There are so many benefits of summer camp that your child can gain if they attend. Whether it is day camp or sleepaway, sports, academics, sewing, cooking, or something else, summer camp provides children with the opportunity to be independent, explore their interests, and make new friends. 

However, it is important to adequately prepare your child for camp. This is especially true if they are attending a sleepaway camp, but it is still equally important for day camp. Getting ready for summer camp takes time, so get ahead of it so that your child has the best time this summer! Our guide will give you helpful tips and summer camp checklists so that you know your child will have fun and feel comfortable at camp.

How to find a good summer camp

Did you know that you can book your child for summer camp as early as January? Most camps open up enrollment in the winter and many parents take advantage of these early bookings.

But, how do you know which is the right camp for your child? Luckily for you, Sawyer makes summer planning simple! You can research camps, read reviews, and book directly on Sawyer. When you search for summer camps on Sawyer and elsewhere, you might be overwhelmed by the number of results. Choosing the perfect summer camp for your child is the first step towards preparing them for a great summer. Here are our best tips on how to find a good summer camp for your child.

Talk with your child

Your first step towards finding the right summer camp for your child is to speak with them. What are they interested in doing this summer? Do they want to learn something new or advance their skills in a subject like STEM, art, music, or cooking? Or, are they interested in lots of different topics? Maybe they want to play sports or spend the entire time outdoors. This knowledge will help you narrow down your options so you can find a good summer camp for your child.

Curious about the benefits of a STEM or STEAM camp or kids art camps? Check out our guides!

Try to create a balance

Remember: summer break should feel like a break for your child. When looking at camps, check the dates and make sure there is some time between school and camp at the beginning and end of the summer, so they can unwind and relax. This is especially important if your child is attending an academic camp. Children experience burnout just like adults do, so make sure that they get some time off during summer break. For more information on how to balance your child’s schedule while they’re on break, check out our guide. 

Read reviews

Not sure how to find a good summer camp? Read what others have to say about the camps! On Sawyer, you can read reviews from parents and children who have attended the camps and other activities offered by the educator. These reviews are often the best way to get an honest opinion on the camp and make sure that it is the right place for your child.

Include a friend

If this is going to be your child’s first experience with camp, you might want to include one of their friends in the planning. Speak with the parents of a few of your child’s friends to see what they are doing for the summer. New camps and activities can be a lot less scary if your child has a buddy. However, you still want your child to make new friends and practice independence, so we’d recommend against inviting all of their friends to the same camp. If you are looking for support on how to help your child make friends at summer camp, check out our guide.

Decide on the right type of camp

Sleepaway, day, or virtual camp: which is the right summer camp type for your child? Or, maybe it’s a mix of the three! Making this decision starts by understanding your child. Are they independent and ready for some time on their own? Try a sleepaway camp! Are they just starting to feel comfortable being away from you for school? Consider a day camp! Are you worried about summer camp and COVID-19? Check out one of the many virtual camp options!

Photo of how to find a good summer camp

Getting ready for summer camp

Once you have found the right summer camp (or camps, because you can mix and match), you need to start thinking about preparing your child. Camp is different from school, even if they are attending day camp or virtual camp, because there is less structure and oversight and more independence. Here are some tips as your child starts getting ready for summer camp so they can have the best summer ever.

Be transparent

Children thrive when they know what to expect. One of the best ways to prepare your child for summer camp is to give them as much information as possible. Ask your contact at the camp for a sample of the daily or weekly schedule, meals that will be served, and field trips. Let them know what you will be packing for them and how they can contact you, if needed.

Do a trial run

If your child is going to sleepaway camp for the first time, it is likely the first time they will be away from you for such an extended period of time. Likewise, attending a day camp that lasts 8 hours might be the first time your young child is away from you for that long. Before you throw them into the deep end, do a test. Drop your little one off at a full day activity or even with a relative for the full day. To prepare for sleepaway camp, have your child spend the night at a friend’s or relative’s house. Review our guide for research-backed tips on how to prepare your child for their first sleepover.

Set them up for success

When you pack your child up for camp, include some items that will help them make friends. For example, you can send them with coloring books and enough markers to share, nail polish, jacks, playing cards, and a Polaroid camera. These group activities are great for connecting the children at the beginning of camp and making fast friends.

Prepare for the possibility of homesickness

If your child is going away for camp, they might experience homesickness. It is a completely normal feeling and most children feel it at some point. Part of getting ready for summer camp is helping your child understand what to do if they feel homesick. They should speak with their counselors who are there to help them with exactly this (and much more, of course). On your end, try not to engage with your homesick child because it will only make them miss you more. 

Photo of getting ready for summer camp

Summer camp checklist

Most camps provide you with a summer camp checklist so you know what to pack and what to leave behind for your child. Whether it’s day camp or sleepaway camp, packing the right items for your child is important to ensuring they are comfortable and ready to take on the day. Always follow the list provided by your camp, but here are some important summer camp checklist tips.

  1. Send extras. If your child is going away to camp, you should send them with a reusable water bottle. But, things happen and children are children, so it might get lost. Add a backup water bottle to their bag, just in case. Likewise, with socks, underwear, and other small clothing items, it might be best to include a few extra.
  2. Label everything. This is a helpful tip for both day camp and sleepaway camp. Every parent received the same packing list, so you need to make sure you label everything you send with your child. Write their initials or last name on clothing tags, the tongue of sneakers, sunscreen bottles, and everything else you pack. 
  3. Pack layers. Early mornings and evenings can get chilly in the summer. Make sure your child has a sweatshirt and sweatpants that they can slip over their regular camp clothes.
  4. Include ziplocks and plastic bags. These bags can be useful if your child has wet or dirty clothes that they want to bring home. 
  5. If your child takes medication, speak with the camp. In general, camps will not let a child keep their own medication. If it is emergency medication like an inhaler or epi-pen, then it will usually be kept with a staff member who is always with the children. If it is a daily medication like allergy pills, it will likely be kept with the nurses. The best recommendation is to speak with the camp in advance so you know how and where to pack their medication so it is safe for your child and the other children.
Photo of summer camp checklist

With the above tips and guidance, you and your child should feel confident when getting ready for summer camp in 2023. If you are looking for great in-person and virtual camps and activities this summer and during the school year, check out what our educators are offering on Sawyer. Summer 2023 is going to be the best one yet!

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