Getting ready for day camp: a beginner’s guide
Kids grow fast, and there’s a new transition every day: graduating from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat, from a bottle to a sippy cup, from diapers to big-kid underpants, and so on. A child’s first day camp experience comes with its own transitions as well, especially if you start young. It’s an exciting time, but a hectic one – so let’s get prepared!
Why is day camp the big league? For starters, many camps start accepting kids at about age 3. (Most have a requirement that all campers should be potty-trained so that can be a dealbreaker – don’t worry, you’ll get there, I promise!)
If your child has been home with you since birth, this is going to be his first extended time away from home. Other kids this age will already have been to preschool, but with a short day from 9am to noon, so this will be their first time away for longer, instead of returning home for a lunch and a nap.
This also may be the first time you need to get your child somewhere on time! Which means that this transition will have more of a learning curve for you than it will for your child.
I’ve shepherded my own three kids through this process a few times, so I’m well versed on how it works! Here are a few tips that should help you get through it.
- Get ready to wake up earlier than usual. All families are different, and the schedule you’re accustomed to can vary depending on whether one or both parents work away from home or not. If you’re already used to getting your kids to day care at 7am, then you’re already accustomed to being the one who wakes up your child, instead of them waking you. However, for other families, this is going to be a brand new experience! If you’re used to a leisurely wake-up schedule with a slow breakfast together, that’s going to have to change: you’re going to want to wake up early, take your shower, drink your coffee, and eat your breakfast before your child even wakes up, so then once they’re up, you can focus all of your attention on feeding them, getting them dressed, slathering them with sunscreen, and getting them out the door.
- Packing lunches: This may also be the first time you pack lunches for your kid. Your first order of business is deciding whether you’re going to pack lunches at night or in the morning, and stick to it. If you’re a morning packer, then fit that into your early wake-up routine. I prefer packing at night, personally, so you don’t have to worry about getting it all done in the morning. The right products will also help simplify the process: I’m a big fan of Packit personal lunch coolers, and Skip Hop lunch kits are also a great choice for your child’s first lunch away from home.
- Your child’s first backpack: Get a backpack that will fit a towel, bathing suit, and maybe even the lunch box. Luckily, there are some terrific options these days for kid-sized backpacks – check out some of the adorable options here!
- Laundry: I hate to say it, really I do, but expect to do even more laundry. Your kids will come home every day with a wet bathing suit and towel, so you’ll want to have a bunch of those ready to go for the summer. I have a set nighttime routine of unpacking backpacks as soon as the kids get home, throwing the items in the wash immediately, throwing everything in the dryer after dinner, and folding and repacking before I go to bed. Or, you could throw everything in the dryer before you go to bed, and leave yet another chore for the morning (not my preference!).
This is an exciting transition, and an opportunity to form good routines and habits that you’ll continue to use for many years to come. My youngest is graduating kindergarten tomorrow, and I can’t believe it, but day camp is around the corner for me too in a week or so! I’d better take my own advice and get as much done in advance as possible and stay organized.