Oh, the sweet idea of summer. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The water is wet. Your honey dearest and you are talking about spending your vacation days at that sweet little bed and breakfast you’ve seen alongside the road in Vermont on your trip to visit your sister. Just as you got used to the idea of a summer getaway filled with romance, moonlight, and loose clothes, you remembered with a dreadful expression on your face – “But, honey, what are we going to do with the kids?”
It’s so simple – send them packing to summer camp. Expect some screaming and shouting, begging and pouting when you go in to adamantly tell them a decision has been made, especially if it’s their first time attending summer camp. This is the time to tread carefully. What you say in the moments they’re rebelling against the idea is crucial if you want your kid to continue loving you when it gets back from camp. Tell them a story about how good you had it in your adventures during summer camp on that hot summer of 69’. Invent one, even. Describe it all. They get a thing or two out of this deal, as well. Their own „freedom“ away from you. Meeting new friends. Swimming, learning new skills, playing all sorts of fun games. Spooky nights filled with ghost stories by a bonfire while roasting marshmallows. Who knows, they might even get a first kiss out there too.
Phew, it’s over. Not only does your kid agree, but it’s also happy to let you two have your secret getaway to get its own. You smile and give your kid a kiss on the forehead telling him it’s time to go to bed.
Just as you uttered the word ’bed’, the worry starts to kick in. Is everything going to be okay? Will he get along with other kids? Will he eat right? But most importantly, what about his sleep?
“Relax”, your boo tells you. “We’ll just google it – how to ensure your kid gets good sleep at summer camp.”
And here you are. So, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s start with the advice and send your kids up, up and to summer camp safely and responsibly.
Summer Camp Sleeping To-Do List
- Research potential camps
Since you will definitely be concerned about your child’s overall wellbeing and his sleeping hygiene, get to browsing and find camps educated enough to provide your kid with adequate nurture. Since prepubescent children need more sleep than adults (somewhere between 9 and 10 hours of sleep), contact the camp’s counselors and ask about their sleep schedules and other policies. Ask about the rooms. With how many kids will yours sleep with? Take the time to tell the camp counselors about any sleep disorders or issues your child has, too. It’s imperative to keep them informed about your child’s needs in order for them to be able to tend to their specific needs. Be honest – tell them all about your child’s nightmares, their bed wetting problem, or whatever they need to know, as well. Lastly, don’t be surprised if the counselors tell you that kids will be kids and that they’ll probably end up trading off dreams for slumber adventures on some nights.
Well, as long as they don’t stay up too late. Relax, everything will be just fine.
- Tour the camp in advance
Create an opportunity to schedule a visit with the camp and the counselors in-advance. This will give you and your kid a chance to get to know the place before it’s time to actually go. This will get your child a lot less afraid of a new, unknown situation and excited about going.
Tour the campsite. Visit the rooms, take a look at the beds, mattresses, and other amenities, so you’ll have an idea of what the experience will be like for your kids. Let your kid ‘test out’ the beds and ask them if they’re comfortable and cozy enough for them to sleep in.
Since sleeping can be a daunting task when dealing with allergies, wounds, tree cuts or rashes (all more than common summer camp experiences), pay a visit to the camp’s ambulance. Ask the doctor on duty about first aid procedures and take the time to educate your kid on injury prevention and first aid.
Lastly, have a talk with the counselors about their approach and experience with kids and parents, see what activities are included in the pricing, and ask about anything else you might have doubts on.
- Help them create a home-like experience
Let’s not kid ourselves – even adults have trouble sleeping for the first few days of visiting a new place. Just imagine the amount of sensory overload adults experience when encountering an unknown situation. Double that and you’ll begin to form a pretty good idea what’s it like for the kids. Add all the excitement and anxiety to the mix, and it will be enough to induce a panic attack, let alone make falling asleep more difficult.
So, what can you do to help them have a home-like experience at summer camp? Pack their favorite t-shirts and pajamas. Pack the blanket they’ve slept with since they were two. If there’s a toy or a stuffed animal your kid adores to pack up too, all the better.
