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If your son is going to overnight camp this summer, now’s the time to buy a laundry stamp and plenty of labels and start putting his name on his clothes.
That’s the advice of experienced camp parents we surveyed earlier this spring.
We asked eight parents of returning Kabeyun campers and alumni to share suggestions for families who are sending boys to camp for the first time. Their advice ranged from the utterly practical to the philosophical. All of it is valuable, although some suggestions may “ring true” for your family more than others – you know your son best. Here are their tips, organized by topics.
“Your son is happy and in really good hands. Every counselor and adult at Kabeyun is invested in making sure he’s ok.”
“No, they won’t go hungry. Yes, even the pickiest eaters find something they like to eat. The food is good. Seriously.”
“Encourage your son to try a bit of everything, especially things that are new and that he would never have an opportunity to do if not for camp.”
“Go ahead and order your labels now. They’re a lot cheaper when you don’t have to pay rush and overnight shipping.”
“Buy a laundry stamp and an extra ink pad. Don’t bother with the iron-on labels. You will save so much time!”
“We had our son help with all the clothing labeling before he left for camp. A good way to start off his new camp independence!”
“The first summer, I tried to label everything the week before camp and it was miserable. Now, I label my boys’ items as we get them all year long. This makes the week before camp a little less hectic.”
“Trust the Kabeyun packing list. They really don’t need more than that.”
“It can be surprisingly cool overnight, so follow the packing list and pack more blankets and warm clothes than you might think he’ll need.”
“Double the underwear count and just assume you won’t get it all back. It’s fine. It means he wore it AND changed it. Extra socks are good too.”
“Pack flip-cap toothpaste. And pack two bars of soap, for when the first one gets dropped in the dirt.”
“Unless your son requires a certain brand, don’t pack sunscreen Kabeyun has ample all around the campus.”
“Bring cards and small games for the cabin. Our boys enjoyed Munchkin, Kanoodle, Monopoly Deal, and Pit (among others) on rainy days. Helps to make friends too.”
“Packing cubes have been a helpful way to keep my camper’s clothes organized and neat. It also makes for super-easy unpacking.”
“Quick drying towels are great since the kids may be in and out of the water all day. A clip-on fan (plus batteries) is very helpful on hot nights. An Itty Bitty book light is great for reading.”
“Try not to linger too long at drop off. As hard as it is, a short goodbye is easier for your child. I cry a little every year as I drive away and that’s ok too.”
“The drop off might feel hard for you or your son, but the counselors do a great job of helping your son get settled and feel a part of his cabin community.”
“While you may tend to focus on your last moments with your son, make sure you take time to meet his cabin counselors. These are the people your son will be spending a lot of time with and if you get a sense of them, it can give you comfort that your son is in good hands. You will also know who they are talking about when they mention them in letters. The counselors my sons met over the years at Kabeyun had more impact than anything else at camp. They were examples of the many ways men can be men.”
“They will love camp, even if they’re sad to see you go. My boys come home happy, more confident and independent, and full of stories. It’s going to be great. Really.”
“I like to send a letter or postcard a few days before drop off. Mail can take a while to and from camp, and it’s reassuring to me that my camper will have a letter waiting for him when he arrives.”
“Include some pre-addressed and stamped envelopes. Writing letters is a little like going backwards in time, and chances are, they didn’t cover it at his elementary school.”
“Expect very few details in letters home. I took that to mean he was too distracted and happy to spend time writing to us.”
“Short letters are OK. If you’re lucky enough to get a recap, save it, so you can reread it when you get the concise “HI MOM! Love, Charlie” letter.”
“Don’t be too discouraged if the first letter you get doesn’t sound happy! We got a ‘Please come pick me up’ letter about 5 days before we got one that said, ‘You can ignore that letter, and careful this one might smell like fish ‘cause I just caught one!’”
“All campers love mail; write often!”
And from an experienced counselor: “Personally, I think sending your camper one letter per week is perfect.”
“Don’t be surprised if they don’t want to talk about camp right away. They’ll be exhausted when they get home, and I think they like savoring the stories as their own for a while. They’ll tell you all about their experiences soon enough!”
“I don't plan anything for my kids for the first three days after they get home. They need the downtime to sleep, process, and weave together the experiences/identities they had at camp with their life at home, especially if they're younger.”
On the other hand…
“I learned – the hard way -- to make sure our family had lots of things planned in the few days after Kabeyun. At camp, my boys are so accustomed to having tons of activities and friends around that they can be a little snarly without that when they first come home!”
Laura Remington is Kabeyun's Associate Director and the mother of two long-time campers. She thanks Cole Anspacher, Karen Biemann, Debbi Bernstein, Autumn Cohen, Helen McDermott, Emily Schebesta, Heidi Snellenburg, Nate Snellenberg, and Stephanie Stewart for sharing these suggestions. They represent families whose sons first came to Kabeyun as early as 2000 and as recently as 2021.
Kabeyun offers other resources to help first-time campers and their parents prepare for camp. Your CampInTouch account includes our packing list. In our Parent Handbook, you’ll find specific instructions on what makes a great letter to your camper. We can’t wait to welcome our new guys to Kabeyun this summer!
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