Whether you send your kids to sleep-away or day summer camp, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into getting them ready. As another school year comes to a close and camp season approaches, we thought we’d go over some camp readiness tips.
Before Summer Camp
Finding the Right Fit
- Pick a summer camp with your kids, not for them. Camp is a time for your children to have fun and stay active in the summer, while learning new things or pursuing an interest. Maybe your child wouldn’t like the same camp as an older sibling but, instead, would like the kind of camp you went to growing up — or maybe an entirely different one.
- Follow your kids’ lead. Encourage them to be excited, but don’t discount their worries and fears. There’s no need to freak your kids out by discussing emergency pick-up plans and homesickness, but if these are concerns your kids have, take the time to talk with them about it.
- Plan ahead. Many summer camps send out a packing list with guidelines of what kids should bring. So be sure — well in advance — that your kids have everything they need, whether they’re going to a day or overnight camp.
- Pack extras of essentials like underwear and socks.
- Leave nice things at home. In general, only pack clothes and bed linens that you don’t mind throwing out after sleep-away camp.
- Get your kids up to date on all of their shots. Just like with school, camps will ask to see your kids’ immunization history. If you know your children are due for a shot, take care of that well in advance so you’re not scrambling the week before camp starts.
- Tell all necessary staff about your children’s food and insect bite allergies. The nurse can help to administer medicine, but make sure your kids’ camp counselors know of the allergy as well for day-to-day awareness. Meal times at camp are often chaotic, so make sure your children know what food is off-limits, and what to do if that food is served. Also, remind your kids to use insect spray before going outside and to always have an EpiPen® at camp if the doctor has prescribed one.
- Let the camp know about all medicines your kids are taking and all health concerns (e.g., asthma, diabetes, seasonal allergies, behavioral or mental health disorders, etc.). Make sure they’re informed about anything else that could impact your children’s health and interaction with others.
While at Summer Camp
- Teach your kids how to apply sunscreen. Some camps may not allow counselors to apply it on your kids, so it’s important to teach them before camp starts. Purchase at least SPF 30. Buy it in bulk so your kids can apply it generously and rub it in on all exposed skin — including behind ears and under swimsuit straps. Spray sunscreens still need to be rubbed in — otherwise it’s very easy to miss patches of skin.
- Teach your children how often to apply sunscreen. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming.
- Encourage your kids to wear a hat and sunglasses whenever possible for extra sun protection.
- Make sure your kids know their limits in the water before jumping in. Less-experienced swimmers should wear flotation devices, or stay in the shallow end of the pool.
- Swim with a lifeguard. All swimmers — even experienced ones — should only ever swim with a lifeguard present.
- Drink up! Studies show that 50-75 percent of kids at summer sports camps are dehydrated. And 25-30 percent of kids are at risk of heat-related illness due to serious dehydration. Children should increase their water intake while playing in the sun and before, during and after physical activity, whether they “feel thirsty” or not.
- Be prepared. Send your kids to camp with a large water bottle or jug if the camp allows it.
- Remember that sports drinks shouldn’t replace water. These drinks do help to replace electrolytes that are lost during physical activity. But fruits can provide the same nutritious offerings of these drinks — with a fraction of the sugar and calories. Water is the best drink for hydration.