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How to Prepare Your Child (and yourself) for Sleepaway Camp

bus.jpg It's time to send your precious child away... to overnight camp. You did the tours, you found the perfect camp for your kid and now it's the final countdown. Before you know it, you will be kissing your child goodbye and putting him or her on a bus or a plane off to have the time of their life! There is so much you have to do to prepare- physically, mentally and emotionally.

By now, the trunks should be mostly packed and ready with all the items neatly labeled with your child's name inside. But just in case you are still working on getting everything together, here are some great tips from Jill Tipograph, the summer camp expert, straight from her book, Your Everything Summer Guide & Planner:

• Stick to the lists that camps provide. If your child has a tendency to lose or damage clothes, you might want to add some extra necessities like socks, underwear, towels and eyeglasses - but DO NOT OVERPACK.
• "Containerize" smaller items. Put similar things together in see-through travel bags, zip-locks or plastic units. Bunk storage can be very limited so consider packing collapsible baskets for bulky items (check with camp policies first).
• Put stationery/stamps/mail in large plastic envelopes or in a clipboard with a storage compartment; you'll want to read letters again or in years to come, as your kids mature.
• Send nothing expensive with your child. Pricey mp3 players, cameras (if you do, you need to remove all video capabilities) or other devices may break or disappear - and many camps do not allow electronics at all. (Especially in Maine, where your child really has a chance to be "unplugged.")

It's not easy to just let your kids go, both figuratively and literally. But parents need to trust their decision that they picked the right camp and feel confident their child will feel right at home. After speaking with a few Maine Summer Camp Directors, they wholeheartedly agree. They are in the business of making children happy! The Maine Camp Experience is a community of premier American Camp Association accredited Maine camps that are dedicated to providing children with the highest quality summer camp experiences. They offer a very safe and nurturing environment where kids will gain independence and self confidence, make lifelong friends, learn new skills and most importantly - have fun! That is what parents need to hold on to as they feel the butterflies in their stomachs; you don't want to pass along that nervousness to your child.

Not only are you busily preparing for the big departure, the camps are very busy as well! As an example, Camp Matoaka in Maine has their 22 department heads come up to camp a month before the campers arrive for extensive training. The rest of the staff then joins them for twelve days of training. They receive CPR, Red Cross certification, water safety, ropes safety, bunk management, etc. They have a parent panel come up to the camp to discuss what they want and don't want for their children. They even have a company called "true to life training" where professional actors come and act out true scenarios with the staff in each age group. But one of the best things they do to get ready is receiving pictures of each of the campers from the parents and they memorize what they look like and their names. So when the new campers get off the bus they are greeted, by name, and welcomed to the camp. All of this goes on at many of the camps in Maine.

There are plenty of things you can do to get your son or daughter emotionally prepared for camp. Some camp directors will even make a visit to all the new camper's homes to get to know them and answer any questions. Other camps have get-togethers in each community so your child will have some familiar faces when they first arrive. A few of the Maine camps I spoke with will set each new child up with a camp sister/brother or buddy that will reach out to them before the start of camp and tell them all about the amazing experience they are about to have!

If your child is still feeling really nervous and unsure, it may be a good idea to have them write a list of all the things they are excited about for the summer and what they are looking forward to the most. They can also make a list of things they are scared about and they will see how many more things are on the positive list! That should make the parent feel better too.

Richard Deering from Camp Birch Rock in Maine said it perfectly. The best thing the parents can do is let their kids "clip on their wings and fly."
To find out more about Maine Summer Camps and to enter to win an unforgettable family vacation at Migis Hotels (the quintessential Maine hotel properties) - and how to save money on this summer's stay - visit the Maine Camp Experience website today.

Posted in: Blog on 06/19/2011

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