What to expect from summer camp

Sending your kids to summer camp is a great idea! Here's a little information on what to consider and expect when sending your child.

Is your child ready for camp?

If you have young children, you should consider whether they're ready to go to camp, particularly if it's a sleepaway camp. Some camps offer programs for children as young as five! Some kids have no problem being away from home because they're distracted by all the fun they're having. But others might not do as well, simply because they weren't ready!

Some things to consider: has your child ever been to day camp, which will help them become familiar with camp structure? Has he ever spent the night away from home before? Can she organize her own clothes and make her own bed? Has he ever asked to go to a sleepaway camp? How does your child react when you suggest camp?

What are your child's interests?

Would your child like to go to a wilderness camp full of day hikes and out-trips on horseback? Or would she prefer a sport-specific camp? Or maybe your child would do best in a camp with lots of different activities, so that he can learn new skills and develop new interests. Either way, it's important to take a look at what each potential camp offers in terms of activity programming.

Does your child have special needs?

If your child has special needs, whether they are physical, mental, or social, most camps can accommodate. Some camps are set up specifically for special needs children, while other camps are willing to work with special needs kids on a case-by-case basis. If your child has special needs, it's important to remember that they CAN go to camp, and they can have just as much fun as any other child!

Will your child be safe?

We can assure you that your child's safety while at camp is always a top priority at our member camps. Staff are to be properly trained to lead and instruct activities, proper safety equipment is always to be used, and the facilities are to be maintained to avoid accidents. Camps are always inspected by safety and health inspectors to make sure everything is as it should be. If you are curious about safety standards at camp, just ask the potential camp if they are accredited with any governing organization, like the Canadian Camping Association and its regional affiliates, which perform regular accreditation inspections at camps across the country.

That being said, there is always an inherent risk when your child participates in any activity. From horseback riding to just good old-fashioned tag, there's always a chance your child may be injured; however, camp staff always do their best to make sure the kids are having fun in a safe environment, and try their best to minimize risk. Furthermore, all camps are required to have a nurse or designated first aid person on property at all times.

How will you keep in touch with your child while he/she is away at camp?

Parents who are accustomed to interacting with their children constantly throughout the day via text messaging or email messaging might have to adjust their expectations. Each camp has a different policy with regards to parent visits and phone calls; however, we think it's best that you keep your contact with your child for the week he or she is away to a minimum. This way, your kids will be able to focus more on having fun, developing friendships, and learning new things. Worried parents who constantly phone camp to speak to their child might create a homesickness in the child that might not have been there otherwise. If you do want the chance to phone or visit, check with the camp for how they go about arranging it.

Should your child go alone, or should you send him with a friend?

There is nothing wrong with your child and his best friend attending the same camp. If your child is nervous about going alone, it might be nice for him to have a friend. However, it is true that kids who go to camp alone tend to make more new friends and are able to branch out more. You shouldn't worry about your child being lonely -- camp staff are trained to make sure everyone is included in every activity and in all conversations at mealtimes and downtimes.

How should you prepare your child for camp?

If your child is going to camp for the first time and you think he or she might be nervous about it, there are a few ways you can mentally prepare them to have a good time. First, always talk about camp in a positive, but casual way. Don't make too big a deal about it, but bring up the things about camp that you know your child will love to help them get excited to go. Also, make sure you don't make promises you know you won't want to keep: for example, don't promise you'll pick up your child and take them home if they don't like it. Assume they'll stay the whole week. If it turns out your child is having a really rough time and is completely miserable, by all means -- come get him! But don't set up that scenario before you even drop him off. If you think your child might have specific issues being at camp, be sure to mention them to his or her counsellor, so that they can be sensitive to those issues.

Before sending your child to camp, you should also make some organizational preparations. Make sure you label your child's belongings. There will probably be fifty of the same disposable camera! Make sure your child's name is on hers! Don't send anything too valuable with your child to camp. No expensive electronics (which most camps won't allow anyway) or jewelry. You wouldn't want to risk these items getting lost.

Before you drop your child off, make sure you've attended to their medical matters. If they're on prescriptions, you'll need to bring an adequate supply in the original container. Don't forget their Epi-Pens or asthma inhalers. All of your child's medications will be stored and dispensed by the camp's nurse or first-aid personnel. If your child has gone off their medication for the summer (Ritalin, for example), it's good to mention it to the camp nurse when you register your child.

What's the biggest thing you can expect when sending your child to camp?

This answer is easy: that they'll have a great time! Camp is such a positive place where kids can get out of their shells, make friends, learn new skills, and become happier, more responsible versions of their already great selves! We can't stress enough how wonderful summer camp can be for a child. We hope you and your child are ready to experience it!