Sleep away camp – Are you and your kids ready?

Teenager and children in front of water sports equipment shackAn image of summer camp like this one  gets me all the time. The kids are smiling and hugging, and you just sense they are loving every second of their time away from home. Perhaps these types of images and memories are also exactly what you have from your own childhood and now you want your kids to follow & share in your intense love for sleep away camp.

However for me, my mind runs wild with worry at the thought of sending my kids to sleep away camp. Will they be home sick? Will they make friends? Will they be picked on or bullied? Will they eat anything? Will I scar them for life? Yes… scar!!! It has crossed my mind should they have a negative experience… Ohhh the never ending worries of parenting!

So as we were making our decision as a family whether to send our kids to sleep away camp for the first time, I set out on a mission to find out more. I started asking colleagues & friends about their sleep away camp experiences, and searched for more information. I listened and read about the good, the bad and the ugly. I was somewhat relieved to hear the vast range of responses to sleep away camp. I am not alone in my trepidation!

Here’s what I learned:

  • Readiness is more important than age. Is your child asking to go to sleep away camp? Have they previously done a day camp? Has your child slept away from home before?
  • Choose a camp that suits your child’s interest: some camps offer a variety of activities, while others specialize. Also, does your child have special needs that should be considered?
  • Be sure to include your kids in the camp selection process and ask these TOP 10 questions of the camp director.

After considering all of the information and talking with my kids, we’ve decided as a family this summer we are taking the plunge. Oh boy…

My kids won’t be going until the end of August, so I guess now it’s time to help them get excited about it. Here’s what others told me I should be doing:Girls in a double kayak

  • Talk about the fun activities they will be doing.
  • If you are able, visit the camp before hand. Check out their website for videos and pictures and/or talk with someone who has attended the camp.
  • Reassure them that it is normal to feel a bit home sick and they can talk to the staff and other campers about it. Also, pack a comfort item, like a pillow or special blanket to make their beds feel more like home.
  • Pack a new journal or fun stationary, older kids like to journal or write home the old fashion way about their experiences.
  • Have fun shopping together for items they will need.
  • Double check the camps list of what to bring & don’t forget to label everything.
  • Add a little surprise item or letter for you child to discover when they arrive to camp!

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, it would be helpful to hear your experiences and tips about sleep away camp. Please share!

Update: POST SLEEP AWAY CAMP

As I reflect on the above post, I reread the things to consider and do “Check. Check. Check. Done… Yup”. We were prepared. Yet still, I would say that my daughter did not have the time of her life. She was sad, she missed us, and she cried at night. She did not really enjoy the activities and honestly it was a little different than what I was expecting as well. There were still positives and the fact that she was able to stay at the camp was a success in itself. She knows she can be strong. However, I don’t think she’ll be asking to go back to camp any time soon…and that’s O.K.

My son on the other hand, had a good experience. No complaints. We’ll see what next summer brings.  Do you have any other experiences you’ve had with summer camp you’d like to share?

If you want to connect with us more directly for additional parenting information, you can:

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Tweet us: @haltonparents
  • Email us: haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Dial 311 (within Halton) or 905-825-6000 to talk with one of the public health nurses. We’re around Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Read Cynthia’s Bio

About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for almost 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 10 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my teen son & pre-teen daughter with my hubby in Halton.
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