Friends, Fun, Learning, Independence
Going to sleepaway camp is a summertime tradition for many kids. It's called sleepaway camp because you stay overnight there. Kids typically stay at sleepaway camp for a week or longer.
You might go to a traditional camp, where kids swim, do crafts, put on plays, and sit around the campfire at night. Or maybe you're going to a special-interest camp, where you'll work on your sports skills, or learn more about computers, outer space, or art. There are even camps that serve kids who have the same health problem, such as asthma or diabetes.
No matter which kind of sleepaway camp you're going to, you're probably excited — and maybe a little nervous if it's your first time. Be proud of yourself for being grown-up enough to go to camp. It's a chance to try new things, like horseback riding, canoeing, playing tennis, or dancing in a dance contest!
But camp is even more than just friends and fun. It's also an opportunity to learn a little more about being independent. Read on to learn how to get prepared for a memorable camp experience.
Different From Day Camp
Many kids go to day camps during the summer. They can be a lot of fun, but the schedule is familiar. You start camp in the morning and go home in the afternoon. Sometimes, a bus takes you or you might get a ride from one of your parents or someone else's parents. Like anything, it might take you a little while to get adjusted to the place, the camp counselors, and the kids. But you come home every night, just like you do during the school year.
Sleepaway camp offers some additional excitement because you'll be there all day and night, eating your meals there and sleeping over. It's a kind of vacation, but without your parents. You'll probably sleep in a cabin or dorm with other kids attending the camp. You'll probably eat together in a large cafeteria and you'll have to share the bathroom with the other kids.
Some sleepaway camps are coed, which means that there are both boys and girls at the camp. (They have separate cabins for sleeping, though.) Other camps are just for girls or just for boys, but often these all-girl and all-boy camps meet up for dances and parties.
Usually, the camp mails out information to your family before you go, so you'll know what to bring. You'll also probably need to have your doctor fill out a health assessment for you, so the camp can be sure your shots are up to date and camp counselors know about any health problems you have.
Just like any vacation, you'll need to pack a bag (or two) full of the clothes and other stuff you'll need while you're there. Food is generally provided, but you might need some extra money for snacks or other small expenses.
Who Takes Care of You at Camp?
Camp counselors (who are usually grown-ups and older teens) will be on hand to lead activities and keep you safe, just like your parents would at home. For instance, if you scrape your knee, a camp counselor can help you get it cleaned up and bandaged. And if you get sick, a counselor could call a doctor and your parents. But best of all, camp counselors help kids have fun at camp. They organize the camp activities and set the schedule for days and evenings.
Counselors and other grown-ups at camp are responsible for taking care of you, but campers can do a lot to take care of themselves. This means following the safety rules when it comes to activities, such as swimming and boating. You'll want to take it seriously when a counselor tells you not to wander away from the group when you're on a hike in the woods.
Campers can do other smart things, such as remembering to put on sunscreen and bug spray. And camp counselors will be delighted if you make an effort to keep your cabin neat and throw trash in the trash can.
What you need to pack for camp depends on the type of camp and how long you'll be there. But remember that you won't need 30 pairs of underwear, even if you'll be there 30 days. If you're going to have a long stay, your camp counselor will let you know how to handle laundry.
Some of the typical items that everyone needs for camp are:
- sweatshirts and T-shirts
- shorts, jeans, and long pants
- walking boots
- socks and underwear
- sheets and towels
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- shampoo, soap, and any other toiletries you may use
- sunscreen (at least SPF 15)
- bug spray (especially for mosquitoes)
- paper and pen to write to family and friends
- sports equipment (tennis racquet, swimming cap, goggles, etc.)
- any medications you regularly take
- quarters (for calling home on a pay phone, laundry, and snacks)
It's wise to label all your clothes and belongings because it's easy to lose things at camp. If you leave something behind, it can be returned to you when your name is on it. And if you and your friend own the same beach towel, you'll be able to tell which one is yours.
It's also nice to pack a small reminder of home, such as a photo of your family or your favorite pet. These will come in handy if you start to miss them.
Who Knew You'd Miss Home?
With so much to do, it's tough to be bored at camp. But you might find that you feel a little homesick. Homesickness is the feeling of missing your everyday familiar life, like your parents, your dog, your room, and maybe even your brother or sister. The good news is that you can call home to talk with your family. There also may be a special day or weekend at camp when family members come to visit.
In the meantime, email or write letters to your family and friends. If you're feeling down, it can help to talk with other campers or your counselors about your feelings. But it's also OK if you don't feel lonely because you're too busy having fun. That's the idea, after all.
Have a great time at camp!
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2008
Originally reviewed by: W. Douglas Tynan, PhD