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A little preparation can make summer camp anxiety-free

What does the word summer bring to mind? For many people, camp is as ubiquitous a summer term as ice cream, sunshine and swimming. Whether you would like your student to attend summer camp because you work or because you hope she will create positive memories like you did in your youth, the first day of camp can be nerve-wracking for both parent and child. How can you ensure your student will be safe and that she will enjoy herself?

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Although research is the primary method by which families can choose the perfect camp, a pleasant experience also hinges on preparing for the first day and week of the program. Here are three ways to ready your student.

1. Familiarize her with the camp before daily programming begins

The unknown can be frightening for people of all ages. Once you choose a camp for your child, help her learn a little bit about it. If your student is in the late elementary or middle school years, allow her to browse the camp’s website, as well as its social media accounts. Its YouTube page, for example, may have short videos of fun camp activities. Younger children can also benefit from videos, as well as from touring the camp location (if it is accessible).

If your student can envision where she will be spending a portion of her summer, you may find that the transition to her first camp experience goes smoother than it would without advance preparation.

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2. Complete all paperwork prior to the first day of camp

Whether your child will attend a day camp or overnight camp, registering for this summer experience will involve paperwork. In many instances, this paperwork is available on the camp’s website as a downloadable file, which must be returned by the first day of the program. Although it may initially seem convenient to wait — perhaps even to complete any necessary forms when you drop your student off on the first morning — doing so can contribute to a chaotic and rushed parting.

Instead, if you submit all paperwork a week or more in advance, your child’s initial glimpse of camp can be a calm one. This is an especially important strategy if you will also wish to speak to camp counselors about a serious issue, such as allergies.

3. Encourage her to help you pack her backpack and lunch box

If your student is younger, you will likely pack her belongings for her, but consider asking her to assist you. This is a fantastic way to introduce the idea of camp. For instance, if her day camp offers twice-weekly swimming lessons, you can talk about this aspect of the schedule as you select a swimsuit and towel.

In general, campers should have a hat, sunblock and water bottle with them at all times, but your packing list will vary based on your child and the camp she will be attending. If it is permitted, a small toy (such as a favorite stuffed animal) can provide comfort to a nervous student as well.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit

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