Summer camp is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most kids. It’s chock-full of treasured and significant life lessons, as well as a lot of laughs. But not all children are counting down the days until they meet their cabin mates and counselors and pack their duffle bags, especially if it’s their first time away from home. 

These sort of summer programs can do amazing things for the children involved, helping them develop a variety of practical and cognitive skills, make new connections and learn how to be more independent. While they won’t be alone at camp, some children find it very difficult to be separated from their parents, which is why they may be reluctant to go to summer camp.

If you fear your little one may be a bit too afraid to enjoy their first summer camp, worry not, because we are here to help. First of all, understand that a bit of separation anxiety is normal when they are about to leave home for a few days. And second, there are many things you can do to make this transition easier for them. Below is a list of tips to follow, so give it a read and start getting your little camper ready for the experience of a lifetime. 

girl running while laughing

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1. Do lots of research about the camp

To make sure your kid has the best possible experience, you need to pick the right camp. What works for some kids won’t work for others, so it may be worth involving your child in the selection process as well. Figure out their interests and pick an option that feeds those passions. Otherwise, they may get bored soon or become uninterested, and this is when homesickness strikes the most. 

There are plenty of options you can choose from, no matter where you live, so all you need to do is start screening those options. Many Queens NY summer camps, for example, combine a bunch of activities together so that children can try out different stuff and figure out which domains attract them the most.  There are also themed camps that focus on certain disciplines, such as math, astronomy, nature, writing, arts, and more. 

Once you have narrowed down your search to about 3-4 options, it’s time to get the little one involved as well. Present all the options to them and ask for their opinion. This will show you value what they have to say and booths their feeling of independence.  

2. Keep conversations about summer camp positive

When you talk about camping, try to focus on the positive aspects as much as possible. Don’t be the one that expresses concern about separation and homesickness, as not to trigger your child’s aversion.

If they are the ones bringing out these concerns, don’t diminish them. Instead, have a talk with your kid and try to understand where these fears are coming from. Reassure them that nothing will happen and that there are plenty of people ready to take care of their needs. Encourage them to speak about their feelings both with you and with the camp counselors, if necessary. 

Kids pick up on tension very easily, so if they see you are worried, they will start becoming concerned as well.

3. Do the packing together 

It’s never too early to start packing things for camp. Only bring play clothes that can get torn and stained without regrets, as you don’t want your kid to worry about getting involved in certain activities that may leave a stain. Labeling your child’s possessions is a good method to make sure your camper remembers which items are theirs to take care of, especially if these items were recently acquired for the trip.

Instead of trying to pack everything yourself, enlist the help of your camper to get them used to take care of themselves. This way, when it comes time to get back home, your child will remember this little exercise and be able to pack their bags alone. On that topic, ensure sure their bag, along with their sleeping bag or any additional bedding they’ll need to bring, isn’t too heavy for them to handle on their own.

4. Recreate summer camp activities at home

To get them used to the activities available at camp, you can start exploring some fun camp-like activities at home. You can play lots of field games, such as tug-of-war, toss and catch, horseshoe throwing, and many more. 

In the evening, make a big fire camp and start sharing stories, eating smores, and singing camp songs. This way, your kids will be able to see that summer camp means a lot of fun things to do, and there is nothing they should be worried about. You can even throw in some treasure hunting and hiking if you want to prepare them for more intensive activities.  

5. Respect the boundaries imposed

It’s possible that the camp you choose has a no-mobile-phone policy. If this happens, be a team player and trust the camp administrators to do the right thing. They’ve undoubtedly been direct witnesses to how easy access to Mom and Dad makes little campers more prone to experience homesickness.

What you can do is learn about the camp’s mail and care package procedures and send a few cheerful postcards as soon as your child arrives. Include some affordable treats that can be shared with your child’s cabinmates if care packages are allowed. If your child requires your assistance for any reason, the camp will notify you. When it comes to kids and summer camps, keep in mind that no news is, almost always, good news.

6. Keep goodbyes short and sweet

Whether you drive your child to the campsite or just the bus pick-up location, make sure you arrive on time and don’t keep others waiting. The last thing you want is for your child to have to enter a bus full of anxious youngsters. 

Keep your goodbyes brief and to the point at the bus or cabin door, and avoid blocking any entrances or paths. Rather than trying to have a spoken chat with the camp director, deliver your documentation as requested and provide written notices of any last-minute issues. 

Do your bit, quickly say your goodbyes, and have faith that the counselors know what they are doing.