Are Your Kids Ready for Summer Camp?

The Salvation Army Shares Tips for Parents Sending Kids Off to Camp

 Preparation for the start of the summer season is underway at more than 50 Salvation Army camps across the country. Salvation Army camp directors advise parents to take equal care in preparing their children for the experience. Last year, more than 180,000 people attended Salvation Army summer and day camps – many were urban, underprivileged children experiencing crickets, campfires, and an escape from city streets for the first time. Most attended camp with the help of a Salvation Army camp scholarship.

“The Salvation Army has been providing summer camps for more than 100 years and really values what this experience can bring to children,” says Ed Covert, camp director for the Salvation Army’s Camp Arnold in Eatonville, Wash. “Summer camp opens a whole new world, but parents need to recognize that along with the excitement, children may also be anxious about departing from the familiarity of their daily lives.”

Covert has ten tips for parents sending their child to camp for the first time, and at the top of the list is to make sure the child has had a positive experience spending the night away from home, perhaps at a family member’s or friend’s house. If possible, Covert also recommends parents discuss their childhood camping memories and stories with their children.

“Sharing your experiences can build anticipation and excitement in the weeks leading up to camp,” says Covert. “These conversations help children ask questions and express any fears they may have before leaving for camp.”

Additional tips include marking the first day of camp on the family calendar and, together with your child, marking off each day and spending time talking about what a great experience camp will be. Finally, says Covert, write your child a few letters and mail them several days before departure, so the letters arrive on the first day of camp. And be sure to send paper, postcards, and stamps so your child can write back and maintain that connection even while you are separated.

The complete list of tips includes the following:

  • Arrange for your child to stay with a grandparent or friend for a night or two. This way, your son or daughter can experience what it is like to sleep somewhere new and different.
  • Ensure your child can manage basic personal hygiene such as brushing teeth, changing clothes, and bathing. Bedwetting should not preclude a child from attending camp; however, the camp staff needs to be aware of the issue so that appropriate arrangements can be made and ensure the camper’s dignity is protected.
  • During the weeks leading up to camp, take time to share your own camp stories and memories with your child to build excitement and anticipation for camp. If possible, pull out old camp photos or scrapbooks for your kids to look at.
  • Do not schedule a significant family event while your child will be away at camp. No child wants to be abandoned at camp while Mom, Dad, and the rest of the family go on a fun family vacation or have a special celebration.
  • Develop a checklist of items needed for camp (or get one from the camp), and work with your child to get everything together. Call the camp if there are items that you cannot secure for your camper. It is unnecessary to buy a lot of new gear; most camps will have extra supplies or resources to ensure that each camper arrives at their cabin with all the essentials to have a successful time at camp.
  • Mark the first day of camp on the family calendar. Together with your child, mark each day off and spend time talking about what a great experience it will be.
  • Please write your child a couple of letters, and pack the sealed envelopes in their luggage a day or two before they leave for camp. Tell your son or daughter they can open them while they are away at camp. It’s also equally important that you write a letter and send it through the mail. “Mail Call” is always a big event at camp, and every child loves to get mail from home.
  • Pack paper, postcards, and stamps so that your child can write to you.
  • Encourage your child to have a “backyard sleep out” by pitching a tent in your backyard. This will give your son or daughter the freedom to navigate through their feelings of anxiety, curiosity, and excitement within the safety and security of his or her own home. Also, consider going to the library and checking out a kid’s book about summer camp. Read it together by the light of your flashlight in the tent.
  • When you arrive with your child at camp, please make a point of meeting and connecting with the camp staff so your child can see that you are interested in and trust the people caring for him.

You Can’t Wash Your Hair in the Swimming Pool and Other Lessons in Staying Clean and Looking Good at Summer Camp.

As kids across America begin dreaming of summer camp, moms need to remind teen sons that they can’t wash their hair in the swimming pool and that staying clean and looking good is important even when you’re away from home.

Experts on teenage boys and summer camp say many boys away from home for the first time let themselves go to the dogs – sporting long, grubby fingernails, greasy hair, and smelly armpits that can make a bunkhouse smell like a barn.

“But summer camp is a great chance for moms to teach their sons the importance of good grooming while promoting self-sufficiency, which is a big part of what going to camp is about,” says best-selling author Kathy Peel, spokeswoman for OT, the first complete line of personal care grooming products for guys 9 to 16.

Peel, known as “America’s Family Manager,” spoke with Dr. Chris Thurber – a psychologist at a boy’s boarding school, a spokesman for the American Camping Association, and author of The Summer Camp Handbook (Perspective Publishing, 2000) – to gather tips for how to prepare your son for a few weeks of good, clean fun away from home.

  • Be direct. Explain that camp is a unique experience of community living away from home, but that being an accepted part of the community means making sure your body, breath, and feet don’t smell. Tell your son to shower daily.
  • Explain the importance of using warm water, soap, and shampoo to remove germs from your entire body. Water alone isn’t enough. Clean bodies are less prone to colds, fungus, and other health plagues of camp life. Tell your kid to check his body for ticks, and if he finds one, have the camp nurse remove it with tweezers.
  • Be clear that just because you don’t look dirty doesn’t mean you don’t smell bad. And even if you like the way you smell, others may not. Smelling bad can lead to teasing. So be considerate and use deodorant or antiperspirant to make sure you smell fresh throughout the day. By the way, you can’t see the germs that cause odor and disease.
  • Remind him that changing clothes every day is important. And yes, this means clean underwear every morning. If you feel self-conscious about changing clothes in front of others in the bunkhouse, wrap a towel around yourself to dress as some boys do. Don’t run around too long in wet socks, which can lead to athlete’s foot, or a wet bathing suit, which can lead to worse.
  • Pack one and a half times the everyday items your son needs. So if laundry is done once a week, pack 10 to 11 changes of clothes. Pack the shower equipment he’ll need to stay fresh and looking good, like OT shampoo (OT is available in Target stores nationwide and Meijer stores throughout the Midwest), body wash, deodorant, or antiperspirant, and hair gel or pomade.

“Sending your son to camp promotes self-sufficiency, teaches responsibility and helps him learn respect for others,” says Peel. “Make sure he packs the things he needs to stay clean, and remind him to use them, to practice good hygiene daily for his own well being – and because it’s a way of showing respect for others!”

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