Whether your child has been to Camp Jorn in the past, or any camp for that matter, going to camp is still a “new experience” each time around. As a parent myself, I love to see my kids trying new things and meeting new people- I think it helps them grow in ways they normally wouldn’t during their everyday routines. New experiences can be exciting and scary at the same time, but if there’s one thing I believe in wholeheartedly, it’s that the camp experience is one of the best opportunities out there for kids!
At the website “sandbox-learning.com,” I read about 7 Strategies for Preparing Children for New Experiences. I think most of these strategies are relevant to the camp experience as well, and they have some great ideas for parents to help their kids make the transition to something new (my “camp” notes are in italics):
1. Help Children Understand When an Event Will Occur – Children can become very excited about activities. They may ask days or weeks in advance about plans. Help children gain an understanding of when an event will occur by marking it on the calendar and having a countdown. This is a great tool- count down the days to camp!
2. Set Expectations – New experiences often come with new rules and expectations. Be sure to set rules and expectations in advance. Prepare children by reading books on or role playing about the new experiences. A good strategy- for camp, you can go over the Camper Handbook with kids, check out the Camp Jorn website, and look at photos and information on this blog and our Facebook page. You can even “pretend” to be at camp the first day, and talk about what your child might experience then.
3. Let Children Participate in Planning – Children will have more ownership in an event if they are able to help plan it. These kinds of activities teach planning and independence skills that apply later in life. The camp experience will “belong” to your child- let them check out the “what to bring” list and pack a lot of their own clothes, talk about activities they want to participate in, and go over how to take care of their things at camp.
4. Build on Existing Skills and Familiar Experiences – When children relate past situations or expectations to new ones they are able to build on existing knowledge. This allows children to have a parallel for their expectations and draw on their past experiences. Sometimes it’s tough to draw a parallel to camp, but it can be related to school field trips in which you have a lot of fun, but need to remember to stay together and follow the directions of your leader/teacher, or a family picnic where there will be a lot of people and fun things to do.
5. Leverage Opportunities for Learning –Events offer a multitude of opportunities for developing skills. Use naturally occurring events to teach new skills or develop emerging skills. Talk with your child about all the things he or she will be learning at camp- not just how to water ski, or paddle a canoe, but also how to live and work together in a cabin group, how to make new friends, and how to appreciate nature.
6. Use Visuals – Photographs, drawings, or lists can be used as reminders for rules, expectations, or schedules. Visuals can be viewed before, during, and after an event to set expectations, keep children on track, and review the experience. Make sure the choice of visuals is simple, understandable, and easy to access. This is an easy one for camp- check out the Camp Jorn website, Camper and Parent information, this blog, Facebook, the brochure, and any surveys or communication from camp before and after your child’s session. We love to hear from you, and it helps Camp get a better idea of who your child is and how we can make his or her experience the best it can be!
7. Reinforce Appropriate Behavior – Consistent and immediate reinforcement of appropriate behavior gives children a clear understanding of what they are doing correctly. People tend to note when children do things wrong rather than right. Asking your child open-ended questions before and after their camp experience helps you better understand where your child is coming from, and will help you process the experience later. Also, we strive to be sure that things your child learns at camp will be useful to them in other parts of their lives- things you can positively acknowledge and reinforce with them, like independence, compassion, and self-worth.
Finally, celebrate your camper’s new experiences by listening to their stories, congratulating them on their successes, and giving them a big CJ hug!!