Last summer our oldest son went to sleep-away camp for the first time. (Is “sleep-away camp” not a common term anymore? This week someone looked at me like- what does that mean? We always called it sleep-away camp when I was a kid.) ANYWAY…. He was transitioning into Middle School and it seemed like the perfect time to help him spread his wings and gain independence and confidence.
With the state of the world today, we didn’t take this process lightly. I don’t consider myself an overprotective parent, but we use caution with what we expose our children to and who they spend time with. I did research online and got recommendations from others. Once we had settled on a spot, we did our best to check out the camp. In this case, we were actually able to visit this the summer before we planned on sending him. We (my husband and I) received a tour. Spoke to a camp director. Asked specific questions about where the counselors were from, how they were screened, what kind of supervision everyone had, etc. We left impressed and excited for his future experience.
I will jump in here and let you know that we were specifically looking for a faith-based camp that aligned with our Christian beliefs. Secondly, we wanted it to be “traditional” in experience- outdoor activities, canoeing, camp fires, average food, bunk beds. (In other words- if mom’s not going to Club Med, kid’s not either.) The camp we choose was Miracle Camp in Lawton, MI.
So in June of 2015, we dropped our son off for a week of camp.
He had a BLAST and begged us to let him go back. (I have to say, that I was truly jealous of his experience. Just dropping him off was so much fun for our family we hardly wanted to leave after the drop off time.)
My fears of homesickness, illness (he has a serious tree nut allergy), being alone (he didn’t know anyone there), or learning something awful (who knows what other kids would teach him) all fell flat. He said he “hardly missed you at all mom”. He was fine- they were attentive to his food needs. He made new friends and wasn’t the only kid who didn’t show up with a buddy. And best of all – he learned amazing NEW things, and nothing scary that I am aware of at least.
Overall it was a great experience for our son. He grew in his relationship with God. He grew in maturity and independence. And he conquered new experiences on his own!
He’s going back this year and can hardly wait.
Thinking of sending your child to camp? Some things to consider/ask before you choose the best camp for you:
- Can you afford it? Overnight/sleep-away camp can be very expensive. Search for something that is do-able for your family and doesn’t leave the rest of you eating beans while your darling is having all the fun.
- Who is in charge? If you can, talk to the camp director. Ask questions about the counselors. Where are they from? How are they recruited, screened and trained?
- What’s a day like at the camp? Find out how much structure there is. A little down time is normal, but a regular schedule full of planned activities should be what you find. If your child is not prone to making their own fun, they will not enjoy a camp with little structure.
- Swimming- what safety measures do they have in place and what requirements does your child need to meet? We added some extra swimming lessons to help ensure our son could pass the deep swim test and get the most out of the water fun.
- Can you communicate with your child while at camp? This isn’t so much important as to choosing a camp, but is something you will want to know. Many camps allow mail to the camper. Some allow e-mail as well. Ours allows e-mail from the parents but not from the camper. They also post images daily on their website so you can keep up with all the fun.
What to Pack:
Don’t forget to label everything! Sharpie marker works great. I also use the Dymo label maker with iron-on label tape for towels, sheets, etc.
All campers LOVE getting some mail during their time away. (My guy is already asking if we are going to send him special mail.) TIP: Send your mail a few days before you drop your child off at camp so it arrives during the beginning of their stay and they have time to enjoy it.
And just a reminder, for the sibling(s) that get left behind this summer- do something special and enjoy the individual time you get with him/her. For us those moments seem to be so few and long between.
I would love to hear if your son or daughter goes to summer camp and your best tips for making it work for your whole family.