As a kid, I went to summer camp every single year, and it was one of the best and most magical experiences of my life. I loved everything, from the fun counselors to the activities, to even the food (jam sandwiches, fish sticks, and hot dogs). I still have fond memories of those childhood camp summers and am even still in touch with a lot of my counselors (one is even a good family friend and my Matron of Honor for my wedding next year).
I definitely believe that camp is a great experience for any child, but it's also true that there are some complicated things that come up when parents send their children to either a day or an overnight camp. It makes sense to look at things from the camp counselor's perspective since, of course, they're the ones who are spending time with children and making their camp days or evenings magical.
There are a lot of things that counselors would love for parents to remember when it comes to sending their kid to camp. Read on to find out 21 things that camp counselors wish that parents would understand. From packing suggestions to lunches to activities, it's all here.
21 Phoning An Overnight Camp On The Regular Is Annoying
A good tip on Scary Mommy is that if your kid goes to overnight camp, phoning the office of the camp all the time isn't going to be great for anyone. In fact, it's going to get really annoying and no one really wants to deal with that.
It makes sense that parents would worry — especially if this is the first summer that their kid is going to overnight camp, but at the same time, they have to calm down and remember that their kid is in good hands. They want their child to have a great time and that involves trusting the counselors and camp directors.
20 Your Kid Might Not Want To Go To This Particular/Niche Camp
The New York Times has an article about things that parents should think about in terms of their child's camp experience, and they suggest realizing that your kid might not be super into the idea of going to a really niche camp. The example given: an arts-focused or tennis camp. This is pretty helpful in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you might really want your child to have an amazing time at a sports or arts camp, but maybe they don't want to do that and would be really bored. You definitely don't want to push your interests on your child if they're not interested.
19 It Sucks When Parents Get Super Emotional About Leaving Their Kids
A story on Bustle says that when parents get really emotional about their children going to camp, it can make things difficult: "Don't make it worse by crying at the bus stop with them. Stop, drop, and roll out of there, because it gets super awkward when we have to deal with your separation anxiety as well as theirs."
That's pretty sound advice. It's going to take a while for little kids to get used to going on the bus and leaving their mom, and it's best to approach this as a fun, cool, positive thing instead of showing that you're getting upset over the whole experience.
18 Your Kid Bringing A Cell Phone To Camp Is A Bad Idea
NY Metro Parents says that kids shouldn't bring cell phones to camp.
It's easy to see why this would be a bad idea: kids should definitely be spending time with other campers and enjoying the whole camping experience instead of having their nose in a phone or playing games. Camp isn't really the place for screen time. After all, it's summer. it's time to get outside and play, and just be a kid instead of worrying about phones. It's logical that counselors wouldn't want their campers to be on cell phones all the time.
17 Your Kid Needs To Be In The Right Group For Their Age
A parenting blog on The New York Times says that parents shouldn't say that their child should be in a particular group or camp because it should be based on their actual age.
This is good advice and it's easy to see that it might not be something that parents would want to think about. Some might feel that their kid would be great in an older age group and would thrive, but counselors really want kids to be in groups with campers of their own age. The example given in the blog post? Counselors aren't able to have different aged kids in their groups because they can't focus on that one child and have to deal with everyone as a group.
16 You Should Tell Counselors Important Things Instead Of Asking Your Kid To Do It
It's always best for parents to talk to their kids' teachers themselves, and according to Bustle, the same thing applies when a kid is attending camp for the summer. Parents need to be honest with counselors about any red flags (health problems, behavioral issues...) that is necessary to know about their child.
This story suggests talking to counselors directly and not getting your kid to tell them something that is important. A child can even bring a letter to the counselor from the parent. Sure, they might tell the counselor the right thing or give them the letter, but it's possible that they would forget to do it or say the wrong thing. It just makes things confusing.
15 Don't Freak Out - That Isn't Helpful For Your Child
When a parent gets upset about something, it's safe to say that it makes it pretty easy for their child to get upset, too. Kids need to see strong, positive examples, which is why this is such great advice from the Washington Post: parents shouldn't freak out about sending their kids to camp.
Be positive and believe that everything is going to be fine because it definitely is. You're giving your child the gift of summer camp and that is such an awesome thing to do in an otherwise boring summer. There's nothing to worry about and before you know it, your child will be explaining how fun camp is and they'll have amazing memories.
14 It's A Bad Idea To Tell Your Kid They Can Leave Overnight Camp Early
As Scary Mommy suggests, it's not a great idea for parents to tell their kids that coming home early is totally possible: "Keep in mind it takes time for children to adjust to a new environment. Offer positive encouragement, and let your child know they will have a great time. Making pickup deals will send a message to your child that you don’t believe they will have a successful camp experience."
It makes a lot of sense that in order for your kid to really have fun and enjoy camp, they have to stick it out. If they just want to come home—and you agreeing to it—then they'll expect you to do that in different situations growing up.
13 You Need To Bring What You're Asked To
The New York Times has this good advice, too: when camp counselors ask campers to bring certain things to camp, parents really have to pack those things.
Counselors will feel bad otherwise and these are things that the kids need. It makes it tough because then the counselors don't really know what they're supposed to do. Just like parents have to pack certain things in their kid's backpack when they're off to school, there are things that have to be packed ahead of time for camp. It's all about having the full experience and following these rules makes that easier and more possible.
12 Your Children Can Eat Junk Food For Lunch
Reader's Digest published a story from the perspective of camp counselors and one thing is really interesting and helpful for parents: it's all about the fact that counselors can't really control what kids eat for lunch. As one said, "If they want to eat peanut butter and jelly for weeks in a row, there’s really nothing we can do about it."
