Get Ready for Summer Camp (Without the Stress!)
By our friends at Trackers Earth Outdoor Education
It’s been a year (quite a year, actually) and many kids are just now returning to school. Just now starting to hang out with friends again. For too many months, they’ve been stuck inside on a screen. Kids are eager to play outdoors again. To get away from the family. To see their friends. “Eager” is putting it mildly. Kids are chomping at the bit to get their lives back. Camp, especially outside camp, is the perfect place for them to do that.
Get Ready Mentally
It’s worth thinking about ways to make that transition as smooth as possible. For many kids, their only in-person conversations have been with parents, siblings, or the family dog. For many kids (and adults), their go-to outfit of the year has been pajamas. Here are some things you can do ahead of time to help your child mentally prepare for going to in-person camp:
Involve your child in choosing the camp. Ask what they want from a camp this year—it might be different than in the past. Do they want to go with a friend or make new friends? Do they want to do a one-day camp, a week-long camp, or maybe a sleep-away camp?
Talk to your kids about what camp will be like this year. Read the camp descriptions with them. Talk about what the camp’s COVID policies will be. Remind them that they can still have fun, and do everything camp has to offer while following mask and social distancing guidelines.
Let them help pack. Once you choose a camp, let them help with other parts of planning, like a packing list (here's a printable one with some ideas).
Check in with them as camp gets closer. If you sense that your child is nervous about re-entering the social world, ask them questions and encourage them to talk about it. Kids usually feel better when they’ve voiced their concerns.
Role-play talking to new people and making new friends. Socializing is rusty for all of us—our kids are no exception.
Give them a taste of the adventure. Go for a hike or play a few camp games to remind them how fun camp is. If you have pictures of earlier camp adventures, look at them together.
Show your enthusiasm! If kids see that you are excited about them going to camp, that you are confident about it, that helps set the tone.
Remind them to wear actual pants and not pajamas!
Get Ready Financially
Camps can be a financial commitment. Make a budget to save for camp. Why not get your child involved? Kids can contribute by earning something to contribute to the camp fund. They can earn money through extra weekend chores you pay them for, or an outside job like babysitting, lawn care, or stacking firewood for elders in your neighborhood. There are lots of jobs that kids of all ages can do. When kids contribute to paying for something, it holds more value for them.
Did you know that you can use a Dependent Care FSA for day camps? Most parents use this pre-tax benefit for things like preschool and afterschool care, but it can also be used for summer day camp.
Many camps offer payment plans and scholarships for families who need assistance. Check camp websites for more information.
Get Ready Practically
By practically, we mean know what your child needs to bring to camp. Most camps will send you a packing list a week or two before. Here is a Summer Camp Checklist (printable PDF) with all the basics you can expect to see on any list:
• COVID supplies: Small bottle of hand sanitizer and/or package of wipes, and a KEEN face mask.
• Hat: Preferably wide-brimmed to protect from sun exposure, but good in the rain, too.
• Shoes: Pack or wear shoes that can get wet, like KEEN’s awesome water sandals.
• Clothes: The best clothes for summer are loose, breathable, and light-colored. Also, packing a change of clothes is helpful in case a child gets wet.
• Sunscreen: Apply first coat at home, pack for camp, then reapply mid-day.
• Lunch & snacks: Make sure foods are shelf-stable (in other words, ok to eat if it sits in the sun all day).
• Water bottle: The best bottles have a wide mouth (easier to fill and drink from), are big enough to fill your kid up at each water break, and light enough to carry when full.
• Check the weather! Look at the weather report each morning and send warmer clothing and rain gear as needed, including KEEN waterproof boots or quick-dry sandals.
• Leave the valuables at home: The last thing you want your child worrying about is losing their precious camera or stuffie at camp. Plus phones can distract kids from the fun happening all around them.
Sending your child back to camp this summer may feel like you are re-entering a brave new world. But with a bit of care and planning, camp will be an incredible return to normal. A return to a time and place where your child can reconnect with old and new friends, with instructors who care about them, and with the natural world.
For over fifteen years, tens of thousands of families have Tracked experiences outdoors with Trackers Earth and their year-round Guides — in seasonal camp events, through outdoor sport, mentor and apprenticeship programs, and during after-school and school-day adventures. Their mission is to inspire kids and families outdoors, creating stories and memories — new friendships, wonder, and possibilities — within ourselves, between each other, and with the world around us.
Closed-toe protection for summer camp