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Camp Jitters?

School is almost over and summer is about to begin. It’s time to get your little one ready for camp. Even if they have some feelings of apprehension that their environment is changing, you can remind them that there is so much to love about summer camp!

What are some things about camp that we love? Fun traditions, new friendships, playing outside, arts and crafts, sports, and so much more!

How does this fit into a preschooler’s world? Camp provides a structured schedule, different from school, they will learn from new adults and be able to explore a new environment. That’s a win-win for all toddlers and young children.

Are you having second thoughts about sending your child to camp?

Here are some signs your child is ready to join the fun at day camp:

Your child enjoys playing with other kids. While it’s normal for young toddlers to prefer playing alone, you will see that as they get older, they start to play with one another. You might see them sharing toys or playing make believe together. If your child has made this shift, he’s likely to enjoy team-centered activities at camp.

Your child has been in a group setting at school or daycare. If your child has been to daycare or preschool, camp is likely to be a familiar and positive experience for them. If he is grouped with kids his age, counselors will understand how to make activities fun and developmentally appropriate for their age group.

If your child has never been to preschool or daycare, then camp is a great way to learn that other adults can be excellent caregivers and role models. You have to start somewhere, so it might as well be somewhere fun.

Is your child nervous about going to camp?

Ask your child if some camp activities sound interesting.

It’s important to ask preschoolers how they feel. They are learning about their likes and dislikes and how to communicate. This is a great opportunity to allow them to use these new skills.

If your child is hesitant about starting a new experience, normalize their feelings and let them know that it’s ok to be scared. Then you can start a conversation about what they might expect at camp, so it’s not so unknowing for them.

Share your own memories from camp and talk about some of the great things they might do as a camper. Ask if they’d like to attend. If it’s a big yes, they’re probably ready. If they’re nervous about a few things, keep the conversation going.

You can also give them the “power to choose” by giving them some choices about camp.

For example, what activities do they want to sign up for (if they have choices)?

If the schedule is already planned, you can ask them what activities they want to do before or after camp.

You can also ask them to help you pack their snacks and lunch.

Ask them what else theymight need to make camp an awesome experience.

What you are doing is give them a sense of control over a situation that is making them nervous.

You can also remind your child that they will be learning new skills which will make them more competent and confident. Remember, it’s good to learn new things and learning helps grow your brain.

If your child can verbalize what is making them nervous, such as lacking soccer skills, you can help them by exposing them to the game. Practice with them or invite other kids to play. This allows your child to practice in the safety and security of a familiar place.

Another way to help them understand their hesitancy is by relating their feelings to a story. You can tell their story, but change it:

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Emma and she really didn’t want to go to camp. Tell the arc of the story using Emma who is being open minded, flexible, and optimistic. She makes a new friend, or she is brave and tries a new experience.

This story shows your child that they can put themselves in the same situation but they change their negativity into positivity.

You can also use role playing to help your child overcome their fears. Use their stuffed toys or draw pictures to tell their story.

If you have the opportunity to visit the camp before it starts, that may help alleviate their stress. They can picture what it will look like, and you can help them envision themselves playing there.

It’s important to always acknowledge your child’s feelings. Tell them that you understand that this new situation is going to be really hard. Connect with them so you can guide them to a more positive approach.

You can ask them how they think the first day will go, and what they’re scared of. Then you can talk about that. After the first day, you can reflect with them. How did it go? Was it different from what you expected? Did you surprise yourself and have a great time or was it as bad as your thought? What can we do to make it better tomorrow (or next time)?

If you know your child is ready for camp, be sure to tell them so. Young children need their parents to set the tone in new situations. If you show your child that you are confident in the camp leaders and your child’s ability to handle camp, they will follow your lead and be confident starting in a new place. Remind your child that camp is safe and fun and that their counselors will take good care of them. Your toddler and young children will feel your confidence and model your behavior as they start their new adventure.

Let’s all have a fun summer and no more camp jitters!

For more information or to talk about your toddler’s sleep and behavior challenges,

reach out at any time.

Sweet Dreams!😴👶


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