If your kid goes to a day camp, lunch might be provided, and if they go to an overnight camp, then meals will definitely be provided — so this is good for parents to remember.
11 Kids Might Act Differently At Camp
The same story in Reader's Digest also suggested that children might act differently when they go to camp. In this example, children weren't anywhere as shy as their mom and dad said that they would be.
Sometimes parents explain to counselors that their child will be shy, but counselors often don't even find that to be true and the kids do really well at camp. This is even truer when it comes to activities where the kids can meet others and express themselves. That's comforting news for parents who wonder how their children are going to do at camp and if they're going to enjoy themselves.
10 Kids Should Try Everything At Camp
According to NY Metro Parents, it's not great for a parent to say to their kid, "It's fine, you don't need to do this certain activity."
If your kid is upset and they really don't want to try something at camp, it's tempting to tell them that it'll be fine and they don't have to do it. It's your job as a parent to protect them and keep them safe and happy, after all. But counselors want campers to try new things, even for just a little while. Telling your children to be positive and to try new things will make things a lot easier on the counselors. Plus, it will be fun for the little camper.
9 Kids Who Are Sick Shouldn't Go To Camp That Day
The New York Times gives this helpful piece of advice for parents, which is also something that counselors wish that parents knew: it's not a good idea to have your sick kid go to camp.
It's best to have them stay home, get some rest, and get better. First of all, they won't really have fun if they're sick, and second of all, it can be contagious. It's the same sound advice teachers and professionals would tell their students or colleagues. You can't have fun when you're sick. It's also no surprise that germs spread super fast in places like school and camp, and before you know it, all of the other campers have the same cold or flu (and probably the counselors are sick, too).
8 Procrastinating Getting Ready For Camp Isn't The Best Idea
As the Washington Post says, "Don’t wait until the first day of camp to turn in that paperwork you got weeks ago or to raise a concern."
What's a parent's goal when they send their kid to summer camp? It's definitely for their kid to have the most enjoyable time possible, right? Since that's the whole plan, it makes sense for parents to plan ahead and make sure that they don't procrastinate getting their child ready. As the article reads, that includes talking to the camp director or their child's counselor about something or making sure that all of their ducks are in order, so to speak. Prepare both yourself and your child for camp.
7 Bullying Might Take Place
Parents never want to hear that their children are being bullied, and that's true whether it happens at school or camp. It's a really heartbreaking thing to hear and it can be tough to know how to deal with it, especially if talking to other parents isn't helpful for a variety of reasons (maybe the other parent says that nothing happened, etc...).
As Mom.me says, bullying might take place at summer camp, and counselors might not really know how to deal with that. It's the reality of camp sometimes and it's something that counselors wish that parents knew and thought about. If a counselor sees it happen, of course, they're going to step in. But with so many kids around, it can be tough to do.
6 Tell Your Child The Schedule So They Know What's Going On
Kids like to know what's going on and always benefit when their parents talk to them as if they're much older than they actually are. None of us like being talked down to, no matter what age we are, so we can totally understand this, right?
This story in the Washington Post suggests that in order for children to do super well at camp, their parents should tell them the schedule ahead of time. All you have to do is sit with your child and have a chat about what activities they can expect and when things are going to happen. It's also smart because then you'll be reminding yourself of the schedule and you'll all be on the same page.
5 Labels Might Not Be All That Helpful At Overnight Camp
Thanks to this story from the POV of camp counselors in Reader's Digest, we know that it might not be that helpful to label things that we send our kids to overnight camp with. As the story says, everything gets "mixed up." For example, listing snacks that say Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday... After a while, it all gets mixed.
This is helpful information since parents are always being told that they have to label their kids' stuff; from Tupperware containers to clothing, so it's interesting to know that when it comes to camp, this might make things confusing instead of organized.
4 Know That Camp Is Different From School
The Washington Post wants parents to know that even though it might seem like having your kid go to summer camp is basically the same thing as having them go to school, it's not the same thing at all.
It's fun and it's about "play."
This is good for parents to remember and would definitely help parents calm down and enjoy the fact that their kid is having such a fun summer; one that they will always remember. Camp might teach them some things, sure, but it's not going to teach them as much as school. It's a time to have fun.
3 It's Really Awesome For Kids To Experience Camp
Mom.me suggests that parents should remember that it's a really good thing to send your kid to summer camp. Kids can build confidence when they go to camp, which is definitely something that parents will be pleased about later in life. The post also says that kids will learn independence, and that's another positive result.
Of course, you'll always worry about your kids and hope that things will go well at camp or school. It's normal and it makes sense. But at the same time, parents have to keep in mind that camp is a fun place and their children are going to benefit.
2 Counselors Want Children To Try New Things
Reader's Digest has an article about what camp counselors would love parents to know and there are some really helpful things here.
The article suggests that parents should remember that camp counselors want the children to try new things. They want what's best for these kids. It's better for them and for the kid's camp experience if parents don't talk to their kids about not having to do certain things or skipping some parts of camp. Just imagine how awesome it'll be when your kid comes home all excited because they tried something new and had the best time.
1 Stop Saying To Kids That You 'Miss Them'
NY Metro Parents suggests that when parents tell their children that they really miss them when they're off at camp, it makes it tough on the kids.
It's definitely hard on parents because of course, they miss their kids, but it's like when you send your kids to school — you want to put on a brave face and know that they're in good hands. This is a life experience that needs to happen.
Smile, tell them that everything will be awesome, and your kid is guaranteed to have an amazing, magical summer at camp.