Summer camp is an awesome growing and learning experience for kids, but it can be pretty intimidating, too. Going to summer camp could be your child’s first time spending an extended period away from home and her first foray into outdoor adventures. That’s a lot of firsts for a young kid.
The prospect of new experiences is no reason to skip summer camp. In fact, controlled risks like camp are great for fostering independence. However, your little one is likely nervous about what’s ahead. What will the other kids think? What if she embarrasses herself trying something new? These are just some of the worries running through your child’s mind, but you don’t have to leave him or her to stew in anxiety. As a parent, you have a big role to play in getting your kids ready and excited for summer camp.
Safety is always the first lesson when it comes to the outdoors. Talk about what the environment is like at summer camp and what she needs to stay safe and comfortable. Is it a wooded area full of ticks, a high-elevation zone with harsh UV rays, or somewhere prone to quick changes in weather? While your kids may enjoy running around without jackets or shoes in your own backyard, it’s important to emphasize the importance of dressing appropriately for outdoor activities. That means good shoes, layered clothing, sunscreen and bug repellent and more water than you think you need.
Children should also understand what to do if they get lost outdoors. Explain the importance of staying on trail and not wandering if you get turned around. Buy a whistle and use Outdoor Life’s guide to teach your child how to signal for help.
Don’t forget to cover the things that are never safe to do outside. This includes climbing up tall rocks without safety equipment, getting into fast-moving water, approaching wildlife, eating wild plants, or littering.
While it’s important to cover wilderness safety, you don’t want to give your kids the impression that summer camp is all about “don’ts.” Introducing your child to fun outdoor activities is a great way to prepare her for camp. Having some outdoor knowledge up her sleeve will give your child confidence in a new setting and conversation fodder for making friends. Plus, it’s a great bonding opportunity for you two! Here are a few skills that are easy and fun to practice at home:
- Tent Camping
Your child may not be sleeping in a tent at summer camp, but a night of tent camping in your own backyard is a great way to get her comfortable with the sounds of nature at night. Practice pitching and packing up a tent, building a campfire, cooking dinner over a fire or camp stove, and snoozing in a sleeping bag. If noises keep your child up at night, identify the sounds of crickets, birds and other nocturnal animals so he or she knows it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Your backyard campout is the perfect opportunity for stargazing. Depending on light pollution in your area, backyard stargazing may be limited to the big constellations such as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor and Orion. Thankfully, it won’t take extensive knowledge of the night sky for your kids to impress their new friends. Use this information from ZME Science to help you spot well-known constellations.
- Bird Watching
Redfin recommends backyard bird watching with your kids. The real estate site notes, “There are all kinds of advantages to becoming a birder, both for your child and the pair of you. To start, it’s an opportunity to learn about your immediate environment: exactly what kinds of birds live there, the kinds of habitats they live in, why your area’s climate is ideal for them, and how different birds have adapted to human presence. “
After learning about the birds in your backyard, collaborate on a pocket field guide to birds your child might see at camp.
For many kids, summer camp marks the beginning of a lifelong love of the outdoors. However, without parental guidance and preparation, it could be more scary than fun. By following this advice, you’ll help your budding adventurer have a summer camp experience to remember.
Image via Unsplash
Thank you to contributing author Amanda Henderson from Safe Children. To request more information about Safe Children, click here.