KidMag’s Ultimate Guide To Sleepaway Camp

It’s summer, and many kids are heading off to sleepaway camp, whether it’s just for a few days or the whole summer. Some kids have experience, but others might be feeling nervous because it’s their first time. It can be scary at first, but the whole point of going to camp is to have fun. To help get your nerves out of the way, KidMag has answered a few common questions about camp as well as provided some tips to help you with any anxiety that you might have. We have also included a packing list to make sure that you have everything you need to have an awesome time at camp!

Question and Answer:

What if I get homesick?

This is by far the most asked question about sleepaway camp. Kids are often worried about missing their parents if they are going away for long periods of time, so it can be difficult to go to camp without them. But, you shouldn’t let these feelings get in your way of having a good time at camp. There are a few things you can do to prevent separation anxiety at camp:

  • Many camps have designated phones for kids to call parents if they are feeling homesick. Have your parent or guardian arrange for the camp to allow you to call home before bed every night. If the camp doesn’t have this program, you can also write letters back and forth between you and your parents or other family members.
  • Bring a picture of your house, your dog or cat, your parents and you, or a picture you took on a family vacation. When you are feeling homesick, you can look at these photos to help you feel more calm.
  • Say a proper goodbye. Just make sure that you keep it short, because dragging out the goodbye could make you more nervous.
  • Practice spending the night away by sleeping over at a friends or relatives house for one or two nights so that you are more used to spending time away from your house.
  • Before leaving for camp, talk to a trusted adult or loved one about your concerns. They may be able to relate to your worries, and they might be able to help calm you down before you go to camp.

Remember – if worse comes to worst, you can always just go home.

What if I have heard horror stories from other kids about the food at the camp and I’m nervous that I won’t enjoy it? 

First of all, remember that kids exaggerate. A lot. They may say something bad about the food that makes you nervous, but you have to remember that you don’t know until you try it. Camp food usually isn’t bad, you might even really enjoy it! The camp usually puts a lot of effort into making sure that the food at the camp is something that most kids enjoy, like grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, burgers or fried chicken. If you don’t enjoy a certain kind of food that the camp has prepared, just have extras of something else that you do like to make sure that you aren’t hungry later. 

Also remember that books that you have read or movies that you have watched about sleepaway camp usually exaggerate about how bad the food is, but that’s just fake. The food isn’t bad at all, in fact, it’s usually pretty good.

What about my medications?

This is definitely not something to worry about. Each camp deals with this differently, but we can guarantee that every camp has a system for making sure that each kid gets the medication that they need when they need it. Just make sure that you pack your medication in the way that the camp has instructed you to, because they have a protocol to follow and they cannot administer medicines that have not been correctly packaged. Most camps have you put your medication as well as instructions in a clearly labeled bag with your first and last name on it, but every camp does it differently, so make sure to check!

What about my religious beliefs?

Most camps will allow you to call home if religious beliefs are a concern, so make sure to arrange this ahead of time. If your religion involves eating restrictions, don’t worry. This will be covered later in the article.

What if I get sick?

Getting sick at camp is often something that kids worry about when heading off to camp. They know that getting sick at camp wouldn’t be fun, and they think it might even ruin their time. Many kids also worry that they won’t be able to go home if they get sick during camp, but this shouldn’t be something that you worry about. If you get sick during camp, here are some simple steps to follow:

  1. Make sure that you have taken your medication. Your illness might just be caused by not taking your medication, so make sure that you have done that. If you haven’t taken your medication, then make sure you do that. It might make you feel better. 
  2. If you still feel unwell, tell your counselor how you are feeling. It’s best to let them know quickly so that they can deal with it how they see fit as soon as possible. They will probably send you to the camp’s Health Centre, which is usually just a little office with a comfortable chair or bed for you to lay down on. There will probably be a nurse there to help take care of you.
  3. The nurse at the Health Centre will probably call your parents. You may have to call them yourself, but typically the nurse will do this for you. 

Once you have followed these steps, your parent or guardian will come pick you up from camp as soon as they can. And remember, don’t be a hero. Don’t try to stay at camp while sick, because it won’t be fun at all. Let your parents or guardian bring you home. Some camps will even let you come back for the rest of the camp once you are feeling better, so don’t worry.

What about allergies or dietary restrictions?

Almost every camp has a way for kids to get the food they need at meal time without any fuss. Usually there is a special place in the cafeteria for kids with allergies or other dietary restrictions to get their food. They typically try to make these options similar to the meal that the rest of the kids are having. Usually when parents are signing their kids up for camps, there are forms to fill out which usually involve specifying their child’s allergies etc, so the camp should know if you have any dietary restrictions (this includes people who are vegetarian, vegan or have food restrictions caused by your religion and what you believe in.)
However, there are some rare cases where a parent may have forgotten to tell the camp about any dietary restrictions that their child has, or the camp just doesn’t provide kids with allergies etc. with the food they need. If this happens to you, then simply avoid eating the food that you can’t have and take extras of the food that you can have. But don’t worry about it, it’s very rare that this actually happens!

What if I hurt myself during camp?

