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Helpful Tips for Parents or Guardians New to 4-H Camping

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Are you nervous about sending your child to camp?

Deciding whether to send your child(ren) off to overnight camp for the very first time can be a challenging decision. Like most parents, you probably have many questions. What age is appropriate to go away to overnight camp for the first time? Which camp is right for my child? Is my child ready to attend overnight camp? By considering the answers to all of these questions, you will have a better idea of whether you and your child are ready for overnight camp.

Here are some helpful tips for parents and guardians when deciding whether to register their child(ren) for overnight camp away from home for the first time.

  1. Ask your child if they want to attend camp.  Although you may want your child to attend camp because of the positive life-changing impacts it will have, it is just as important to ask your child whether they actually want to attend camp. Campers who are intrinsically motivated to attend camp rather than those who are extrinsically motivated by their parents or guardians to attend  will have a more positive experience. By having honest, heart-to-heart conversations with your child(ren) about attending camp, you can get a feel for whether they truly want to attend overnight camp away from home. This will set them up for success for their first time.
  2. Start with day camp.  Although there is a huge difference between the day and overnight camp experience, starting with day camp will introduce your child to the camp experience gradually. By starting your child(ren) with a summer day camp, this will introduce the camp experience, but with the comfort of coming home every night.
  3. Introduce overnight experiences.  A next step in building children’s confidence in spending the night away from home is to spend the night at someone else’s house, such as a grandparent, relative, or sleepover at a friend’s house. This is a great next step to see if your child is ready for an overnight camping experience.
  4. Register with a friend.  Another great way to alleviate some of the fears of attending overnight camp for the first time is to encourage friends or neighbors to register to attend camp together. This provides at least one buddy to start the week of camp.
  5. Attend a camp open house. Attending a camp open house is a great way to become familiar with a camp’s facilities, programs, and staff. Each 4-H Camp offers a FREE open house in the spring where the whole family can visit and tour the camp, participate in camping activities such as canoeing and hiking, and meet the leadership staff who facilitate the summer camping program. This helps you as the parent feel confident about where you are sending your child and helps your child feel prepared for their upcoming summer experience. Check our NEWS page for current and upcoming Open House dates.
  6. Contact your local county 4-H Agent to discuss camp. By attending overnight camp with a 4-H county program, you have the opportunity to meet with an experienced 4-H Agent who can help you and your child every step of the way. 4-H Agents often provide pre-camp orientations where you and your child can meet other families in the county who are going to camp. You may also be able to receive a discounted rate for overnight camp by attending with a county program. Use the directory to look up your county’s 4-H Agent contact information. 

Sending your child(ren) to overnight camp for the first time can be a challenging experience, but following some of these helpful tips can help alleviate the fear of sending your child(ren) away from home for the first time. Although some children may experience homesickness during their first camp experience, by building their self-confidence through a progressive approach, you can establish a solid foundation for their first overnight camp experience. Often times it’s more difficult for the parent(s) than it is for the child(ren) during the first overnight camp experience. However, an overnight camp will be a life-changing experience for your child(ren) with positive impacts that last a lifetime and will leave them wanting to attend camp every summer until they age out.

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