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Going to Sleepaway Camp For the First Time? Practice These 10 Independent Skills Now!

Updated: May 5, 2023

Ten Independent Skills you Should Coach Your Child On Before They Go To Sleepaway Camp!

1. Self-Care: Haven’t watched your child brush their teeth in a while? (That’s ok, I’m guilty of sending my little ones up to brush their teeth and just crossing my fingers that they do it). Take a look over the next few months and give them some reminders on closing the toothpaste, rinsing out the toothbrush, and practicing using the case or cover they will be using at camp. Remind them to get in the habit of using deodorant every day, especially if they are starting to stink! There is no age for this, some lucky kids get through their tween years and their sweat just doesn’t smell, others start to get stinky at 8!

2. Shower Skills: Switch to shampoo bottles they can navigate independently including pump style, or ones that are easy to squeeze. Start out by squeezing the bottle in their hands and watch them wash their hair, guiding them through it, and eventually getting to the point where you can give verbal cues and they are able to complete independently.

3. Picking Out Clothes: Parents have to let go with this one! Let your kids pick out their own clothes!!! Daily!! Of course there are special occasions where they need to wear something nice, but most days this should be their job so they don’t show up at camp waiting for someone to lay out an outfit...not going to happen… Pay attention to which clothes they actually wear, and only pack those varieties. Sorry if they aren’t the cutest ones, but they may be the comfiest or just the easiest to get on and that’s ok!

4. Hair Care: Girls and boys with long hair need to practice daily brushing and easy ponytails. No it doesn’t have to be Instagram perfect, just work on getting the tangles out so they don’t come home with matted hair. Experiment with brushes that make this the easiest. Detangling spray is fine, but nothing too smelly because bugs love perfume! We like the wet brush, which you can find linked below!

5. Letter Writing: Practice writing a letter or two and show them how to utilize the stationary you will pre-address( yes just do it!). Kids these days don’t write a lot of letters, aside from some thank you notes maybe but they aren’t addressing envelopes at all! I suggest you put all of the addresses on labels for them and put a sample in there so they remember where everything goes. If you want to actually get mail this is your best bet!

6. Quiet Activities: Have them “practice” quiet activities that aren’t electronics. Yes, it’s sad but kids these days don’t have a clue how to entertain themselves without Youtube. Teach them a few card games, introduce them to MadLibs, find some magazines they like, word searches, Sudoku, or even thinking putty.

7. Pack Together: Have them pack alongside you! Yes, you will do most of the heavy lifting or else your kids may show up with 3 sweatshirts and a flashlight. Let them see what you are packing and allow them to help you make some of the decisions. You will likely buy some new clothes for them. When they get to camp, they may not even realize that these clothes were for them all along if they don’t pack with you and see the new clothes for themselves! Yes, truly, I have seen it happen!

8. Food Choices: Practice choosing the food they hate the least!! Yep, I am dead serious. This is an important life skill. There are 4 things on the table and your kid has a fit because they hate them all (I have three kids so I live this reality daily). Have them choose the one they hate the least and eat enough to feel somewhat full. Yes, most camps have choices but they are not endless.

9. Food Allergies & Dietary Restrictions: If your child has food allergies or food restrictions, make sure they are fully aware of the triggers and symptoms and that they know how to ask good questions about their food when eating out. Start prepping them to do this at restaurants and friends’ houses for practice.

10. Teach your child to SPEAK UP!!! This is by far the most important sign of readiness for a child and the hardest for kids of this generation who lack independent communication skills!! If they don’t feel well, SAY SOMETHING. If someone is being unkind, SAY SOMETHING! If an adult or child makes them feel unsafe, SAY SOMETHING! If they feel their counselor is brushing them off, they should go to another easily accessible adult. This may be a supervisor, unit head, head of side or even director depending on the structure of your camp. Do this research early and teach your children about all the adults who are accessible to them and show them pictures, introduce them at the bus, the drop-off or an open house and continually discuss this prior to camp.

Still not sure if your child is ready? Reach out to your chosen camp to understand their expectations!

Want more camp prep advice from this camp mom and former camp director? Want to know how to handle the tough questions from your kids, manage homesickness and pack?

Grab your on-demand workshop today, "Camp Prep for Parents!"

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Unknown member
Nov 17, 2019

Thank you, glad you enjoyed it !


Unknown member
Oct 17, 2019

This is a fantastic and very useful article!


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