Preparing your child to thrive at Camp
Camp gives kids the activities and the environment they need to be the best people they can be. Camp Kanata helps kids become the best version of themselves.
Everyone who comes through our gates has unique needs. We are a better Camp when we take time to find out what those needs are, build empathy and understanding, and respond to individuals appropriately. Camp Kanata is an inclusive, welcoming camp dedicated to serving those needs in the best way possible. Because every person is unique, we address each request individually. Your child’s success at Camp is our number one priority; therefore, if you have a request or a medical need, please contact us so we can work together to empower your child to reach their full potential with dignity.
Part of coming to Camp is to learn to live independently and experience friendships, disagreements, and growth with campers who are not always similar to your child. The more we know about your child leading up to their arrival at Camp, the better the experience your child will have during their time with us. Your camper’s mental, emotional, and social health is our priority, so please reach out to Ryan Eves, Camp Kanata’s Executive Director, with experiences including ADHD, anxiety, depression, mood disorders, food issues, self-harm or sense of self.
- Teaching Happiness: Positive Emotions are Skills to Be Learned
- Expert Advice: Campers and Families
- Preparing Children for the Summer Camp Experience
- American Camp Association Articles by Bob Ditter
Some Topics to Help You Prepare Your Camper for Camp:
Feeling Unsafe vs. Feeling Uncomfortable:
Camp is a wonderful environment for kids to challenge themselves to try new things. Camp is also a place where kids from different backgrounds and lived experiences get to know each other as they share a cabin together for a week or longer. Sometimes our kids will meet someone who thinks, acts, or feels differently than they do. Sometimes it’s as simple as liking different camp activities. Sometimes it’s having different religious backgrounds. Or being from different towns or states. All these things can make a camper uncomfortable.
It is important that kids know it’s ok to be uncomfortable as they learn and experience new things. Discomfort means they are learning something new!
It is easy to confuse being uncomfortable with being unsafe, but the difference is important. Safety is our number one priority at Camp. Our staff spends many hours during pre-summer training learning how to keep the campers safe. Help your child to understand that they are safe at camp even if they are feeling some discomfort and support your camper in identifying how they will find a caring adult who can help them when they are feeling this way.
My camper is a little nervous about being with kids they don’t know. What do you do to make sure everyone feels included?
At Camp, building a caring community where everyone feels welcome is especially important to us. To this end, we make a significant effort to train our counselors to help campers connect with one another. We are careful in our cabin assignments to put new campers and campers who come without a cabinmate request into cabin groups where they will make friends. The first days of camp are carefully planned to help new campers quickly make friends and learn their way around our camp. There are also lots of fun activities and games to help campers find common interests and effortless ways to connect!
Read this article on Camper Friendships here.
My camper is worried about what they will eat at Camp. What kind of food is served and what happens if they don’t like something?
At Camp Kanata, we place tremendous emphasis on the health and safety of our community, which includes nutrition. We know and believe when our Camp family is well-nourished, they will thrive and the quality of their experience is enhanced.
Beginning this year, we are partnering with FLIK for our Dining Program because of their expertise, philosophy, and concept: Eat. Share. Connect. Through wholesome meals, dietary options and environmentally conscious programming, the whole community is better equipped to live a happy, healthy life.
Meals in the Dining Hall are served family-style with campers eating with their cabinmates and counselors. Some favorites include Sunday fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls, pizza and pasta and tacos on Tuesdays! Salads and vegetables are served with all meals, as well as fruit. We provide a variety of food at each meal, so if there is something served that is not your child’s favorite, there are plenty of other options for them. Also, please make sure your child knows they can always tell their counselor if they feel like they are not getting enough food.
My camper can get very anxious sometimes. How should I help them prepare?
Help prepare your child by explaining that everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. In fact, it is typical for every camper to have moments of anxiety at Camp as they are being introduced to new people and new experiences. You can help them reduce stress and anxiety by validating these feelings and creating a plan for these moments. Help them recognize these feelings when they come up and that anxiety can present as physical feelings, thoughts, and actions. Help give them words to communicate with their counselor when this happens and let them know it is perfectly normal to take a break from an activity and to share with others what they are feeling. By helping your child build their toolkit of self-care, you are helping them create healthy habits that will see them into adulthood.
Read this article from Child Mind Institute on ways to help your anxious child enjoy Camp.
What if my child has a problem while they are at Camp?
One of the best things about Camp is learning to live with others. As campers learn to navigate this, there will inevitably be some type of conflict to work through. We encourage you to talk with your camper about this. If your camper experiences sadness or has a conflict, make sure they know to go to their counselor with this. Explain what to do if something happens that hurts their feelings or what to do if they need help. Their cabin counselors, Unit Leaders and the Directors are all here for them.
Additionally, counselors, Directors, and the Health Center are resources for campers when they don’t feel well physically or emotionally. The “Medical Care” and “Emotional and Physical Safety” sections of our FAQ page expand on how we support campers at Camp and how you can support your camper in preparation for Camp their time with us. Help your camper by giving them the tools to be an advocate for themself so that we can then help them to have the absolute best summer!
Read this article from Parents Together about how to help your child advocate for themselves.
What if my camper gets homesick?
One of the best ways to help your child with homesickness is to prepare them ahead of time. Speaking openly about homesickness before Camp helps your child understand that it is normal and natural and may help them accept it with less anxiety. What you say before Camp is as equally important as what happens at Camp. Do not make any promises to pick them up early if they express unhappiness or unease. Instead, have them practice writing you letters and make sure they know how to stamp and address their envelopes. This lets them know you have confidence in their ability to be away from home.
You can also let your child know that should they experience homesickness, they can let their counselor know and they are ready and willing to help them. Staff are well trained to normalize homesickness, help them connect with other campers and support them until they have integrated into Camp.
For further information on how to support your child in a successful transition to Camp, read:
What training does Camp Staff receive?
Our staff receives a full week of training before they begin their summer. Nearly 90% of our staff are returning counselors and/or have participated in our Trainee Program (Which consists of three weeks each summer for two summers). During our staff training week, staff learns safety protocols and procedures, age group characteristics, group management and activity training. Additionally, our Leadership staff participate in and receive certification in Youth Mental Health First Aid and all of our staff are educated in social-emotional learning and character development.
What are some things that you have seen campers be worried about that I should be sure to discuss with my camper?
Are there bathrooms near everything that I can use?
- Camp is laid out so that there are bathrooms and water fountains accessible to the campers while they are out on activities. You can find a bathroom if you are near the dining hall, the pool or even at sailing!
Do I have to shower in front of other people?
- All of our cabins are equipped with individual showers that allow campers to shower in private.
How often do we eat? What if I’m hungry in between meals?
- Meals at Camp are FUN and nourishing! We eat at 8 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. every day. There is also snack time (snacks are provided!) every afternoon. Meals are served family-style in our NEW Dining Hall. Fresh fruits, vegetables and quality ingredients are used to prepare well-balanced meals that keep us all nourished and ready for activity time.
What if I can’t sleep at night?
- Our days are packed full of fun and excitement, leaving most campers ready for a good night’s rest. But should you find yourself unable to sleep, your counselors live in the cabin with you, so they are there to help you anytime you need them.
Can I call home?
- One of the best parts of Camp is getting to be independent and grow in a safe, nurturing environment. Being away from home allows you to explore who you are, separate from your families. So, we have our campers write home to their families to share their experiences rather than make phone calls so that you can truly engage in Camp life. Of course, campers also love to receive mail, so we encourage you to write your camper often. Plus, it is also a unique and positive experience to spend time outdoors in nature while being technology free!