Whether it’s your child’s first year at camp, or they are a seasoned camper and need a little refresher, it’s a good idea to go over summer camp rules and guidelines before leaving for camp. Talking about camp rules with your child will help them understand exactly what is expected of them and that you believe they can be successful while at camp. Knowing the rules can potentially help to relieve anxiety and reduce the chances of homesickness or other behavioral issues while away.
Don’t worry – talking about the rules at camp doesn’t need to be a lecture. If you went to camp as a kid, then you can use stories from your own experience to relay why certain camp rules make sense. You don’t need to talk about the rules all at once; instead, spread them out into small conversations in the weeks leading up to camp. This way, your child won’t feel overwhelmed when the rules are reviewed on the first day. Camp rules are in place to keep the camp community safe and camp operations running smoothly throughout their stay.
Above all else, camp counselors are there to make sure that all campers have the best time possible while also looking out for each camper’s health and safety. Explain to your child that following the rules will only enhance their camp experience. Remind your child that if they have questions, they should address their concerns with their counselor sooner rather than later. Tell them to be honest, and not to wait if they feel uncomfortable or are having issues at camp. Their counselor and the administrative staff are their advocates while at sleepaway camp.
While your child will be exempt from their typical home chores during camp, they will need to participate in daily tasks that help to keep the camp running smoothly. [B1] Cabin chores such as keeping their area tidy, sweeping the bunk, picking up trash and having their laundry ready to go on laundry day (if they have an extended day) are just a few of the camp responsibilities that everyone will need to pitch in and help out with.
Before your child leaves for camp, remind them that with camp comes responsibility, and that everyone will be required to help out with chores. In fact many camps not only have chore lists, but advocate for keeping the camp grounds clean and reward bunks that do well during cabin inspections. Remind your child that if the see litter on the ground, they should pick it up rather than just walk by it. Explain to your camper that this will be their home away from home for the next several weeks and that it’s up to them to keep it clean.
Unlike home, at camp, everyone is on the same sleep schedule. This means that if one person stays up past lights out, everyone in the cabin will lose sleep. For this reason, it’s important to follow lights out rules so that everyone can rest up for the following day of activities.
If your child gets anxious about the dark or has trouble falling asleep, make sure they bring a comfort item from home that will help them feel more relaxed at bed time. If your child is prone to waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, consider bringing along a small flashlight. Both of these issues should be included in your camp registration forms so the counselors can be aware of your child’s needs, fears and anxieties.
While a full day of camp should be enough to tire out even the most energetic of children, go over what to do if your child has trouble falling asleep—like counting sheep or flipping the pillow over to the cool side.
If anything, you can try to adjust to the camp sleeping schedule a week before leaving for camp. If your child will be traveling to camp from a different time zone, explore jet lag tips to help them adjust to the time change. Pali Adventures offers the ability for international campers to arrive early to help with the time zone adjustment.
Since your child will be in close quarters with many other campers, it’s important that they understand the necessity of keeping their sleeping and living areas organized.
Go over ways for your child to stay organized and tidy before they leave for camp. When packing, make sure to provide a laundry bag to keep clean and dirty clothing separate. Utilize under bed space or put clothes on your shelves or cubbies rather than living out of your suitcase or camp trunk.
It also helps to not over pack. Follow packing list guidelines closely so your child can find what they need without having to dig through piles of clothing that were not recommended. This also helps you child know what they have in their luggage so they pull out the sweatshirt when it gets cold, instead of thinking there wasn’t one in their bag. Remind your child of their camp account so they can purchase items from the camp store if necessary.
As a best practice, we recommend leaving all valuables at home. Even if your child has a bracelet or necklace that they never take off, there is still the chance that it could be lost while swimming or participating in camp activities.
If you are thinking about bringing an expensive item of clothing, be prepared for it to get lost or damaged. You may be better off buying a new, less expensive version. To be on the safe side, don’t let your child bring anything irreplaceable or emotionally valuable to camp.
Name calling, fighting, bullying, and arguing are strictly prohibited at summer camp. Camp is a place to make friends, so aggressive behavior is not tolerated. Remind your child that they don’t have to be everybody’s best friend, but they do have to be friendly to everyone.
Encourage your child to go into camp with the mindset of making a few new friends, and chances are they will leave camp having made more than a few.
At the end of the day, summer camp is about getting out of your comfort zone, trying new things, and having a blast. Before your child leaves for camp, congratulate them for being brave enough to try sleepaway camp in the first place. Let them know that they’ve already won just by trying, and the fun part is just about to begin. Remind them again that summer camp rules exist only to improve the overall camp experience and to create a community of fun.
For more tips on preparing your child for summer camp visit the Pali Blog.