Whether this is your child’s first time coming to camp or their sixth summer, here are a couple of tips when planning for the Summer of Connection. The steps presented here can help your child get ready for an amazing summer without homesickness, and be able to fully immerse themselves in the Keystone Science School summer camp experience.
BEFORE THEY GO
Include your child in the decision process: When selecting a summer camp program, let your kid(s) get involved so they can find their perfect summer camp experience. When they have questions parents are welcome to call or email the KSS Customer Experience team with your camper.
Paperwork: Completing all the necessary paperwork is cumbersome and time-consuming but the forms really help the KSS Camp staff understand how to best take care of your child. The more detail you can provide in paperwork is appreciated!
Independent Packing: You can review the packing lists on the Getting Ready for Camp webpage for each program. Engage your child in the packing process. Lay out all items and allow your camper to physically pack the items in the bag. If they have questions about items and why they’re important, be available to answer any questions.
Review the Schedule: Kids are just like adults and perform better when they understand the basic schedule. Review the schedule for their program which can be found on each program page. Please note that the schedule will sometimes change due to weather but when campers have an understanding of when and how their basic needs will be met they are more likely to successfully engage in programming.
Review the Physical Location: Similar to reviewing the schedule, it’s encouraged that each child gets an understanding of their physical location. You can prepare your child for the experience by looking at the campus on Google Maps/Earth, pictures on the Our Campus webpage, or even tour the dining hall and dorms in 3D!
Meet Our Staff: It’s always nice to meet a friendly face. Many of Keystone Science School’s year-round staff and summer camp counselors will be at check-in helping to welcome campers for their experience. Have your camper learn about the KSS staff before they come to programming.
Saying GoodBye (“I’m Proud of You”): This might sound trivial, but we have always coached parents to tell their camper, “You’ll have so much fun and I’m so proud of you” rather than, “I miss you.” instilling pride is a great tool to combat homesickness and stating that you will miss them creates anxiety and a feeling of guilt in children for leaving parents all by themselves.
WHILE THEY’RE AT CAMP
Encourage participation: While your camper is at camp, encourage them to participate in all the activities and not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Ask them questions about how they participated and tell them to try to do one thing new every day at camp.
Meet new friends: One of the best parts of camp is getting to meet new people. Tell your child that camp is a welcoming place and encourages everyone to get to know each other. Campers will spend time participating in team-building games and adventuring with kids they’ve never met. Explain to your child how they can make new friends–introduce themselves, ask questions to the other campers, offer to help new campers, sit next to new campers during meals, and tell them there are lots of ways to make friends at camp.
Homesickness: We work with kids experiencing homesickness throughout each summer. Each case is different but our general approach is to get our campers looking forward to the next activity. We work with each child and will rarely allow campers to call home. Calling home often leads to increased homesickness. If we can just get our campers to focus on getting through the next activity the feeling of homesickness often goes away.
ONCE THEY’RE HOME
Ask: Once your child returns home, ask them about their favorite part? What was the hardest part of camp? What was their favorite food at camp? What new friends did they make? Do they want to go back to camp next year? You will also find a series of “Dinner Table” questions on your Camp Newsletter which can help you better ask your child about their experiences.
Reflect: Summer Camp leaves kids with a plethora of emotions and it’s a good idea to have them debrief afterward. Encourage your kid to write their thoughts down. Ask if they had any breakthrough moments? Did they discover something new that they liked?