If there are camp-outs included in the activities, suggest to have a camp-out in the backyard a week before going to camp. Your child will be able to get used to sleeping in a sleeping bag that way. On a side note, if they find the sleeping bag you do have just not right for them, you’ll be able to buy them a new one before they set out on the real adventure.
- Get them going on sleepovers
Taking measures to properly prepare your kids for the experience ahead of them will ensure they have a good time, and if that means asking your family friends and relatives to have your child over for a night or two at their place, so be it. You can actually go ahead and ask the parents willing to do that to host a group sleepover. Not only will your child be able to see what it’s like to share a room beforehand, but they will get excited about going too.
Of course, promise to repay the favor with a sleepover hosted at your place.
- Educate your kids about a healthy bedtime routine
Make the necessary efforts to educate and help your kid establish and maintain a healthy bedtime routine. Explain why will having regular sleeping patterns and following the same bunch of activities every night benefit their sleep. Go over the usual things to do before bed and hold them accountable for it. See to it that they shower, brush their teeth. Suggest that they read a page or two of a book or write in their diary as part of their bedtime routine. And if you have a strict no-lights policy in your home, tell them that counting sheep is effective when it comes to falling asleep faster.
Not only will having a clear routine make it easier for your kid to uphold good hygiene, it will help train their brain to see all these activities as a sign it’s time for bed, which will in turn result into melatonin activation, making your child that much sleepier.
- Keep their expectations set in stone
Go over the story of your experience with summer camps as a kid again, whether the stories are real or make-believe. Having them understand and know what to expect out of the experience will go a long way in keeping all their possible worry and anxiety at bay. All of this will help them arrive at camp fully prepared and therefore help them sleep better too.
Be honest with them. Have them understand loud and clear that the first few days of summer camp will probably feel a tad weird, confusing and riddled with questions. Let them know that once the initial shock passes and they successfully make it through that, the rest comes as a breeze. Assure them that it will be an experience to remember for a lot of years to come and that you can’t wait to hear all about it when they come back. Share a few tips and tricks on how to successfully make friends and get to know other people better. Finally, tell them how proud you are about their whole new level of independence.
- Prepare yourself too
Every good summer camp story we know has a “Mom, dad, I am really homesick, can you come and pick me up?” somewhere in there. Since this is well expected, have a plan prepared for when it happens to help your child successfully overcome their fears and return to their camp activities feeling comfortable and carefree.
Set a communication plan that will include how and how often you will talk to each other while they are away. After the plan is devised and set in stone, do everything in your power to stick to it. This might take a few hours out of your romantic getaway, but showing up for your homesick child in need will make them a lot less worried, which can result in a lot less calls down the road. Don’t be surprised if they miss a call or two themselves. They’re out there going on adventures and doing all these new things after all. Another thing you can do is help them create a scrapbook that will remind them of you and your home if they get homesick.
- Go shopping
Since your kid probably already has a list of toys and all the gadgetry a child’s heart desires, it can be a good idea to go shopping. Cross off a few items on their list while you’re at it, but more importantly, buy all the necessities your child might need. Make a shopping list of your own. New sheets and bedding, a sleeping bag, camping mattress, extra pillows, a flashlight, clothes, toiletries – whatever you deem necessary.
Keep a checklist of all the items you’ve bought and packed in their luggage and make a copy of it for your kid to have too. This will go a long way in making sure you don’t forget anything and ensure that they don’t leave anything behind.
That’s it, folks. We hope we gave you insight into how to prepare your kids for summer camp and ensure they stay safe and healthy. Furthermore, not only will you be able to get that ever-elusive getaway you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll be able to relax while basking in the summer sun knowing your child is getting all the care he needs. Most importantly, you’ll be able to sleep well and uninterrupted, knowing your child is getting good quality sleep too.
Laura Garcia is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She holds degrees in writing from Drake University. When she’s not busy writing, Laura likes to spend as much as time as possible with her husband James and three-year-old son Elijah.