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How to keep your kids healthy (and happy) at summer camp

Posted by on May. 23, 2013 at 4:45 PM
  • 9 Replies

How to keep your kids healthy (and happy) at summer camp

  • Article by: KATY READ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 22, 2013 - 10:50 AM

It should be a fun-filled time that leaves wonderful memories, but a camp experience can be marred by health problems: sunburn, a case of poison ivy, even old-fashioned homesickness. Here are some camp experts’ tips for keeping your child a happy camper.

Encourage your child to help choose the camp. That’s a good way to match the camp to your child’s interests and comfort levels, said Connie Rodosovich, general manager of camping services for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. Ask questions: What would you like to do at camp? How long do you want to stay? How far away do you want to go? Study websites and other materials to gather details in advance. Many camps offer information nights, with opportunities to meet the staff.

Practice some trial separations. If your child hasn’t spent time away from home before, aside from an occasional overnight at grandma’s, consider a longer trial run, “maybe sleepovers with friends for one or two nights,” Rodosovich suggested.

Pack a water bottle. “Girl Scout campers keep water bottles with them at all times to keep properly hydrated,” said Sara Danzinger, public relations manager for the Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys. Active campers need a lot of water; a bout of dehydration can put a serious damper on a camp experience.

Have the child take a memento from home. It could be a photo of the family or a pet, a stuffed animal, or some other comforting object. “If they can bring a little piece of home with them, that may prevent homesickness and help them feel a little more comfortable at camp,” Rodosovich said.

Don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellant. In fact, send multiple bottles, in case one gets left behind on a hike, Danzinger said. Smaller bottles are easier to slip into a pocket and keep handy for reapplication on the trail.

Make sure the camp provides helmets for biking or horseback riding. Many camps require them. If they’re not provided, send one along.

Show the child what poison ivy and other irritating plants look like. “We recommend girls stay on trails to avoid any possible interaction with such plants,” Danzinger said. But … you know kids.

Call ahead to discuss any special dietary needs. Most camps can accommodate food limitations, but be sure to provide details ahead of time.

Don’t send your child to camp with a case of lice. Your child will likely be sleeping in close proximity to other kids’ sleeping bags and pillows. “No one wants that as their camp memory,” Danzinger said. Treat the lice, and follow the package instructions to determine how long the lice remain “contagious.” If you have to cancel, many camps will try to reschedule your child for later in the season.

Send non-food care packages.The packages are welcome, but fill them with items other than candy or cookies, Rodosovich advised. “Books are always good. Stickers, fun puzzles – any kind of creative activity or that kind of thing, instead of food.”

To ease separation anxiety (both the child’s and yours!) send letters. Many camps restrict email and electronic devices, but will distribute old-fashioned mail. If the time frame won’t allow using the Postal Service, camp staffers often let you slip them a bundle of letters when the child arrives, to be distributed one at a time during the visit, Rodosovich said. Meanwhile back home, some camps let parents check out their kids’ activities via online photo galleries updated throughout the stay.

by on May. 23, 2013 at 4:45 PM
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by Barbara on May. 23, 2013 at 4:46 PM

Have you had a child go to a summer camp before? Or will you have a child going for the first time this summer?

Do you have any additional summer camp tips to share?

by Platinum Member on May. 23, 2013 at 5:44 PM
1 mom liked this
Don't call and check on them! If a new camper wasn't homesick before, hearing from Mom (especially a sappy oh-I-miss-my-baby Mom) key send them over the edge.

When I was camp director, the LAST thing you let a homesick camper do is call home!
by Platinum Member on May. 23, 2013 at 5:46 PM
1 mom liked this
Yes, my kids will all go to a week of church resident camp they all have gone for at least 3 years.

The boys will go to Boy Scout Camp. However, I will go as the second adult. It is my vacation...I don't have to cook or clean for a week!
by on May. 23, 2013 at 5:50 PM

I miss my days of summer camp.  The last year i went was the best since it was a trial run of a total outdoor experience.  We slept in a football size tent and cooked 2 meals a day ourselves with dinner being at a pavilion that we walked about half mile to.  That is where the showers were as well.

DD is no where ready for sleep away camp but may do a day camp next year for her.

by Bella on May. 23, 2013 at 6:52 PM

 Great tips, DD is only doing a daycamp which is 4hrs a day

by on May. 23, 2013 at 7:52 PM

I am not ready for summer sleep away camp. Maybe if he is older......... maybe....

by on May. 23, 2013 at 7:56 PM
I miss my summer camp :( i have been looking for camps for my DD but nothing :(
by Mikki on May. 23, 2013 at 8:55 PM
1 mom liked this

Thanks for posting.  I'm thinking of signing up my youngest for his first camp this summer.

family in the van   Mom of four

by on May. 23, 2013 at 10:19 PM
I'm with Jinx, my times at scout camp are vacation. I went to resident camp from age 8, and always loved it. We always made sure the kids had similar opportunities. I think the best thing camp teaches most kids is self reliance. No one at camp is going to make your bunk, keep your trunk neat or get your butt to the waterfront in time for aquatics, except you. Important skill for most kids who have had helicopter parents.
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