Sending your child to overnight camp can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, especially if it’s their first time – and yours! At Farm & Wilderness, we believe in joyful play, purposeful work, and rugged outdoor living. Our camps in Vermont offer a unique opportunity for children to unplug from their screens and connect with nature, themselves, and their peers. If you’re sending your child to camp for the first time, we've got eight tips to prepare them (and maybe you) for the summer.
1. Start talking About Camp!It’s important to prepare the whole family for time away at camp. Talk to them about what to expect, the activities they’ll be doing, and the friends they’ll make. If you have great stories about your own camp experiences, share them! Encourage your child to ask questions and express any concerns they may have.
2. Familiarize them (and you!) with Farm & Wilderness.
Take advantage of a pre-summer video call with our fabulous camp directors, check out our Fall Walkthrough videos, and look at the maps on each camp’s page. Scroll through the Instagram together to see photos of activities and get a sense of the daily life at our camps. Getting familiar with F&W can help alleviate anxiety by making camp feel more familiar and less intimidating.
3. Prepare for Homesickness
Most everyone feels it at camp at some point, especially if it’s their first summer. Encourage your child to talk to their camp counselor or another staff member when they feel homesick. Remind them that it’s normal to miss home and that it will pass, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. Sending a small, familiar item from home, like a favorite stuffed animal or family photo, can also help ease homesickness. Homesickness tends to hit hardest in the quieter moments, and if you get a letter, don’t panic – reach out to your camp. It’s possible that your kiddo is already over their homesickness by the time you get the letter!
4. Involve Your Camper in the Packing Process
Giving your child some control over what they bring to camp can help ease any anxieties they may have. Review the packing list together and let them choose which clothes, toys, and books they want to bring. Remind them to pack for the activities they’ll be doing and the weather they’ll be experiencing. This also helps on arrival, as they know what they need to set up their sleeping area. Counselors will guide campers in unpacking but won’t do it for them upon arrival. For more detail on packing for camp, check out our podcast episode where our Director of Enrollment breaks down the process!
5. Prepare Them for the Rustic Living
Our camps in Vermont offer a rustic, outdoor living experience. This means no phones, no TVs, and no electricity in the cabins. Encourage your child to embrace the simplicity of camp life and enjoy being disconnected from technology. They’ll have plenty of opportunities for adventure, creativity, and connection with nature and their peers. Yes, they might feel like they miss the screens the first few days, but we have so much going on all the time they’ll soon realize they don’t even need them!
6. Practice Separation
If your camper hasn't been away from home for extended periods, it can be helpful to practice separation beforehand. Arrange sleepovers with friends or family members, gradually increasing the duration of time they spend away from home. This can help your child build resilience and adjust to being away from you. If you can, have them sleep outside for a night before camp so they know what it’s like.
7. Encourage participation
There is so much going on each day, and we believe in the value of trying new things. Encourage your camper to participate in all of the camp activities, even if they’re unsure or nervous. Our experienced staff will provide a supportive and safe environment for them to explore and grow. This even goes for trying new foods and making new friends, so encourage them to stay open!
8. Celebrate their independence
Overnight camp offers an excellent opportunity for your child to develop independence and self-reliance. Encourage them to take on age-appropriate responsibilities at home in the weeks leading up to camp, such as packing their own bags or making simple decisions. This will build their confidence and make them feel more prepared to handle new experiences.
Sending your child to overnight camp at Farm & Wilderness is a big decision! With our supportive community, expert staff, and amazing activities, your child is sure to have an unforgettable experience. Just remember to keep an open mind, communicate with your child and their camp staff, and trust in the magic of camp. We hope these tips have been helpful, and we look forward to seeing your child at Farm & Wilderness this summer!
Remember, Camp Magic is real y'all!
Jarod “W” Wunneburger
Director of Timberlake & Director of Camps