Where Do I Start? The First-Time Overnight Summer Camper: A Physical and Emotional Guide

Published on: January 13, 2021

Sending your child on his or her first overnight camp experience can be an emotional roller-coaster. While deep down you know your child will have the time of his or her life, anxiety can be felt on both sides. For your child, this could be the first time away from the comforts of Mom and Dad. For the parent, this could be your first lesson in letting go. Still, a little preparation — both physically and emotionally — can go a long way in ensuring your child has a positive experience.

Include your child in the process months before camp even starts. Review the camp online together and familiarize yourselves with images and content so your child knows what to expect. This can help alleviate any anxiety your child may be feeling about being in a new place. Once the registration is complete, don’t close the website down and forget about it. Keep talking about the camp and all the fun activities he or she will be experiencing while at summer camp! This will only get your child more excited and emotionally prepared for what’s to come! 

If your child has not experienced a sleepover at a friend’s or relative’s house, a few practice runs can give them the confidence they need to attend an overnight summer camp. Start with family and set up a Saturday night sleepover at Grandma’s or at Auntie’s and gradually work your way up to a sleepover at their bestie’s. You can start by hosting at your house and then take turns. The more your child experiences nights away from home, the better prepared they’ll be for overnight summer camp.

If your child has a friend or acquaintance going to the same camp, you can also request to have them as cabin mates at Muskoka Woods. The camp guarantees one cabin mate request as long as the request has been reciprocated, both guests are registered in the same week and same age group (based on age as of December 31st), and requests are made at least two weeks prior to arrival. Having a friendly face in the same cabin can bring comfort to your child who may be experiencing their first time away from home.

While years ago, parents would write letters and mail them to their children at camp, now parents can send one-way emails to their children at Muskoka Woods! Staff print out the emails and distribute them to your child daily, giving them a dose of familiarity and home. Letting your child know that you will still be in contact with them via these emails during their stay at camp will be something they can look forward to.

When it comes to physically getting ready for camp, take your child shopping with you for all their summer camp gear. This way, they can pick out their favourite items and get excited for the days to come! Moreover, when it comes time to pack, let them pack their own bag or at least help and see you doing it. This way, they will know where everything is in their suitcase and it can also reassure them that they will have everything they will need on-hand if they see it actually being packed in their bag.

In addition, be sure to toss in a familiar stuffy or picture from home that they can have with them at camp. Those first few nights can bring on some serious homesickness and having something from home to squeeze or look at can bring comfort to your child during those first few nights away.

These few simple steps can prepare your child both emotionally and physically to embark on their new adventure at summer camp confidently and enthusiastically while giving you peace of mind that your child will be just fine.

About the Author

Rachel Naud lives in Toronto with her husband, 16-year-old son and Old English Sheepdog, Stanley. When she's not busy with the three boys in her life, she is also the founder and editor of INBETWEEN magazine, a digital magazine geared to parents of teens. Rachel can often be seen on morning shows across the country, talking about trends and products relevant to that demographic. She has appeared on The Morning Show, Breakfast TV, CTV Winnipeg, CTV Ottawa and more. In addition, Rachel is also the coordinator of the Lifestyle Media program at Centennial College in Toronto, where she also teaches students a variety of subjects in Lifestyle Media. To unwind, Rachel loves to cook while mostly blasting The Chicks.

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