Going to Sleepaway Camp for the First Time? Practice these 10 Independent Skills Now!

Updated: Feb 26

Ten Independent Skills you Should Coach Your Child On Before they go to Sleepaway Camp!


1. Self care- Haven’t watched your child brush their teeth in a while (that’s ok, I’m guilty of sending my little ones up to brush their teeth and just crossing my fingers that they do it) take a look over the next few months and give them some reminders on closing the toothpaste after, rinsing out the toothbrush, practice using the case or cover you will be sending to camp. Get in the habit of using deodorant every day if they are starting to stink! There is no age for this, some lucky kids get through their tween years and their sweat just doesn’t smell, others start to get stinky at 8!


2. Shower skills- Switch to shampoo bottles they can navigate independently-pump style, or ones that are easy to squeeze. Start out by squeezing in their hands and watch them wash their hair-guide them through it. Eventually getting to the point where you can give verbal cues and they are doing it independently.


3. Picking out their own clothes- Parents have to let go with this one! Let your kids pick out their own clothes!!! Daily!! Of course there are special occasions where they need to wear something nice, but most days this should be their job so they don’t show up at camp waiting for someone to lay out an outfit-not going to happen… Pay attention to which clothes they actually wear, and only pack those varieties. Sorry if they aren’t the cutest ones, but they may be the comfiest or just the easiest to get on and that’s ok!


4. Hair care-Girls and boys with long hair need to practice daily brushing and easy ponytails. No it doesn’t have to be Instagram perfect, just work on getting the tangles out so they don’t come home with matted hair. Experiment with brushes that make this the easiest. Detangling spray is fine, but nothing too smelly-bugs love perfume! We like the wet brush- https://amzn.to/31p6wUA


5. Practice writing a letter or two and show them how to utilize the stationary you will pre-address, yes-just-do-it! Kids these days don’t write a lot of letters, aside from some thank you notes they aren’t addressing envelopes at all! I suggest you put all of the addresses on labels for them and put a sample in there so they remember where everything goes, if you want to actually get mail this is your best bet!


6. Have them “practice” quiet activities that aren’t electronics. Yes, it’s sad but kids these days don’t have a clue how to entertain themselves without youtube. Teach them a few card games, introduce them to Madlibs, find some magazines they like, word searches, Sudoku, thinking putty -https://amzn.to/2MmEcOl





7. Have them pack along side you! Yes, you will do most of the heavy lifting or your kids may show up with 3 sweatshirts and a flashlight, but let them see what you are packing and help you make some of the decisions. You will likely buy some new clothes and they may not know they are theirs when they get there if they don’t pack with you! Yes-truly, I have seen it happen!


8. Practice choosing the food they hate the least!! Yep, I am dead serious. This is an important life skill. There are 4 things on the table and your kid has a fit that they hate them all (I have three kids so I live this reality daily), have them choose the one they hate the least and eat enough to feel somewhat full. Yes, most camps have choices but they are not endless.


9. If your child has food allergies or food restrictions, make sure they are fully aware and know how to knowledgably ask questions, start prepping them to do this at restaurants and friends’ houses for practice.


10. Teach your child to SPEAK UP!!! This is by far the most important sign of readiness for a child and the hardest for kids of this generation who lack independent communication skills!! If they don’t feel well SAY SOMETHING. If someone is being unkind SAY SOMETHING! If an adult or child makes them feel unsafe SAY SOMETHING! If they feel their counselor is brushing them off, they should go to another easily accessible adult this may be a- supervisor, unit head, head of side or even director depending on the structure of your camp. Do this research before and teach your children about all the adults who are accessible to them and show them pictures, introduce them at the bus, drop off or open house and continually discuss this prior to camp.


Still not sure if your child is ready? Reach out to your chosen camp to understand their expectations!

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