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How to Prepare Your Child for Summer Camp


The start of summer means the end of school and for many kids, the start of the age old tradition of summer camp. 

For many children, this also can mean fear and anxiety about the unknown, especially if it is their first time away from home.   Fortunately, parents aren't helpless when it comes to dealing with these fears and preparing kids for their first time at camp.

Talk about what is going to happen at camp:
Often anxiety comes from a fear of the unknown.  What is going to happen?  Where will I stay? What will I eat? What will we do?  These are all common questions running through the minds of kids.

Role playing is a great way to act out some possible situations at camp.  American Girl makes an entire line of summer camp sets and accessories which can help your child feel more familiar and prepared for summer camp.  Allowing your child to express their fears through their dolls (and yes, despite the name "American Girl" they actually do make male dolls as well.) 

Is your child worried about what they will eat at camp? The American Girl campfire set features some common camp treats like hot dogs, popcorn and sm'ores and is a great jumping off point for talking about camp cuisine.

 

Are they nervous about where will they sleep?  The American Girl camp hangout allows kids to tuck their dolls into bed and gives you an opportunity to discuss what the sleeping conditions will be like at camp.

Do they want to know what they will be doing at camp? 
Depending on the type of camp you have chosen, there is probably a playset that can help.  From archery, s'mores and horseback riding, to swimming, music and games like frisbee, cornhole or jump rope, American Girl covers them all.  They even feature a Mars Habitat that would be the perfect prep for space camp.  No matter what the focus of your chosen camp will be, talking about some likely fun activities, can ease a child's mind. 


Recruit your child to help prepare.
Letting your child help pack can often ease the nervousness. Most camps send packing checklists,  so make sure to share it with your child.  You want to show them that they have everything they will need (as well as what they won't need.) This will make them feel more confident and prepared.


Talk about and follow the rules: 
Remind your child that they rules at camp will most likely be slightly different from those at home, or even school.  Encourage them to  and set a good example yourself.   For example, packing items that are not allowed at camp (snacks, electronics etc) just set your child up for disappointment and embarrassment if they are found (and potentially taken away) at camp.   Instead of focus on all the new things they will be allowed to do at camp (archery, horseback riding, high ropes course) that they would never be allowed to do at home, and remind them that the rules are there to keep them safe and make sure they have a great time on their summer adventure.

Don't talk about what your child will be missing:
As hard as it sounds, telling your child that you will miss them is not encouraging.  Instead of focusing on them missing out on their life back home, focus on how excited your are for them and their experience at camp.

Set realistic expectations:
Unlike school, where you child comes home at the end of the day, camp life is a 24 hour commitment.  There are going to be amazing adventures, but there also may be some boring or even unpleasant times as well.   It is important to emphasize the good parts of camp, but don't leave out the fact that it is okay to not be excited about    Many kids will experience home sickness or sometimes feel lonely or isolated.  Letting your child know that this is totally normal will help prepare them if those feelings ever do bubble up.

Summer camp can be a life changing rite of passage for many children, and setting them up for a happy and positive experience.

This post was written on behalf of American Girl. 

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