Each camp has different ways of dealing with situations like this, but we can assure you that it will be dealt with properly and safely. You may get sent to a local hospital if your injury is serious enough, or the camp will treat your injury if they are equipped for it. Most camps have trained nurses and sometimes a doctor that will either be able to treat your injury or decide whether or not to send you to a hospital. Just try to be careful so that you don’t injure yourself during camp! 🙂

Am I ready for sleepaway camp?

This is a question that’s hard to answer, because ultimately you have to decide this for yourself. Picture yourself in a summer camp scenario. How do you feel in this scenario? Happy? Excited? Nervous? Homesick? Do you think you would enjoy sleepaway camp? Do you want to do it? Ask yourself these questions and then see for yourself.

Just remember – if your parents think that you are ready, then you probably are.

If you have any other questions specific to your camp, then you should definitely check out your camp’s website, which should answer any other questions that you have.

Sleepaway Camp Tips:

  1. If you are ever served a meal that you particularly enjoy, then make sure to eat extras of this just in case the next meal that you have isn’t as tasty. You don’t want to be hungry, and if you don’t eat enough you might get a headache or get sick which may mean that you have to leave camp.

  2. Label every single thing that you pack. It may seem a little crazy, but you don’t want to lose anything, so make sure that every single item, tiny or big, gets labeled. Your socks and your underwear. Your sleeping bag and your pants. Your t-shirt and your pillowcase. Your bug spray and your hairbrush. Everything must be labeled!

  3. To avoid sickness at camp, remember to drink lots of water, especially if you are doing outdoor activities or going on a group hike. If you feel sick and you haven’t drank enough water, it is very possible you are dehydrated, which might make you feel tired or give you a bad headache.

  4. If there are any fruit or vegetable options at meal time, then eat A LOT of them, even if you don’t like it. At camp the food you might be eating probably isn’t as healthy as what you have at home, so when you get the chance to eat a fruit or vegetable, then have it to avoid getting sick.

  5. Wash your hands extra thoroughly while you are at sleepaway camp. You are around lots of other kids who could be sick, and you don’t want to be sick too. Camp might have a little more germs than your house, so make sure that you keep your hands clean. Always wash them:
    1. Before eating
    2. After going to the bathroom
    3. After blowing your nose
    4. After touching any animals
    5. After playing outside

  6. If you have the opportunity to shower, then take it, even if the water is really cold or the shower isn’t as nice as you are used to. You need to shower. If you don’t, you might get sick, or your hair will be impossible to brush. Even if you just rinse off, you have to shower.

  7. Get ready as you always do in the morning, even without your parents telling you to do it. Brush your hair every morning, or when you get home, it will be very hard to brush. Brush your teeth. You don’t want to come home with a cavity! Keep yourself clean!

  8. Wear a hat and thick socks at night time. You should also wear thermal underwear underneath thick pajamas. At lots of camps, you get very cold at night. Just remember that it is easier to take things off than to put things on at night time!

  9. If you start to feel anxious or nervous, take some deep breaths to help calm yourself. Try tensing all of your muscles, holding it for 10 seconds, and then releasing. When you release, you should feel very relaxed and calm. Remind yourself of all of the fun things that you are going to get to do at camp.

Packing List:

It can be difficult to know what to pack for camp. You don’t want to be under-prepared, and it is definitely better to have over-packed than to have under-packed. You want to have a cozy bedtime set up for sleeping, which should include sheets on your mattress, a pillow, your sleeping bag, and a warm blanket over top. You don’t want to get cold at night, so make sure you have enough to stay warm. Make sure that you are prepared by following KidMag’s packing list!

Items To Pack:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Runners
  • Flip-flops or inexpensive sandals (for wearing in the shower)
  • Enough pants that you would have enough to wear a pair every day
  • Enough t-shirts (depending on the amount of time that you spend at camp)
  • A few long sleeved shirts
  • Enough shorts so that you could wear a pair every day
  • Socks! Pack at least five extra pairs of socks!
  • Underwear! Make sure to pack extras!
  • Thick socks like reading socks or socks that you would wear for skiing
  • A pair of warm pajamas
  • A pair of pajamas for hotter nights
  • Thermal underwear
  • A raincoat
  • Two sweatshirts
  • A hoodie
  • A pair of gloves or mittens (It sounds silly, but you may need them for night time)
  • A toque (this is mostly for sleeping in)
  • A hat
  • A backpack
  • A water bottle
  • Sheets
  • Sleeping bag
  • A warm blanket
  • A pillow with a pillowcase 
  • A towel
  • A hairbrush
  • Shampoo
  • Hair conditioner
  • Soap/shower gel
  • Dry shampoo/conditioner
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Mouth wash
  • Hair elastics (if you have long hair)
  • Flashlight
  • Journal
  • Books
  • Stationary (to send your family a letter or two!)
  • A pencil and some paper
  • Playing cards

Items To Leave Behind:

  • Make-up
  • Perfume
  • Money
  • Food
  • Hair gel
  • Hair straighteners/curling irons
  • Pocket knives
  • Matches
  • Electronics such as a cell phone, iPod, laptop, iPad, tablet or eReader

This should be everything, however, we recommend checking your camp’s packing list which should be on your camp’s website, just in case.

We hope you have an awesome time at camp and that our tips helped you!

Do you have any sleepaway camp tips that you would like to share? Let us know using our contact page!