Kids Nervous About Sleepaway Camp?

bunk beds at sumer camp

One January I took my kids to an information session for Camp Thunderbird at Discovery Place. Primarily to seek out material for the blog as well the free admission to the museum. An added benefit was seeing my daughter do a complete 180.

In the registration line my 4th grader declared that she was not interested in going to camp under any circumstance, even if we won the raffle for a free week.

[I found out later that in addition to a fear of homesickness, my daughter’s concerns about camp came from a book she read called “Camp Confidential." Obviously, to make the story interesting, there were problems. The food was horrible, the counselors were inattentive, and general mayhem ensued. She somehow extrapolated that to all camps.]

After visiting the Food table and examining the menu, she discovered that maybe the food would be o.k., if not pretty tasty. We spoke with the chef, who told us that Lucky Charms was by far the most favorite cereal. We also visited the Activity table, where she learned that they have horseback riding, an elusive adventure she has yet to try due to my severe horse allergy.

The main selling point, however, was The Video, which featured counselors and campers talking about how wonderful camp is. The activities, the friends, etc. Most importantly, there were Cabins - with bunk beds. Happy kids hanging out in their cabin, playing cards and sitting on bunk beds.

After watching the video both my kids were sold. Camp was great! Thunderbird, here we come. My 4th grader didn't want to go to school the next day, she wanted to go to camp. (On the lake. In January.)

This was like me going to a seminar about a Caribbean resort. Of course it's going to look amazing. Of course I'd want to hop on a plane to the Caymans the next day, especially if my parents were footing the bill. The experience really drove home the fact that kids are so gullible when it comes to marketing. They don't view things with the jaded skepticism we do. This is a bad thing when it comes to commercials for sugar cereal, but can occasionally be used to our advantage, given the right opportunity.

The thought of being sent away from home for a couple weeks can be scary for a lot of kids, especially if they have pre-conceived notions of what camp is like. Having them meet enthusiastic staff and hearing about first-hand experiences may put them more at ease. Brochures with photos of bunk beds don't hurt, either.

There are all kinds of camp information sessions in the fall and winter. Many overnight camps send directors and staff on tours during the offseason, where they have informal gatherings at the homes of alumni. You can check the camp’s website for a schedule or give them a call, as some even travel upon request (usually during the fall). For camps closer to home, consider going out for a tour.