In my last post, “To Camp or Not To Camp: Day Camp, Overnight Camp, or No Camp?” I discussed some pretty big questions about deciding if your child is ready for summer camp and how you decide between different types of camps. Today I’m going to address some general questions — Summer Camp FAQ style.
Summer Camp FAQ #1: How do I find out about camps in my area?
Many local newspapers will begin listing camps in the spring, but you can begin gathering information now by searching the internet for general or specific camps. Some areas have ‘Camp Fairs’ so parents and children can meet some staff members and ask questions. Also, talk to friends, teachers, clergy, and community mentors, and let other extracurricular instructors know you are interested in finding a camp for your child.
Summer Camp FAQ #2: When is the right time to sign up?
Many camps have already registered those who are returning from last year, so winter is not too soon! Popular camps fill up quickly, so be ready with your choices.
Summer Camp FAQ #3: My child is on medication that needs to be given at camp – what do I do?
If you are considering a day camp, check with the camp director about who will give the medication. Overnight camps usually have a full time nurse, doctor, or Physician’s Assistant who will dispense medication as directed. ALWAYS BRING MEDICATION IN THE ORIGINAL CONTAINER. The health care provider will want to check the label for dose and timing. Please provide enough medication for the full time at camp and a few extra. ‘Rescue’ inhalers are very important, especially at sports camps. The camp will have guidelines about whether your child may carry the inhaler with them or leave it at the infirmary, so check with the Director. Many camp infirmaries will have stock supplies of common over the counter medications such as Motrin (ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen), as well as other OTC medications. If you want your child to use your own supply, please bring the original container. And always let the camp know about food or medication allergies.
Summer Camp FAQ #4: My child has occasional problems with wetting the bed.
Nighttime bedwetting (enuresis) can be an embarrassing situation for your child but should not interfere with the fun of camp. At home, you and your child should be making efforts to minimize the bedwetting incidents. This includes restricting fluids (including water, milk, juice, soda – anything that is a liquid at room temperature) after dinner, limiting fluids at dinner to 4 ounces total, and urinating right before going to bed. There are also bedwetting alarms that might be helpful in teaching the child to awaken when the urge to urinate happens, but this should be started well before camp in order to establish the behavior. At camp, you might consider sending some type of wetness barrier such as sleeping bag liners, overlays, or disposable pants. Before camp, ask the director how the staff handles bedwetting. This will help you in your planning for camp and if you should send extra bedding or extra sleeping bag. On your camper’s registration form, be sure to include the bedwetting history and anything you have been doing to minimize occurrences. Especially if this is an older child, talk to your pediatrician before camp to see if your child might benefit from medication for bedwetting.
Summer Camp FAQ #5: My child takes medication for ADD/ADHD – should I stop it during the summer, and what about camp?
This is a very individual question that can only be answered by you and your health care provider. Some children do best with year round administration of their medication. Others choose to take a ‘break’ from the medication, as it is most useful for school. Whatever your choice, be sure to let the camp staff know on the registration form. Medications are administered at camp under the supervision of health care providers.
Summer Camp FAQ #6: What happens if my child gets homesick?
Camp counselors and staff are trained to take care of your child. Homesickness is common, and is best treated with activity and diversion. Sometimes homesickness is a ‘growing’ part of being away from home, and talking to parents would not help in most cases. Also, preparing your child for this independent adventure will help to curb homesickness. Some camps do not allow campers to talk with parents, so do not promise a phone call unless you know the camp approves of this. You might send a written letter to your child a few days before camp so that it will arrive soon after camp starts. Be sure to keep your tone positive and encouraging. Do not tell them how much you miss them, rather write about how you are spending your time and how excited you are to hear about their camp adventures. The camp will let you know if they accept emails for the campers, but written letters are always welcome!
Summer Camp FAQ #7: What happens if my child gets ill or injured at camp?
All camps have guidelines for treating sick or injured campers. Parents are notified in the event of illness or injury, but most of the time the camp health staff will care for your child. The infirmary staff is familiar with making sure campers receive appropriate medical treatment. This is also a good time to mention that camps will either provide health insurance for all campers through a camp policy as part of registration, or they will need health insurance information from the parents.
Summer Camp FAQ #8: What should I do if my child becomes ill BEFORE camp?
Parents should check with the child’s doctor about the illness. If it is a communicable disease, the camp should also be notified, as certain illnesses could pose a threat to other children and camp staff. In the event that the illness would prevent your child from attending camp, most camps will try to work with the parents to find an alternate camp date for your child, if possible.
Summer Camp FAQ #9: Does my child need a physical before camp?
Every camp has its own guidelines for whether or not a physical is required before camp, so check the registration form. Camps also need to know about any medications (prescription or over the counter) that your child takes and why your child takes it, as well as a health and vaccination history. If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s physical, mental, or emotional ability to attend camp, your health care provider can help you with that decision. If you need to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician, don’t wait until right before camp. And same for camp health forms that may need to be filled out by your health care provider – give them minimum 2 weeks for this.
Summer Camp FAQ #10: My child is a picky eater or My child has specific dietary restrictions – what do I do?
Camps are used to dietary restrictions such as gluten free and dairy free, so just let the camp know both on the registration form and when you drop off your child. If your child has a severe nut (or other) allergy, definitely let the camp know ahead of time and at time of drop off. If your child carries an Epi-Pen as an emergency treatment for severe allergic reaction let the camp health care providers know. If your child is a picky eater at home, sometimes camp is a new experience that provides a time to explore other foods they might not eat at home. Some camps have a ‘snack bar’ for campers to purchase snacks and drinks, but other camps do not allow snacking between meals. Camps work hard to provide a variety of nutritious foods for all campers.
Summer Camp FAQ #10: How should I pack for my child’s overnight camp?
Most camps will provide a camper checklist for packing purposes. This is based on their experience, so follow it carefully. In general, outdoor activity and sports camps are hard on clothes, so there is no need to send new things. And label EVERYTHING with the child’s name. The camp will also let you know if they provide laundry service, sometimes at an added charge. Some camps do not allow campers to have any electronics (including phones) and only send appropriate reading materials.
Summer Camp FAQ #11: What about the cost of camp?
Camps vary greatly in terms of their cost. Specialty and equestrian camps tend to cost more, and religious/church camps are usually more affordable. When evaluating the cost of camp, it is also important to know if the registration fee is inclusive of everything or if there are additional activity fees. Some camps charge more for wilderness trips, laundry, or other special services or equipment/supplies so be sure to ask. Many camps have scholarship help for families who qualify. Some camps will even allow you to come as a volunteer and reduce your child’s registration fee in return.
Summer Camp FAQ #12: How do I know this is the right camp for my child??
You probably won’t know for sure, at least before camp. But do your research, ask questions, and be informed. What is the camper to counselor ratio? Where do the counselors come from and how are they chosen/hired? What kind of training do the counselors receive? What are the camper discipline policies? What are the security and safety policies? Is the camp ACA (American Camp Association) accredited? How much time is really spent in the activities? Do campers have ‘free time’ or is it all structured? What is bedtime? These are all questions that a camp director should be happy to address with you.
Summer Camp FAQ #13: How do I adjust to my child at camp??
Sometimes camp is hardest for the parents! This is a time for your child to grow in independence, group interaction, and self-reliance. Camp is so much more than learning to paddle a canoe or shoot an arrow. Upon their return from camp, you will be amazed how self assured and confident your child is, and how incredibly dirty their socks can get.
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