Hey, Camp Parents!
The camp season is upon us and Opening Day is a BIG day for campers, parents, and staff alike. This post is the first of three throughout July that will focus on the important parts of navigating opening day, visiting day, and closing day at camp. Summer camp experts Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski break down the six most important elements of a successful Opening Day in their comprehensive guidebook, ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’:
Make a Travel Plan
You’ll want to add an additional hour or two to your travel time when headed to camp. You might need to stop along the way for a toothbrush, pillow, or any other items that you suddenly realize were left at home. Plan a relaxed trip. Stop for lunch if camp opens in the afternoon. If camp registration starts in the morning and you live far from camp, it might be wisest to make the trip the day before and spend the night nearby. A positive attitude is key on this trip as it sets the tone for your kid’s entire camp experience!
Registration is a way for the camp to ensure that everyone who is scheduled to arrive has made it to camp. Punctuality is important for camp registration; early arrivals inevitably interfere with the last-minute touches the staff is making. Be ready to meet directors, check in, get assigned a cabin, see the medical staff if you need to, unpack your kid’s gear, and meet the staff. If you won’t be able to be with your kid at registration, you’ll need to complete some basic pieces of Opening Day by phone or mail.
Meet Your Child’s Leader
There are likely to be more than just one cabin leader who will be working closely with your kid this summer, but you’ll want to be sure to meet at least one of them. Open up to them about any physical, behavioral, emotional, and medical issues they should know about with your kid. It’s smart to ask the cabin leader questions about themselves too to give yourself a better idea of whose hands you’re leaving your child in. Ask questions about their own experience at camp, where they go to school, where they live. It’ll make you feel better.
Address Medical, Behavioral, and Emotional Concerns
Be sure to talk with the camp director and a representative of the medical staff about any concerns you have—especially medical conditions such as asthma, allergies, recent injuries, illnesses, physical disabilities, or any others. The decision about whether to share information is up to you, of course. However, it is hardly ever beneficial to leave the camp in the dark about significant issues. Had staff been informed about a problem or concern, they could have helped out right away instead of guessing at what a problem is.
Allocate Spending Money
Most camps do not allow campers to keep cash with them. Therefore, the camp may ask you to allocate spending money for your child to purchase items at the camp store, buy projects at the arts and crafts shop, pay for out-of-camp trips, and so on. Some camps include spending money in the registration fees; others ask you to make a deposit when you register. If the camp does not publish a suggested amount in their information packet, ask the director how much spending money is adequate. You’ll get back whatever is leftover at the end of the session.
It’s smart to ask your camper ahead of time how long they want to hang out together at camp before parents head home. Some kids want their parents to stick around, others are ready to push you out the door. How will you say good-bye? A short walk? A hug and a kiss? Just a hug? A high-five? Talking it over now will make your good-bye go more smoothly. Also, once you’ve said goodbye, you should make your resolved departure. Lingering or unexpectedly returning can increase your kid’s anxiety.
To get even more great information about these six elements of Opening Day, pick up your own copy of ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’. Enjoy Opening Day as best you can and tune in next Monday for tips about Visiting Days at camp. As always, thanks for reading!