For most kids, it’s a time during the summer that they look forward to the most: the experience of going to their first overnight camp! For weeks at a time, they will have butterflies thinking of all the fun activities they will be engaged in while away from their parents. Mornings spent with peers talking about the events from the night before will show in their eyes as they exchange stories with more excitement than an action packed blockbuster movie. However, there are some kids that may not have the same experience.
Going to your first overnight camp can be overwhelming when you are not quite ready. Some children may experience unnecessary anxiety and stress because they are either unfamiliar with the set up of staying somewhere overnight that is not “home” or are unprepared socially for being in a camp setting.
I had the experience of watching one of my favorite 2nd graders attend a camp for a total of 30 hours before the Camp Director and the child decided that this experience was not one that was mutually beneficial. It was devastating to hear the anguish of the father as he had to drive his son back and endure the six hour trip listening to the reasons why his experience was a horrible one.
If you believe that your child may not be 100% ready to attend camp, here are some tips to help them get ready for that first “going away” experience:
Help coordinate a Large Group Play Date
Yes, your child has a wonderful best friend who you treat as that other member of your family. Let the summer be a time where your child can learn to socialize and play with a larger circle of friends. The exposure and experience will help them prepare to be around different personalities and be more comfortable as a result.
Schedule field trips to local places and stay there for the whole day
The Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium, the Coca Cola Museum, there are many “whole day” excursions from which your child can choose from. Going on a field trip is more than just learning about what the particular venue has to offer. It is an opportunity to plan the events for the day and to also pacify oneself when you have a sudden onset of boredom. Kids learn at any given moment when they have an experience that is memorable and meaningful and you can learn from them too!
Give your child unstructured free time
This is a tough one for some parents, but be creative when giving your children free time. For example, you can give them a few hours to themselves but place limitations on it. Telling your child “this afternoon is all yours - you can do whatever you want to do, but it has to be technology free” may lead your child to pick up an outdoor activity rather than staying indoors. Another example can be stated with a simple, “This morning we can do anything that requires us to use paint”. Give your child the ability to make executive decisions and plan out the process of time management. You will be surprised at what they’ll come up with.
If you live in a thriving subdivision or a great community of like-minded parents, gather up your children and help co-sponsor some overnight camps. The children will learn how to build better communication skills with those that they are familiar with and will have memories that will be cherished for years to come.
Want to be a little more daring? Parents who are hosting can have a special time where they are the “Featured Guest Speaker” and can share a scary/funny/inspirational story to all of the kids that are there. (Yes, my father sat in one night and told all of my friends stories of his childhood and how unbelievably mischievous he was. It ended up being a night of Community Comedy sponsored by “My dad”.)
Have your child take classes over the summer
Have your child take classes over the summer
It’s important that children learn how to be comfortable in different situations. Allowing them to take classes over the summer will not only help them work on a different skill or talent, but it will help them actively engage in the learning process. They’ll learn that education is something that happens when you are not looking and will be grateful that you helped them along the way.
If you have any questions about getting your child get ready for Summer Camps, choosing a Summer Camp, or enrolling in a Summer Learning Camp featuring Handwriting Without Tears, Singapore Math, and Orton-Gillingham at Learning Ridge this summer, feel free to visit www.learningridge.com or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a Great Summer!