It's summer! The weather is beautiful and the days are long. For many kids, summer also means it's time for camp.
Summer camp can be a great experience for kids of all ages, and there are so many different camps to choose from. Sleepaway camps are a common choice for preteens, but going away from home for more than a week can seem scary at first.
Here is some advice to prepare you for being away from home and to help you have a great time at sleepaway camp.
Deciding on a Camp
Camps come in all different shapes and sizes – there are day camps and sleepaway camps, sports camps, art camps, camps for kids with certain medical problems, and educational camps (to name a few).
Talk with your parents if you think you might want to go to a sleepaway camp. Your parents might be just as nervous as you are at the idea of you going to a sleepaway camp. Sit down together, and find out more information about the camps.
You may have heard of a camp that a friend went to before, or you and a friend might plan to go to camp together. This can make it easier to be away from home.
Most camps have Web sites. Check out the Web sites with your parents and get some more information before you choose a camp. Make sure to look at the location, dates, cost, and length of the camp – as well as the activities it offers. Some camps have a "fair" or open house before camp starts. This will help you and your parents find out more about what you'll be doing at camp.
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What to Bring
What do you need to bring to a sleepaway camp? The camp may give you and your parents a list of things you should bring with you, but here are some things to make sure you do not forget:
- Clothing. You will want to pack different clothes depending on where the camp is and how long you will be at the camp. You will also need different clothes for different things you will be doing (like baseball and art). Make sure to pack a swimsuit in case there are outdoor showers or a lake or pool. Bring warm clothes in case it gets cold at night. Remember to pack enough socks, underwear, and pajamas. If you are going to a long camp, you will probably not need a change of clothes for every day. Before you pack, ask your camp counselor what to bring and if you can wash your clothes at camp.
- Toiletries. Don't forget your toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, a hairbrush, and other supplies. (Girls, be sure to bring tampons or pads if you need them.)
- Sunscreen. Even though your parents will not be there every day to remind you to put it on, it is very important that you apply sunscreen every few hours. Follow the tips listed in the Sun Safety and Tanning information article.
- Sports Equipment. If you are going to a specialized sports camp, don't forget your sports equipment.
- Medicine. If you take medicine regularly, make sure that the camp knows this and have your parents give your camp counselor your medicine so he or she can give you the right amount every day, or arrange with the camp for you to take it on your own.
- Bug Spray. Bug bites can be uncomfortable and itchy. Make sure you pack a good bug spray and apply it every day. Be especially careful to apply it at night, when mosquitoes and other bugs come out.
- Water Bottle. Many kids run around all day at camp in hot weather. This can cause dehydration if you do not drink enough water. Bring an empty bottle and fill it up often to make sure you stay hydrated during the day.
- Bedding. Check if you will need to bring sheets, a pillow, blankets, or a sleeping bag.
- Disposable Camera. Take pictures of the fun you are having to share with your friends and family.
- Money. Depending on your camp, you might want to bring a small amount of money to spend on snacks, a pay phone, the laundry, or at the camp shop if there is one.
- Pen, Paper, and Envelopes. Write to your friends and family from camp, and – if you are staying a while – get letters sent to you.
It is very important to put your name on everything you bring. You never know who will show up with the same swimsuit or tennis racquet. This way, if you lose something, it can easily be returned to you.
Also, check the camp policy on electronics. Many camps do not allow campers to bring cell phones, MP3 players, CD players, handheld games, or digital cameras.
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Being away from home can make you feel nervous and scared. If you get homesick at sleepaway camp, you are not alone. According to the American Camp Association, 83 percent of kids get homesick! This is a common feeling, but it can be prevented or made less painful.
To decrease homesickness during camp, practice before camp. Have overnight visits with friends or family during the year to get used to sleeping away from home, and try a week-long sleepaway camp before going away for a month or longer.
While at camp, write letters to the people you miss, and ask your parents to write you a letter letting you know what is going on at home while you are away.
If your homesickness is terrible – meaning you cannot sleep and are so upset that you cannot participate in the camp activities – you can talk to a counselor who can contact your parents.
If you are just feeling like you miss home, which almost all kids do, think of all the fun you are having, the friends you are making, and how you will be home soon with great stories to tell.
If your parents are anxious about you going away, try to calm them down. Point to a calendar and show them when you will be back, and tell them you will write them a letter to let them know what and how you are doing. Remind them that the camp counselors will be taking care of you and that they do not need to worry.
Going to sleepaway can be a great way to gain independence, make new friends, try new things, and have a fun summer.
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high school student writer
Below are links PAMF accessed when researching this topic. PAMF does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
Homesickness, American Camp Association.
Going Away to Camp, KidsHealth.org
Reviewed by: Adolescent Interest Group
Last reviewed: August 2013