Sending a child off to day camp can be a challenging event for many parents. You want your child to enjoy, learn, and take part in a tradition that has been a trademark of summer for generations, but you also want the experience to be safe, smooth and memorable. Get your child off to the best start by following these tips:
Get Ready: Before making plans for your child’s day camp experience, ask yourself an important question: Is my child ready? “When determining if your child is ready for camp, consider his or her maturity level,” says Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, an organization that works to promote high-quality camp programs. Then try to gauge your child’s interest in the idea of day camp—is this your idea, or his? “It’s important that you and your child be equally excited about the camp experience,” Smith says.
Get Set: Once you’ve determined that your child is enthused and ready, set out to find the perfect day camp. Look for a camp that is ACA-accredited, and then evaluate the program and what it can offer your child. Smith suggests getting a good feel for details such as staff training, extended care before and after camp, the price, and whether or not you’ll be able to visit your child during camp hours. After you’ve selected a camp, set out to prepare your child’s camp clothing and gear. “If your camper will be spending a lot of time outdoors, make sure you have taken precautions for the weather that day,” Smith says. “If the temperature in your area is colder in the morning and hotter in the afternoon, dress your child in layers so they can comfortably adjust their wardrobe throughout the day.” Smith also suggests that you check with the camp on their policies for electronics, musical instruments, sports equipment and special gear.
Go! “Day camp is a great place for children to make friends, find positive role models, learn a new skill, or even prepare for a future resident camp experience,” Smith says. By ensuring that your child is enthusiastic about day camp and well-prepared for the experience, you’ll prepare your child for summertime memories that he or she will cherish forever. “Share consistent and positive messages about camp with your child,” she says. “Your confidence in a positive experience will be contagious.”