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"But I won't know anyone!"
Is that your kid's reaction to summer camp -- more anxiety than excitement? Understandably, heading to camp for the first time can be a little intimidating for routine-loving kids, who probably wonder how they'll ever make friends in an unfamiliar place filled with unfamiliar faces (forgetting, of course, that they did it in school!). You can help ease the transition with these tips from Dr. Robyn Silverman, a child development specialist:
Get there early. Arriving at camp a little bit early each day gives your child time to size up the activities (and campers) before you leave. Introverted kids might want to sit and watch before joining in; don't push them to join the group before they're ready. If you want to give a little nudge, point out a child who's doing an activity your child enjoys, or who is wearing a shirt that indicates a similar interest. You might even strike up conversation with another child or parent. (Often, when parents start talking, the kids wander a few steps away to play.)
Teach your child simple icebreakers. Making small talk isn't easy when you're 40, so why would it be easy at age 4 -- or 8? Go over some simple icebreakers at home, well before camp. Simple questions ("what's your name?"), sincere compliments ("I like your shirt!") and commenting on similar interests ("I like painting, too!") can all get the conversational ball rolling, says Dr. Robyn. Role-play at home so that your child feels comfortable using these techniques at camp.
Set up playdates. Ask camp counselors for a class list, or meet and mingle with the parents at drop-off or pick-up. When you identify a kid who might hit it off with your preschooler, inquire about getting together to play. "Scheduling some time after camp or on the weekends for one-on-one or small group playdates can help your child become more comfortable with the other children she interacts with during camp," Dr. Robyn says.
With any luck, by the time camp ends your kid will have made a whole group of new friends -- and a whole bunch of memories.