A little bit of preparation for camp goes a long way! It helps your child arrive excited and feeling prepared, in addition to reinforcing many of the normal life lessons you are already teaching your child at home.
Practice Life Skills
Practice Tidying Up at Home
At International Gymnastics Camp campers will tidy their cabins each day – in fact, they earn “Cabin of the Week” contest points for doing so! Have your children practice at home helping pick up, sweeping, etc. Campers should also know how to straighten out sheets — or at least a sleeping bag — so the bed looks neat in the morning, do their hair for practice in the morning, put clothes away at the end of the day, wash up at night, and hang up their towels after use (Don’t worry, our counselors are there to help too)!
Practice Doing Simple Loads of Laundry
At International Gymnastics Camp campers staying multiple weeks often want to do laundry on Saturday. Have them help you with a load at home, and have them learn if anything they are bringing to camp needs to be sorted and washed separately. We have standard coin-operated commercial laundry washing machines and dryers, with easy push-button choices (E.g., Whites, Colors, Permanent Press, Delicate). Do not send your gymnast with quarters for laundry – we will debit their canteen account and provide the quarters here. It is $2 per washing machine load and $2 per dryer load. Campers can purchase laundry detergent in the canteen through their canteen accounts.
Practice Simple Budgeting Skills
IGC campers use their canteen account to buy camp souvenirs, gymnastics apparel and accessories, and extra snacks during recreation time. However, if you want their money to last over the entire week without a letter home asking for more, have them practice! There are many great children’s budgeting resources available, but here are two tips that parents have passed along that work well:
- Have a parent-child grocery store date! Give your child a very simple grocery shopping list, and an amount of cash that doesn’t quite cover it all. Have them figure out the limit of the budget (E.g. they can afford one expensive item off the list, or several less expensive ones) and have them decide which they want.
- Give older campers several weeks’ allowance at once, and help them budget it out over the time period.
Gymnastics sleep-away camp offers an excellent opportunity for children to learn how well they can manage without their parents, and can sometimes produce anxieties. Children often feel that without parents to care for them, they may struggle with day-to-day living. Children may also feel guilty because they have left their parents behind.
Mild homesickness, whether in anticipation of being away, or upon arrival, is very normal for children (and parents!) of all ages. Our counselors are specialists in helping children and parents deal with any anxiety once they arrive. There are many simple steps you can do before camp to help minimize or even prevent it.
Dr. Chris Thurber, a board-certified clinical psychologist, is a long-time partner with International Gymnastics Camp and works with all our counselors throughout the summer. His research focuses on the risk and predictive factors for homesickness.
Here are his findings on how to minimize or avoid it:
Involve children (to the extent possible) in the decision to spend time away from home
Young people should be told, “Almost everyone misses something about home when they are away. Homesickness is normal. It means there are lots of things about home you love. And the good news is that there are lots of things you can think and do to help make things better if homesickness bothers you.”
Arrange for practice time away from home
Such as a weekend at a friend’s or relative’s house. Ideally, these 2 or 3 days do not include telephone calls but do include opportunities for writing a letter or postcard home.
Practice basic correspondence
Ensuring that children know how to write letters increases the likelihood that they will maintain some contact with home.
Work together to learn about camp
Web sites, orientation booklets, and current students, alumni, or staff members are excellent resources. They increase familiarity and, thereby, reduce anxiety.
Encourage children to make new friends and seek the support of trusted adults.
Both kinds of connections ease the adjustment to a novel environment.
Express enthusiasm and optimism about time at camp.
Parents should share their own separation anxiety with other parents, not with their children.
Use a wall calendar
Show children the time between today and the day of the separation. Highlight which days or weeks the child will be away, so he or she can see that it is a discrete period, not an eternity.
Source: Thurber CA, Walton E, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health. Preventing and treating homesickness. Pediatrics 2007; 119:192.
International Gymnastics Camp can also recommend that you check out the books and DVDs by Dr. Chris Thurber as tools to assist you in preparing for a wonderful camp experience.