As we get closer to our camp season it’s important to follow these suggestions as you begin to make a decision about coming to camp and preparing for a summer of fun and learning.  If you’re coming for the first time or maybe back to camp these tips will help you and your child to enhance their experience.  

1. Involve your child in making the decision as to going to camp where he or she might choose to go.  Ultimately you will make that decision based on the research that you all do together but most of the time they are attracted to the same camp you as a parent have chosen.  That might include a shopping trip to get that new sleeping bag or swim trunks or a good book to take with them.

2.  Find a camp that matches your families values whether it be religious values, competitiveness, program offerings or any number of choices that are out there.  Never hesitate to call and speak to us to discuss the camp’s values and philosophy and tell us about your son or daughter.   I feel there is a camp for every child, so find the best one for your camper.  

3.  Spend practice time away from home with friends or relatives.  Children who are able to be away from parents are more likely to have success in a camp environment.  Several sleepover nights without contact from you will help them cope in new surroundings.  If your child is interested but hesitant, sometimes it is helpful to see if any of their friends are also attending which will provide more security at first.  If possible, a visit or tour of the camp will help familiarize your child with the site, dining room, and cabins which will provide more security on the first day.  Gwynn Valley hosts tours year round, so contact us about a tour with your family.  
4.  Utilize a calendar and give the child a chance to mentally prepare for camp.  They should know the dates and discuss with you how long before camp starts.  It’s also good to have them experience the time they will be away from home on that same calendar.  If they are going away for a two week session, mark a two week period on the calendar to give them a feel just how long that two weeks really is.  It’s not camp but it does help them understand the time frame and how long a session lasts.  

5.  It is OK to talk about homesickness with children.  Over 80% of children experience homesickness and talking about it before the camp season is one of the best ways to cope with it, should it crop up at camp.  There are things they will miss from home but on the flip side those are the things that they love about home.  Camp cannot replace those things that they may miss but we can offer them a myriad of activities and times they will love as well.  If they do become homesick you’ve talked with them about some things they can focus on to help them get through those sad times and ways to look forward to all the great things that camp has to offer.  Remember they will have their camp parents (counselors) to talk to while there and make sure they know they can talk about it with someone at camp.  

6.  Complete the health form honestly.  Make sure the camp knows medical information about your child that will help them with a successful experience at camp.  Medications, allergies, bedwetting issues, and any other special information about your child will help the directors and staff  to best support your child while at camp.  If your child takes helpful medications for any condition consult your physician and the camp before taking a holiday from those meds.  It may affect their experience and socialization with fellow campers and staff.  Other information that you feel is important and is not a part of health form questionnaire should be attached to the form or to the camper’s application so the directors and leadership staff can become aware of this information.  

7.  Label everything your child brings to camp.  Lost and found confounds camp directors and we spend a lot of time getting children’s clothing and camp possessions back to them.  Labeled clothing, towels, flashlights and essentially everything makes lost and lost become lost and found.  

8.  Contact with your child is important even in short sessions.  Gwynn Valley allows parents to drop postcards and letters off on opening day so the child will have some mail as they begin their session.  We also accept emails and faxes from home and relatives and in longer sessions your letters are welcomed news from home.  It’s fun to send pictures, cartoons, jokes and clippings from their favorite sports page.  Always say that you know they are having the time of their lives and don’t start your correspondence with “We miss you so much”.  Also, have them correspond with you.  Some parents use a simple fill in the blank format for younger campers:  
The best part of my day today was  ________________.  My favorite meal so far at camp has been __________________.  You get the idea.  For younger and older campers you should supply stamped self addressed envelopes to help them get that note in the mail.  Remember there is so much to do at camp and so little time to write home. If you don’t get letters they are having the time of their life.     

9.  Never promise your child that you will pick them up if they are homesick.  Homesickness is normal and remember you want to set your child up for success.  Reassure them that you will be there on closing day and can’t wait to see and hear all about camp. If you are concerned about homesickness, discuss it with us and see how we handle those situations.  

10.  Know that you’re child is having a wonderful experience at camp and that Gwynn Valley is helping your child to reclaim and foster the beauty, wonder, and innocence of childhood is a beautiful and nurturing environment.  Our world is free of technology and we get back to the simple joys of being a child.  You’ll also be able to view pictures taken each day at camp and I will be writing a daily blog to give you insight into each and every day.