Tips for First Time Summer Camp Parents

Getting Ready for Sleepaway Camp-First Time Camp Families

You’ve made the exciting decision to send your child to Camp Wekeela this summer. This is an important milestone in a child’s life, and you want to make sure you prepare your child for the experience before the first day of camp arrives. Preparing will help make a child’s camp time more successful. As we enter our 27th year at Wekeela, we recommend the following tips for getting your first-time camper ready and excited for camp.

Expectations: An example of the camp program is on the website. Please discuss it with your child so he or she knows what to expect when at camp. We hope that you have spoken about Wekeela in the months leading up to opening day so as to build your child’s enthusiasm.

Positive Messages: It’s important for parents to share positive messages about summer camp. It’s common for a child to have some apprehension as the first day of camp approaches – encourage your child to talk about these feelings. The number one question from new camper parents is always concerning transition and homesickness. As camp directors for many years, we try to simplify the process. We want and hope that the majority of the time the solution lies in being comfortable and confident about the summer camp experience.

New Camper Get-Togethers: We enjoy hosting ice cream meet and greet events throughout the country. We feel this is a good way for children to meet other children going to the camp for the first time. It also gives campers a chance to get to know the camp directors and for the directors to get to know you and your child. We will be continuing this tradition leading up to the 2024 season. If we didn’t get to your town this past year, we will get there next year!

Bus and or Plane Preparation For Day Camp: For many children going to Wekeela for the first time, this will be the first time they take a bus a long distance (White Plains, NY to Wekeela in Hartford, Maine) or a flight alone. Talk about what the bus or plane ride will be like and what your child can expect on the bus and/or plane to and from camp. Taking the time to assess what your child’s individual needs are prior to getting on the bus and / or plane the first day of camp can be crucial to a successful first day of camp. Parents should create a checklist of events, rituals, and comforts that will help their child get on the bus without fear for the first time.

Packing: In our Parent/Camper Handbook we provide a packing list based on session length as well and a description of our packing expectations. Going to sleepaway camp, discuss what items will be needed for camp and pack together. Your child will feel more secure if they know what they are bringing to camp, and you can use the time packing together to talk with your child about how much fun camp is going to be. Make sure to look at the Wekeela packing list and respect the items we ask you to leave at home. We encourage your child to pack something from home that will make them feel better if they miss home. A stuffed animal, photo of the family, or some memento may give them some comfort while they are away from home.

Watch The Camp Wekeela Video And Visit Wekeela’s Website: Most likely, you watched our camp video with your child when choosing the camp. As summer approaches, this is a good time to watch it again. This will be a good reminder to your child about all he or she has to look forward to. Visit the camp’s website ( together and look at the activity list, photos, and the camp map to give your child a feel for what camp will be like.

Don’t Make Pick Up Deals: While discussing camp, don’t make plans to pick your child up from camp if he or she doesn’t like it. You are giving your child the message that you don’t believe he will be successful at camp. It is important to understand that children will have some adjustment issues when going off to camp. At Wekeela, we are well versed in making their first time campers adjust quickly and don’t get thrown by the separation anxiety some campers will feel. Before camp begins, let your child know you are confident in his or her ability to have a wonderful summer camp experience.

Questions: Ask your child if he or she has any questions about camp. Keeping an open dialogue about what camp will be like will help your child feel comfortable about going to camp for the first time.

Call The Camp Director: If you sense your child is nervous about camp, you can always call the camp team and ask for their advice. The camp administrative staff has a lot of experience with first time campers and will be able to offer you some ways which you can help your child get over any worries about the first day of camp.