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Sun, swimming, and s’mores — what’s not to love about summer camp?
While adults bogged down in marathon-long meetings and endless emails might love a few days away from civilization, not all kids share the sentiment. But there are ways to help ease kids into their time away from home — and an internet connection.
So, whether it’s your child’s first year at summer camp or the experience produces an annual wave of anxiety for camp veterans who will sorely miss their electronics (and maybe even their parents), these strategies should help kids embrace nature, and create a connection to the outdoors that will sustain them through summer camp and beyond.
Become a Backyard Birder
As Audubon explains,
"...every child is born a scientist — exploring their world, leading small experiments, asking questions, searching for answers."
Indeed, birdwatching can reinforce a number of concepts, connecting kids with the natural world. By extension, they learn to identify species, observe social behaviors and feeding habits in wildlife, and study the ways an animal’s environment affects its life.
Ensure Backyard Safety
There can be a surprising amount of risks in one’s own backyard, so before you turn your child loose with binoculars and a field guide, make sure you turn a critical eye to the surroundings. Safewise recommends securing tools, like ladders and rakes, that children could get hurt on, and talking through some safety basics such as how to properly use play equipment and staying hydrated.
Fencing is also recommended, since the physical barrier ensures kids stay within your property boundaries and can help keep out stray dogs and other dangers. If you don’t happen to have fencing, search for the best fence company near me; be sure to compare reviews and get estimates in writing. Inspect any contractor’s work portfolio and check their licensing to help ensure you’re going to be satisfied with the results. The last thing you want is the headache of slow or shoddy workmanship that doesn't properly ensure your child's well-being.
Feeding Birds and Young Minds
You can use the study of birds to conduct experiments in your own environment. For instance, try stocking a simple bird feeder. Switch the filler feed from one variety to another from week to week and keep a log of the birds that visit to determine if the type of feed impacts the variety and volume of birds you see. Or, if you and your novice naturalist have more time and patience, put out a plot or container garden full of flowers designed to attract certain birds. With a little luck, the display will give you the opportunity to observe some specific species up close.
To foster the fascination while your children are at camp, challenge them to log birds and other wildlife in an observation journal that they haven’t seen at home. Staying busy will help keep homesickness at bay while encouraging them to observe the differences between where they are and where they live. Plus, the anticipation can help your child look forward to camp that much more.
The stress-busting benefits of this strategy seem pretty obvious, especially if your kid doesn't have much outdoor experience. So, well before they are scheduled to set up camp with a bunch of kids and counselors they’ve never met, take them on some overnight excursions. And you can even start by setting up a tent in your own backyard, as suggested by Parents.
For your next outdoor adventure, try booking a spot at a nearby campground where it will be easy to drive right up to your campsite and unpack all your gear. This will help kids get comfortable with camping since you’ll have plenty of room to pack everything you might need in any sort of weather. At the same time, save smartphones and other electronics for emergencies and encourage kids to enjoy the environment around them.
Parents and caregivers can also help kids cope by acknowledging the worries they might have but still emphasizing the fun activities they can expect at camp. And, in addition to engaging in outdoor activities with them before they leave, help children come up with their own strategies for surviving separation once they are at camp. Getting advice from camp staffers who calm homesick kids every summer can also be beneficial, according to St. Louis Magazine.
Before going to camp this summer, your children may be stressed and a bit anxious. So, with a little planning and patience, you can help kids prepare for camp, putting fears aside to focus on fun.