First Time Campers
The first-time camper experience can be filled with a wide variety of mixed emotions for kids and parents alike. Your child might feel anxious at the thought of being away from home for the first time or be brimming with jittery excitement not knowing what the week will hold.
We know what an incredible experience summer camp will be for your camper – the life-long memories, the friendships, and the lessons they’ll learn. We have listed some questions that we typically hear from our first-time families. If you have any additional questions, we are always here to help you.
It’s totally natural for your child to be scared or anxious about their time away. Here are a few tips that’ll help get their nerves settled:
Reassure your child. Be enthusiastic when you talk about camp, tell them about the fun things they’ll be doing while they’re away and the friends they’ll make. Set the tone for their great adventure. Even if you’re anxious about them leaving for the first time, try not to talk about how much you’re going to miss them or how lonely you’ll be without them, as this can make your first-time camper feel guilty or homesick.
Explain what will happen. Much of the fear comes from not knowing what’s going to happen and having to be there all alone when it does. So, walk your child through what will take place – from when they arrive to when they leave. Go through some of the camp materials and share what the activities look like, where the beach is, where cabins are located. We’ve put together a great first-time camper video that’ll break down the whole first day at ISTC for them.
Take a test drive. Why not try out some of our sports or activities beforehand? If they’ve never been rock climbing, take them to a gym and let them experience how fun it is. If they’ve never seen a campfire, grab some marshmallows and build a fire one night. Taking the mystique out of the unknown can not only help them feel more confident, but it’ll likely ignite a spark of excitement as well!
Take a tour. We offer guided summer camp tours before camp starts. This is a great way to let your little camper get familiar with where they’ll be staying.
Create moments of connection (even if you’re not there). Hannah Alper, kid blogger and summer camp fan shares this great tip about her first-time camp experience on her blog, CallMeHannah.ca: “My Mom and I had a special deal that we would both go outside at 9:30 every night and look up at the stars and say goodnight. When I looked up, I knew that she was looking up too.” Other ideas could also include leaving a little surprise, like a handwritten letter, in their bags.
Once you’ve made it past our pumped-up and friendly staff members who’ll greet you when you arrive, we’ll show you where camper registration begins. That’s where we’ll unveil your child’s counselors and the cabin that they’ll call home for the next week.
We encourage first-time camper families to join their kids in settling in. So, take your time walking over to your child’s cabin. Along the way you’ll meet many of our staff members, be able to take in the fresh air and beautiful surroundings and see the smiling faces of return campers and parents alike (we bet you’ll even wish you could be staying here yourself!).
When you arrive to the cabin you’ll meet the counselors who are there to guide and nurture your child as well as the other kids who’ll be bunking there. We encourage our first-time camper parents to help their child unpack and set up their bunk.
And, the really awesome part? The camper gets to jump in the water right away…because after settling in, it’s off to the waterfront for their Swim Evaluation!
First and foremost, our counselors are there to make sure our first-time campers are always in the right place at the right time. And we like to keep things simple here – schedules are easy to follow and our loudspeaker system is used to announce things like when sessions begin or when it’s mealtime.
We love this question because our answer is ABSOLUTELY!! In fact, we think this camper summed it up quite nicely: “Where else can I fly off a blob 6 feet in the air and hop on a dune buggy all in the same day? It’s amazing, I love it!”
Every day is jam packed with exciting sports and recreation activities. Every night we have something amazing going on – whether it’s a dance party on the beach with a DJ or chatting by the campfire…there’s simply no time to be bored.
Of course!! And, hey, guess what? Many of the kids in your child’s cabin will also be by themselves and brand new to camp, so they won’t be alone. Even the campers that come with friends are looking to make new friends, too.
You might think the S in ISTC stands for sports…well, it does but we also like to say it stands for safety! Your child is our greatest priority and here’s our commitment to you:
- Every member of our staff has to pass rigorous background checks.
- We have certified live-in athletic trainers and registered nurses on staff.
- Our camp is located within 10 minutes from medical facilities, in case of an emergency.
- Every one of our lifeguards and jetski instructors has their boating license.
- Our camp is equipped with 2 AEDs (automated external defibrillators). One is located in the health center and the other is on a golf cart, ready to transport anywhere within our camp facilities.
- All of our staff have to pass epi-pen training (and, did we mention that we’re a nut-free camp?).
- Our camp is gated – we have a staffed guardhouse and a secure gate to clear visitors before letting them enter our camp grounds.
- Training doesn’t begin and end before camp begins. In addition to our extensive pre-camp training, all staff receives ongoing training workshops during the summer.
- Your child’s cabin will be outfitted with locks, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors.
- All top bunks have safety rails.
- During orientation, we invest in professional guest speakers to provide best-in-class safety training and our directors attend and speak at world-class national conferences to keep up-to-date on the latest safety trends.
- We are long-standing members of the American Camp Association. This association creates guidelines that camps must meet to be members. We meet or exceed all of these guidelines and standards for safety.
- We test the water quality of our lake weekly to ensure healthy and safe swimming and water sports.
- Our drinking water is tested regularly at various sites to ensure our campers are drinking the very cleanest of water.
- Our food service areas are inspected annually by the Department of Agriculture.
- All staff is American Red Cross first aid and CPR certified.
- Our lifeguards are American Red Cross lifeguard certified.
- Our climbing tower staff is certified as official Challenge Course Facilitators by Universal Ropes Course Builders, Inc.
Chances are, they’ll be so busy having fun they won’t get a chance to feel homesick. But if they do, our seasoned, well-trained counselors (many of whom were also first-time campers themselves at one time) are here to ease them through the transition. Our counselors have had the pleasure of transforming thousands of first-time campers into rockstar camp enthusiasts!
If they’re having a really hard time and want to contact home they can write a letter or send a postcard (stamps are available for purchase in the canteen). And, in some instances, we permit phone calls – but we generally discourage this because it tends to make homesickness worse instead of better.
The first day and night are usually the hardest, but as each day goes by they feel more confident about being away from home and then something magical happens…they actually enjoy it. And, yes, you might even find when you come to pick them up at the end of camp they ask if they can stay longer.
We put together a great guide on How to Tackle Homesickness with tips and techniques to help your first-time camper with their new experience.
Oh man, don’t you hate it when that happens? But not to worry, we have a really cool store (called the Canteen) on-site that has items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, pillows, as well as camp hats, t-shirts and munchies.
When you register, you can put some spending money in a Canteen account. During your child’s twice daily recreation sessions, they can visit the Canteen and order what they need. They’ll be asked for their name and the purchase is subtracted from their account. Any money they don’t spend is returned to you at the end of their stay along with a detailed list of their purchases.
PS – We have a great summer camp packing list that will help make sure you don’t leave a thing at home!