1. Bring one bottle of water that has been cooled in the refrigerator and a second one that has been in the freezer. As the day wears on, the frozen water will melt and provide cool refreshment for your child. Spray bottles are a great idea too. They keep the face and body cool in the hot sun.
2. Apply sunscreen to your child’s skin before he leaves home and send the tube along for later reapplication. Avoid sending tanning lotion with little or no SPF, or sunscreen that contains glitter as it can reflect light and cause sunburn. Consider sending along a hat for extra protection.
3. If your child is going to be out in a natural environment, he should wear insect repellent. Look for a lotion form that is safe for children; avoid sprays. When camp is over, follow up with a tick check.
4. One thing camp directors always see is children coming with the wrong dress. Some kids want to pick out their own clothes, but if they have chosen black jeans and a dark t-shirt, it may not be the best option. Dress your child for comfort, safety and appropriate temperatures. Proper shoes are important too, particularly if he is playing outside. Avoid strappy sandals and flip flops; opt for tennis shoes.
5. Any item brought to camp should have your child’s name, address and phone number on it in case it gets left behind. It also avoids confusion if identical items are brought by two children.
6. Do not bring valuable items such as handheld games or cell phones. Day camp programs are designed to provide an enriching experience, and your child should be engaging in these activities rather than playing with electronics. If these items are brought, they may be confiscated and returned at the end of the day in hopes that your child gets the message.
7. All camps have forms for parents to list medications their child is on. But if you take your child off a medication for the summer, the camp needs to know that, too, as it could cause an extreme change in behavior. Allergies are another issue to make counselors aware of, be it insect or food related. Equally important is to share other concerns with camp staff, such as if your family is going through a divorce or has experienced a recent death, as this might affect how your child interacts throughout the day. Camps look out for the physical and emotional needs of a child, so the more information you provide, the better equipped they will be.
8. Having an emergency contact person is vital. Even more important is that the designated person knows you have written her name down. Every year camps have situations where they call the emergency contact person and she was not informed she was designated as such. Before listing a person’s name on the form, let her know first.
9. Read the materials the camp gives you—policies, procedures and planned activities. If you know what to expect and what is expected of you, things will run much smoother. Most camps have a weekly schedule so parents know about upcoming activities. Talk with your child about the activities planned. If she cannot participate because of health reasons, make sure you (not your child!) inform the camp.
10. Find out if there is an open house where you can meet the staff and see the facility prior to camp. If not, make other arrangements to introduce yourself to those who will be caring for your child. It is important for the camp directors and counselors to know you so they can keep you informed on how things are going for your child at camp.
Finally, encourage your child to enjoy the experience. Mark the first day of camp on the family calendar and do a countdown. Help your child develop a checklist of items needed. And don’t forget to share your own camp stories. Remind your child to do his best, obey the rules, be respectful of others and have a great time!
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.