they’re going to need to know how to manage their hair on their own when they’re at camp. If they don’t already take responsibility for their own mane, help them learn how to do basic brushing and a low, easy ponytail.

5. How to Handle the Dark

Many children rely on a night light or some sort of illumination, and those who do sleep in pure darkness do so in the comfort and familiarity of their own home. Prepare your child for the possibility that they may be a little anxious after the lights go out by giving them a small illumination device they can use inside their sleeping bag should they need it – a penlight, small flashlight, or even a watch with an illuminated display.

6. Review the Supplies

Don’t simply pack up your child’s camp supplies and hand them a suitcase on their way out the door. Involve them in the process so they know exactly what they have and where they can find it in their bag. Knowing the things they are bringing with them will increase their confidence and self-efficacy and reduce their anxiety of the unknown.

7. How to Make Friends

No matter how fun camp can be, it’s always better with a friend. Help your child practice basic social skills and develop confidence in approaching new people by role-playing with them.

8. How Proud You Are of Them

Build your child up and reinforce your confidence in their ability to succeed on their own for a week. It’s true that the words you say become your child’s inner voice – and those words of confidence will get them through any difficult moments during the adjustment period at camp. However, avoid talking about how much you’ll miss them while they’re away; your child’s job is to go away and have fun, not to wrestle with guilt or worry about how you’re faring without them.

Summing It Up

Going to sleepaway camp is a rite of passage for most kids – and a big milestone for parents, too. With all the responsibility that comes with leaving home for a few days, it can be anxiety-inducing for everyone involved. Prepare your child by sharing as much information about the camp in advance, teaching them some basic self-management skills, and setting them up with some simple organizational systems.


Jenny is a mother of two, a summer mama, and a lover of the great outdoors. When she isn’t trying to get her kids off their screens and playing outside, you can find her blogging about her parenthood experiences at Mom Loves Best, or Pinning up a storm on Pinterest.

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