6 things to know before the first day of summer camp

Moms and camp directors provide the inside scoop

6 things to know before the first day of summer camp

Before you know it, school will be out and it will be time to send the kiddies off to camp. We asked moms of previous campers and camp directors to tell us the things they wish you and your children knew. While you're planning for the summer fun, keep these tips in mind.

Label everything
When Catherine Monteiro sent her son Matthew to sleepaway camp a few years ago, she was pleased at how well the camp kept her informed. "I missed him, but it was good for him to go away and have the experience away from electronics and social media," says the mom who lives in Poughkeepsie.

Monteiro still wishes she had been told one thing before the first day of camp. "I wish I knew how important it was to label all of his clothes and make sure that we sent extra," she says. "Matthew came home with fewer clothes than we sent with him. Some were brand new clothes that were lost. Other than that, it was a great experience."

Sally Buttinger, co-owner and director of Camp Hillcroft in LaGrangeville, says that the lost and found at her camp fills up an entire room by the end of summer. "The kids get changed twice each day for swimming so use a Sharpie to write their names on the clothes," she says.

READ MORE: Day camp lunchbox essentials!

Camp counselors aren’t doctors
While there are nurses at most camps to tend to your sick or injured child, they and the camp directors have limitations when working with your child's medications. "I wish parents knew we can't change the medication their child needs to take," says Maria Aranibar, camp director for Braeside Camp in Middletown, which is both a day camp and an overnight camp for children ages 4 to 16 years old.

For example, if you send your child to camp with a medication that states it must be taken at 1pm every day, the camp cannot deviate from that, even five minutes. "We have to go exactly by what the bottle says," says Aranibar. "Your child also can't self-medicate. Even Tylenol can be taken incorrectly, so it's our responsibility to administer medication the correct way."

Camps should match your child's temperament
Filomena Fanelli has sent both of her daughters, 12-year-old Emilia and 7-year-old Siena, to the Gold's Gym Day Camp in LaGrange and she made sure to match them up to the right camp. She wishes other moms knew how to do that.

"My best advice for moms sending their children to a day camp is to make sure the schedule and level of activities matches the child's temperament," says the Poughkeepsie mom. "For example, if your child craves lots of physicality, is there time outside to play or a quiet, air-conditioned place for them if they need downtime?"

READ MORE: Find the best summer camp for your child

Camps are structured environments
Aranibar wants parents to know that summer camps aren't school. They are much more fun, but camps are still structured environments. "Parents should have their kids here on time and with a good night's sleep and fed," says the Braeside Camp Director.

Camp is meant to be fun, but it's important to remember that it is still a structured environment that has some rules and regulations that are implemented to keep your kids safe.  

Bug spray, sunscreen and water bottles are important
When Rosemarie Noto sent her then 10-year-old son Nick to day camp a few years ago, she wished that someone had told her how important it was to spray him down with bug spray. "Most parents would think that the camp does that, but it's up to us," says Noto. Summertime gets buggy so it's important to protect your children from mosquito bites and bee stings.

The same goes with covering them with sunscreen to prevent sunburn. "And a hat to protect their head from the sun," says Aranibar.

"Hydration is extremely important in the summer," says Buttinger. "Sometimes children come to camp without a water bottle and it's important that they drink a lot of water."

It gets easier
Whether you are sending your child to day or overnight camp, there will be a period of adjustment and homesickness. Your child might want to call you and ask to come home early. He might want to give up because he hasn't made a friend yet. The first few days of something new are difficult, but their experience at camp will change.

"I wish the kids knew that once they get through those first few days of camp and start to make friends and do something new, the anxiety eases and they will have a great time," says Aranibar. "If the overnighters call their parents during the first few days, the risk of them going home is higher. If they come in knowing there won't be any phone calls, most will do just fine."  

Aranibar wants parents to know one very important fact: they might go through their own separation anxiety, too. "Parents call and want to talk to their children, but unless it's an emergency we don't allow phone calls."
Enjoy the time they are at camp. Before you know it, it will be over and the school bell will ring again.

Lisa Iannucci's latest book "On Location: A Film and TV Lover's Travel Guide," is available online and in stores.