Summer camp tips for kids (and parents!)

It may be dreary outside, but now is the time to start dreaming of canoeing, swimming and making friends around the campfire. Sleep-away camps begin their enrollment and registration season now.  Here is camp advice from both parents and kids based on their own sleep-away camp experience.

Parent perspective: Alli Lamb

Why camp: I had gone to a sleep-away camp for many years. Camp was in my blood and I couldn’t wait to give my child that same magical experience. So once Madden finished fourth grade, I knew it was time and it felt like a rite of passage.

Selecting: I met with directors and watched their camp videos to find a camp that I felt mimicked an experience similar to mine. I wanted a place that thrives on friendship, love and adventures.

Prep: Preparing took a lot of time, money and shopping. Two large duffel bags and a lot of sleepless nights making lists of more and more items! We packed and talked a lot about what to expect. Together we talked through her fears, excitement and questions.

Best part: She went to a camp where she knew no one and that was hard for her. But she came back with perseverance, coping skills, knowledge of herself and how to truly make a bed!

Kid take: Madden Lamb, 10

Why camp: I picked a camp (Camp Agawak) based off my likes, hobbies and that it had a waterfront.

Prep: Getting ready, my mom and I talked a lot about camp and what I may need to be ready for, which helped. And the most important thing to pack was pictures of my family!

Best part: The campfire. Plus I saw my first shooting star and a bald eagle.

Parent perspective: Megan Patterson

Why camp: We found that when his summer activities and practices ended, Noah was bored. Two years ago, he told us he was ready to try camp and we wanted him to have the experience, meet new people and have a chance to be a little more open to try new things.  

Selecting: We knew about Camp Anokijig from friends and after a lot of research we decided this was the right place. They have a zero electronics policy, the kids are always busy outside doing things and the staff and camp’s reputation made us all feel at ease.

Prep: It was basically essentials.

Best part: Camp allows Noah to really be himself. He loves the outdoors and water, so camp allows him to fish all day, swim and make friends. When he returns home, he is more confident, less shy and has become more of a leader.

Kid take: Noah Patterson, 11

Why camp: At the end of fourth grade, I told my parents I felt old enough and was ready to try sleep-away camp. We did research and got a spot at Anokijig.

Prep: My first year I went shopping with my parents and prepared for what I needed. It was lots of stuff, like open- and closed-toe shoes, sleeping bag, swimsuits, bug spray and lots of clothing options for hot and cold weather. I brought my two stuffed animals and one became our cabin mascot!

Best part: Making new friends who I now see each year when I go back. I love fishing, being outdoors and swimming in the lake.

Parent perspective: Amanda Morris

Why camp: At age 8, Holden came home from school and said he was going to summer camp with a friend. He’d never even made it through a week at Grandma’s, but I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him he wasn’t capable of doing this. When I picked him up from that first two-week stint, the first thing he said to me was, “I’m doing four weeks next year!”

Prep: The first year, I carefully packed 14 shorts, 14 pairs of underwear, 14 socks and a fresh tube of toothpaste. Most of it came back completely untouched. It’s an all-boy camp and there’s not a lot of washing or clean clothes-wearing happening.

Best part: I love that he’s completely off the grid for the summer without phones or TVs or even electricity. Camp Hayo-Went-Ha has been life-changing for him. He lives the rest of his year waiting for the summer and it’s truly his other home. He comes back more mature, more confident, more independent and grateful every summer.

Kid take: Holden Morris, 14

Why camp: It was six years ago when we chose Hayo-Went-Ha. We got a list of camps and looked at websites. I liked that it had a zip line.

Prep: Swim trunks and a pair of Chacos are really all you need. As I have gotten older, the trips require more specialized gear. So I started asking my grandparents to contribute to my camp fees and camp supplies as presents instead of getting other stuff I might not need.

Best part: You get to experience new things and get a good tan. This will be my seventh summer at camp and I’m doing eight weeks this summer. I’ve been at camp for half my life!

Parent perspective: Sarah Fielding

Why camp: I went to sleep-away camp as a child and have amazing memories from the experience, so I wanted that for my children. I thought Matthew was ready for the independence and he wasn’t hesitant about being away from home for a week.

Selecting: We picked the camp (YMCA Camp Echo) I went to growing up because I knew it was an amazing camp and I have friends who send their kids there.

Best part: To be completely honest, when you have multiple children, it’s amazing to have one (or more) gone for a whole week. It allowed me much needed alone time with my spouse and other children. I also felt like I was giving my kids something really special—a way to be on their own, gain confidence, meet new people and to be really independent.

Kid take: Matthew Fielding, 12

Why camp: My mom and aunt went to the same camp when they were my age and it sounded fun.

Prep: Just need to pack clothes, toiletries and playing cards.

Best part: My favorite part of camp is the sailing. 

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