Tips for Parents of First Time Campers

4.4.17 by

In our newest series, Sum Things to Know, we will be interviewing real moms about the do’s, don’ts, wishes, wants, favorite things, and fun times! Here at Summer 365, we give you the best advice because we have the experience to back it up!

First, we are hearing from Hallie Grodin, Summer 365 Counselor, who grew up going to her 8-week, all-girls camp in the Berkshires for 9 years – 7 as a camper and 2 as a counselor. So it’s no surprise she is SO excited about sending her son to camp for the first time. Check out what she has to say about being a mom to all boys, getting “that feeling” at the right camp, and the magic of experiencing camp through the eyes of a child.

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What are you most looking forward to? What are you most nervous about?

I am most excited for Jack to have the summer of his life – to get to do what he loves all day every day, to get to enjoy some independence from his parents and his brothers and to get to live the life at camp. I can’t wait for him to go to camp and really experience the magic and finally understand firsthand what I haven’t stopped telling him about since he was born! Of course I am still nervous – I am nervous about him being homesick, making friends with people that he really wants to be friends with, being away from home for so long. But my excitement definitely outweighs my nerves and so does my jealousy!

How did you decide on the camp you chose? What were the important factors of your choice?

Choosing the right camp for our son Jack was really a very easy decision. I’m not going to lie, the fact that my brother went to the camp for 14 years as a camper, counselor and group head, and it had a huge impact on shaping who he is today – this was a big contributing factor. For us there is something about that personal history and connection to the camp that definitely played a big role. But we wanted to make sure we didn’t let that be the only factor. Unlike many people, we knew that we wanted our kids to go to a camp where hopefully they wouldn’t know anyone from back home – my brother and I both had that experience and we both feel strongly that it helped to shape our experience. Of course I understand why people choose to send their child away with another good friend or others that they know, but for our family, we wanted a completely different experience. The Directors were an important factor in our choice. We wanted to feel comfortable with the directors of the camp, know that we could trust them, agree with their approach, etc. It was refreshing to my husband and I to say “we totally could be friends with them” about the Directors, that meant there was a shared comfort. I equate finding the right camp for your child to finding the right college. I remember for myself I “got that feeling” when I stepped on to the campus of the college I ultimately went to. I got the right vibe, I felt like I fit in – it just felt right. That was important to us to get that feeling about the camp – does it look like our son will be happy here? Does he look like he could be friends with these kids? Of course you can get that feeling at more than one camp – but there is something about that gut feeling.

What is the most important thing you learned in the camp preparing/searching process?

There are a million camps out there and there is a right camp for everyone – maybe even many camps that could be a great fit. It is not a decision to take lightly but I think one where you need to follow your gut – know your kid, know yourself and have trust in the system!

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What is something you must have? What is something you don’t need? 

We have started the camp buying preparation and we are having a blast! I do think I have it a little easier being a mom of all boys – I don’t think they want/need quite as much! Some of our must haves are comfy bedding, items from his favorite sports teams (i.e.  pillow, blanket etc) and clearly some camp pride! When I showed my brother the packing list he wanted to make a bet that my son wouldn’t use 2/3 of what is required because he of course didn’t – I’m still sending it all and I have faith my son will use most of it, though I may be proven wrong! I think its easy to get wrapped up with all the different options out there to represent your camp, your city, your teams…in the end, I am adopting the philosophy that less is more as I am also guessing most of it is going to come home looking a little different than how it went!

What is an important conversation you want to have with your child before he/she leaves?

A few conversations…1) HAVE FUN. Try not to think about us too much at home. Don’t stress about winning a tournament or losing one – just play and have fun. 2) BE YOURSELF! People will love you for who you are – it may not be the first person you meet, it may not be the person in the bed next to you, but you will find and make friends, even if it takes a few days! 3) Its okay to be homesick! As my best friends, my camp friends, can attest – I LIVED for camp, loved every second of it. But even my oldest summer as a camper, I cried on visiting day and I cried when I spoke to my parents. It didn’t mean that I wasn’t having the time of my life, I was, even if I still missed them on occasion! 4) TRY NEW THINGS! You may think you don’t love basketball – play it, have fun, you don’t need to be the best! Try water sports that you have never tried. Try different foods. Give it all a shot!

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