Q: My 11-year-old has been repeatedly asking us if she can do an overnight camp this year (she never has). I think we’re ready, but how can I make sure if she goes, she’ll be OK? I’m concerned about her food allergies — and homesickness.
Overnight summer camps can be a fun and memorable experience for kids with the right planning. I don’t have kids this age yet, so I asked some colleagues who have been through it and both of them replied quickly, “Don’t forget sunscreen!” Major points to cover include food allergies, medications, expectations and anticipating homesickness. Thoughtful preparation ensures both kids and parents will have a relaxing time and get the most out of this adventure.
The first thing to do is make sure you notify the camp of any food allergies or medications your child is taking and make sure your child knows this as well! Most camps now have allergy action plans or medication forms for parents to complete, but it is also crucial that your child is aware and can advocate for themselves. Pack sunscreen and remind your child to apply it early and often.
The second most important thing is to set expectations. Review with your child activities the camp offers, make sure you are signing your child up for something he or she is interested in, review what the food offerings will be, and basic rules like are phones allowed, how to contact you (email, letter writing or calling), is there a swim test, is outside food allowed, etc. Knowing what to expect can eliminate a lot of anxiety and help you and your child feel more prepared. Also pack sunscreen.
Lastly, get excited and have fun! This is a great opportunity for growth and independence for your preteen. Reassure your child that homesickness can be a normal part of the process and something that can be worked through leaving your child feeling even stronger and more capable when they succeed.
Once you’re all packed, sit back, relax — and don’t forget that sunscreen!
And check out PDX Parent‘s Ultimate Portland Summer Camps Cheat Sheet for fun summer camp options!