Parents often have many questions about camp:
- Why camp?
- What to pack?
- How to handle and prepare for homesickness?
- What will campers experience and learn?
One of the best camp resources for parents that I know of is ACA's special website just for parents - www.campparents.org This site has a wealth of information to answer all the questions above, and more. Let's take a closer look at some of the good tips that can be found there.
In Virginia, we have a long history of 4-H camp. Across the state, there are six 4-H centers that host tens of thousands of campers every summer. Virginia 4-H has clarified eight specific goals of the camping program, or eight reasons why youth should attend camp:
- Providing youth with the opportunity to have fun in a safe, supportive environment.
- Helping youth develop positive relationships with caring teens and adults.
- Teaching social skills, and providing youth an opportunity to learn and practice those social skills.
- To provide nature-based experiences and foster an appreciation for nature and the outdoors.
- Providing opportunities for youth to develop self-responsibility and to practice good decision-making skills.
- Creating learning opportunties that encourage self-discovery and the development of personal interests and talents.
- Helping youth to learn and practice good citizenship.
- Exposing youth to 4-H and encouraging their extended participation in 4-H programs.
Many studies show that outdoor activities and residential summer programs have an important place in childhood development. As anyone who has ever been to camp can tell you, it's a unique learning experience that creates lifetime memories.
What to pack?
Packing for camp can seem tricky. How many changes of clothes will campers need? What kind of equipment? What if they lose their stuff? ACA's camp parents website suggests a few strategies to make packing easier and more organizied. First, be sure to label everything. Campers will almost certainly lose things while they're at camp, and a bunk full of shorts, towels and t-shirts is not an organized place. Second, plan your packing list from the top down. Start with headgear - hats, sunglasses, swimming goggles, etc. Work your way down - shirts, then shorts and pants, and finally shoes. Speaking of shoes, another good suggestion is to break in new shoes or boots before coming to camp. A nice shiny new pair of boots may look great, but blisters will ruin your day fast!
Fishing poles, tennis rackets and other special equipment are tempting to pack...but make sure your camper will need them before you put them on your list. Flashlights are nice too, but be sure to bring a cheap plastic one that you don't mind losing or breaking accidentally. Expensive gear gets lost just as easily, and is harder to replace. Please make sure to leave your gadgets at home...there's no need for an iPod, cell phone or video games at camp. In fact, they may keep kids from enjoying everything that camp has to offer! And remember, lost or stolen things are your responsibility.
How to handle and prepare for homesickness?
Homesickness happens, it's a fact of life at camp. Not every camper will experience it, but nobody is immune to it. The antidote to homesickenss starts at home, before you even hit the road. ACA suggests that, throughout the year, parents encourage separations like sleepovers to encourage indpendence. Involving children in the process of selecting a camp and preparing for departure can help as well. Be sure to emphasize all the positive aspects of the upcoming adventure. Avoid things that can encourage homesickness, like assuring children that they can call any time they want. In fact, knowing they can call is likely to cause homesickness. Phone calls home usually only exacerbate homesick issues, and children who call home are much more likely to leave before the end of camp.
Homesickness usually passes quickly, in a day or less. Rest assured, camp counselors and staff will do everything they can to make sure your camper stays and has a great time.
What will campers experience and learn?
Camp is all about new experiences, learning to string a bow or paddle a canoe, how to build a fire or select a campsite. What an individual camper experiences may vary widely, but there are some things that are universal to the camp experience:
- Making new friends
- Learning new skills
- Singing songs
- Lauging at crazy campfire skits
- Family-style dining
- Saying the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H Pledge every morning
- Having a favorite counselor
- So much more!
For more great information on how to plan for camp, be sure to check out www.campparents.org