Last week I pointed to an excellent guide for getting kids (and parents) ready for Camp Alleghany, with ten steps and a handy video to watch. And while those tips apply to campers of all ages, there are some special considerations when it comes to our youngest campers, the Mini Campers.
I’ve been a Camp Alleghany girl my whole life, and have been blessed to have gone to camp during almost all my different ages. I know both first hand and through long-time professional study just how beneficial camp is. But even when parents learn about the benefits of camp, and are even excited to send their child(ren) to camp, still, lingering uncertainty remains. Especially with the youngest.
So I turned to a few experts —that is, a few Alleghany alumnae who’ve recently sent their daughters to Mini Camp, or are preparing to do so this year — for advice.
Home is where the heart is
Liz Payne Allums (’84-’91) showed that among her other wonderful qualities, she’s also truly wise. She has wonderful insight into how to address the worries of little ones, from homesickness to fear of the unknown. As she put it,
I know what helped with Charlotte when she asked what if she got homesick, or said she was going to miss me. We told her missing me or missing home wasn’t really about me, it’s about missing what she knows. This is change and change is sometimes nerve wracking. But I told her to try everything, meet everyone and she’d forget to think about home. And the week would go by fast!! And of course it did!!!
The other thing we always say is being nervous is just your brain’s way of showing you care. If you weren’t excited you wouldn’t have butterflies.
Geared up and ready for action
Candie Wright Holland (’86-’93) proved that prepping for camp is simply another opportunity to be creative and bond with your child. Her ideas for packing blew my mind they were so fun, and so appropriate for younger girls as they help with organization, help with decision-making that could be difficult for a younger child, and add that feeling that mom is “there” in our hearts. Candie explained,
When Bella went to Mini Camp, I matched each of her outfits together and put them in gallon size ziplock bags. I then wrote on the outside of each bag something cute, funny, or what the outfit was appropriate for. Example: her bathing suit bag said, “Show them that Florida tan.” Her blues and whites said, “Chow time.” Her sweatpants and sweatshirt baggies said, “Campfire and cookies.”
You get the point.
I did this because I knew a week would be too short for us to correspond via mail, so I thought this would help her feel like I knew what she was doing at camp. The baggies were also great when she came home because it kept the dirty/wet clothes separate from the clean ones that she never wore. I also packed her a few extra baggies for the stuff she tie dyed while at Mini Camp.
I also mailed her a package the week before she left for camp so that she would get it during the first day or two. She said she was the only one in her tent to get a package during camp.
A different take on packing
Sarah Alexander Biehl (’83-’92) likes easy, low-tech solutions and she looks for simple things that work. She applies this philosophy to her take on packing, saying,
Um…so Candie set the bar pretty high! 😉 But here are some of my thoughts.
I think it’s a good idea for moms to know that labeling clothes with a sharpie is easier, cheaper, and actually lasts longer than buying the iron on or stick on labels. I include my girls in the packing process and keep it light and fun so that they feel like camp is their decision not mine.
When I’m buying specific things for camp like a shower caddy, I allow my daughter to pick out the caddy and write her own name on it so that she has a real sense of ownership and excitement about going to camp. We usually pick out a few family photos, posters, drawings, and/or bumper stickers to decorate the trunk with as well.
I do address some stationary for them before they go away, and put a stamp on it as well. For example both sets of grandparents, me, her sister, and maybe a close friend; a simple list as it’s not meant to overwhelm. For me this has been successful. They usually write a few words on the stationary already addressed and send it. You will get mail after Mini Camp is over but it sure is fun to get!
Every parent and family will ultimately find the sequence and rhythm that helps them best get ready for camp. But we hope these ideas will resonate with you and inspire you toward an easy transition to camp!
If you’re curious to learn more about the benefits of Mini Camp, please, download my FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Journey Early.
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls