Once you and your children have chosen a camp that matches their interests and abilities, a crucial next step is getting ready physically. Following the guidelines below will help ensure a healthy, happy experience.
- Camps are physically active places, even for differently-abled campers. Engaging in some pre-camp fun and physical activities will help your children get the most out of the summer ahead. If your children do not participate in organized sports, then go on some hikes together, join a pick-up game of basketball, play catch in the back yard, or frequent the municipal swimming pool. Anything you can do to help your children gear up to the physicality of the camp experience will be of great benefit once camp starts.
- If you have explored a preparatory resource such as The Summer Camp Handbook, (now available online for free at SummerCampHandbook.com) then you have familiarized yourself with the camp’s activities. Either way, you should gain a good sense of the physical demands of your chosen camp. Now is the perfect time to take your children for a physical exam or other health evaluations. Speak to your health care provider about the camp’s various activities and verify that they are fit and ready to take part in activities. You might ask questions such as:
- Does he need new glasses or sports glasses?
- Is the leg she injured this winter ready for mountain hikes?
- What can we do to prevent another bout of swimmer’s ear?
If your child has a chronic medical condition, such as asthma or an allergy, your conversation with a health care provider takes on added importance. Discuss with your child:
- restrictions or modifications to activities
- ongoing treatments or preventive measures, such as carrying a rescue inhaler or avoiding certain foods
Your goal is to make your children as self-reliant as possible, so that they can participate in the fullest range of activities.
It is essential that you complete and return the camp’s health form, and write a supplement that describes all of your child’s emotional or physical needs. At times, parents are reluctant to be candid on the camp’s health form because they are concerned about:
- the information not being kept confidential
- the camp staff unfairly discriminating against their child
Some parents are unaware of the importance of detailed health forms to camp staff who act as summer surrogate parents.
High quality camps will treat any personal information about your children with great discretion, informing only those persons who need to know (e.g., the camp nurse and your child’s counselors); no high quality camp will label your children or discriminate against them. So please inform the camp if one or more of your children take medication, have a history of emotional or behavioral problems, was recently hospitalized, or responds best to a certain kind of treatment.
Simply put: Don’t make the camp staff try to figure out what may have taken you years to understand about your children. Instead, give the staff the advantage of your parental insights and experience. This puts them in the best possible position to offer support.
Although a cornerstone of the camping experience-day or resident-is the absence of parents, in no way does it involve the absence of camp caregivers. Quite the contrary: High quality camping experiences require a trusting partnership between parents and the camp staff. For more information about physical and medical preparation for camp, read The Summer Camp Handbook.
Enjoy the summer!
Dr. Christopher Thurber