Advice For Parents

What to know before you go to overnight camp

Are you ready? Tips on how to prepare for overnight camp

Dan Syvertsen
What to know before you go to overnight camp

Camp is a powerful place for children, but making the decision to send your child to overnight camp for the first time can seem overwhelming. It’s important that your child (and you) are prepared. Here are some tips to make sure you’re both ready.

Review policies and procedures.

Make sure your child knows how things work at camp (phone calls, hand-held devices, lights-out times, etc.), so they are not surprised or confused once they arrive.

Parent tip:  Being familiar with camp policies and schedules will help you feel more comfortable and give you confidence that the camp is a safe and supportive environment. Be sure to read the parent handbook or check out the website. If you have any questions, call the camp director before camp starts. Always speak about camp in positive, encouraging ways. Instead of “you will probably be homesick,” try “It’s OK to miss us, but we are so excited for you to have this experience and we know you’re going to love it.”

Try new things.

Encourage your child to focus on having fun and trying lots of new things. At camp, they may have the chance to participate in programs or eat foods that they haven’t experienced previously.

Parent tip:  Provide your child with chances to experience new activities and foods before camp. It’s also a good idea to role model your willingness to get out of your own comfort zone and try new things, too.

Be open to new people.

If a child is going to camp with a friend, suggest that they also get to know other children, too. Explain that while they don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but they need to be inclusive and kind to all.

Parent tip:  Ask the camp director if there are other new campers your child can meet before camp, either in person or via a video call if they live far away.

Change your clothes.

You would be surprised how many kids go home with a suitcase or trunk full of clothes that were never worn.

Parent tip:  Make sure all clothes are labeled, and give your child opportunities before camp to pick out their own clothes so they’re used to making these choices themselves. If you do purchase any new items, be sure your child has the chance to wear them at least once before camp so they look familiar.

Speak up.

Before camp, talk to your child about advocating for themselves and for others in their cabin or group so they are prepared to ask for help if and when needed.

Parent tip:  Ask your child questions: “What would you do if someone in the bunk wasn’t nice to you or someone else?” “What if someone wasn’t including you?” “Who do you think you should talk to if you need help?” Whether it’s social issues or a lost toothbrush, children need to know that it’s important to speak up in difficult situations.

Make memories.

Provide your camper with a journal, notebook or paper to write down stories about what happened at camp. If they’re at camp for longer than a week, be sure to send them with stationery and pre-addressed stamped envelopes.

Parent tip:  Resist the urge to spend all day checking the camp website for new photos or calling camp every day to check in on your child. Most camps will either call you within the first day or two, or will welcome a call after the first few days. And when you pick them up after their successful camp experience, be prepared for lots of great stories!


Dan Syvertsen is executive director of Camp Spofford in Chesterfield, New Hampshire.

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