School is out and kids across the country are heading to sleep away and day camps. This brings me back to my childhood where I couldn’t wait for camp to start. I grew up with an unusual set of circumstances. My grandparents ran a camp and my parents, who were both gym teachers, have owned and operated a sleep away and day camp in upstate New York for the past 51 years.
Having grown up at a camp, been a camp counselor for more than 10 years and been a camp director, I can say that “Everything I need to know about life, I learned at camp.”
While some of us are responsible for as many as three or four children, imagine trying to keep 150 children and a staff of 40 healthy and safe for eight weeks. I would like to share that knowledge with you so you can help your child stay safe and healthy at camp. After all, there’s no fun in spending the summer in the infirmary.
10 Tips to Make Summer Camp Healthier, Safer, and More Enjoyable
1. Inspection prior to attending camp. Clip nails and keep hair short if possible. Check for lice and other conditions.
2. It’s not always nice to share! Teach your child to not share straws or drink from the same glass as their friends. Don’t fall for the line, “I don’t have anything.” Or “I’m so thirty, I just want one sip.” This lesson alone will spare you the unnecessary strep throat, summer cold or even herpes virus.
Also don’t share personal items including bathing suit bottoms and hair brushes.
3. Wash hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom and before eating. This may be obvious, but remind your kids anyway.
4. The camp mattress: Camp facilities are often rented out in the off-season to other groups. The mattresses can be tired and not so desirable. Pack a dust mite cover for the mattress to create a barrier between the mattress and your child’s bedding. Bed bug covers are not adequate since bed bugs are much larger than dust mites.
I recommend a cover for the pillow too. Even though you are bringing the pillow from home, the pillows end up on the floor and even on the ground outside.
5. Bathroom hygiene: Pack an extra pair of flip-flops to be used for the bunk shower only. This will help keep the bathroom clean. Always instruct your child to wear some kind of shoes on their feet walking around the camp property. Sharp articles can pop up in the grass. Any construction on the grounds could turn up nails or broken glass not to mention buzzing bees.
6. Walking around in a wet suit for hours is not recommended for girls. To avoid infections, remind your daughter get out of the wet suit and change into cotton underwear.
7. Attracting insects: When packing shampoo and other hair products, it is recommended to select products that are fragrance free. Perfumes attract all kinds of bugs including, mosquitoes and deer flies. Care packages with food attract pests and bugs in the bunk, not to mention bellyaches. Ask the camp director if and where things may be stored.
8. Hair Advice: Suggest to your daughter’s counselors that hairbrushes be cleaned and washed once a week–remove the hair and soak the brush in a diluted mix of water with bleach for about 15 minutes. For young girls with long hair, counselors should braid the hair and allow the young lady to sleep in the braid. Before going to bed, divide the hair into three sections and brush each section free of tangles. In the morning, take the braid out so brushing will be made easy. I know firsthand as a camp counselor and a mom that this works and saves a lot of time in the morning. No more screaming over tangled hair.
9. Laundry bag etiquette: Never put anything wet in the laundry bag. Always dry articles thoroughly before placing in bag. Day campers need to pack a plastic bag for wet swim gear.
10. Pack hats, protective clothing and sunscreen. Hats will not only protect against sunburn but also deer ticks while taking hikes in the woods. Remind your child to reapply sunscreen every couple hours and be sure to pack enough. However, if you suspect your child may not be so thorough, pack long sleeve rash guard shirts (swimming shirts) to reduce the amount of sunscreen needed. Long pants are a good idea when hiking in the woods and at sunset when the mosquitoes are the worst.
If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com I couldn’t possibly include all of the things I learned in one post.
I hope your children have a wonderful camp experience this summer and you get to enjoy the break. One more thing, don’t forget to have them pack a happy disposition.