You’ve decided to send your child to kids church camp and (eek!) it’s his or her first time away from home.  How can you get your first timer ready to for a great camp experience?

This week, our oldest child Ethan (8) is away at Kids Camp at Pinecrest.  We weren’t planning on camp this year because camp started the day after we arrived home from a vacation on the East Coast and we thought it would be too tiring.  Plus, I really didn’t think Ethan would want (dare!) to be away from home.

But when we asked about it…he thought about it for one afternoon…and then said to my surprise:

“I want to go to camp!”

The wheels were set in motion.  We filled in our forms and read the packing list.  I never went to camp until junior high and I remember crying in the bathroom because I missed my mommy.  James on the other hand was going away to summer camp in elementary school.  For one whole month!

Ethan’s camp is 4 days.  Perfect.

Today as I write Ethan is enjoying Day 2 of his first camp experience.  Here’s what we did to get him ready:

1.  Explain what to expect.  We printed out the daily schedule for the camp and talked through what would happen each day.  Ethan likes to know what’s happening so this was especially helpful to him.  It also helped build excitement (BB Guns!  Archery!  Pool!  Tractor Rides!).  I said things like, “Whenever you see a fruit, eat it!  You’ll need something healthy to balance out the pizza and junk food.”  James would say, “Drink a lot of water!  Drink before you’re thirsty!”

2.  Packing the suitcase.  I know some boys will wear the same t-shirt and shorts all week.  Ethan is more of a planner and actually will remember which outfit we picked for Thursday.  I put shampoo and soap in a ziplock bag with Ethan’s name on it and told him to make it a goal to take one shower 🙂  The other ziplock bag had his toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, suntan lotion, etc.  I gave him a blue plastic bag for his dirty laundry.  I figured this would help with underwear and socks, but I know it’s a stretch to think he’ll remember to do this.

3.  Notes for each day.  I wrote him a note for each day and labeled them Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.   This is a simple way to let him know each day we are thinking of him.  I also had the camp address so I sent him a snail mail letter too.  I think mail call is a super fun thing!

4.  Pray fervently and expect great things from God.  By praying fervently, I don’t mean praying “Oh God, help Ethan not to lose his goggles in the swimming pool.”  Instead pray about your child’s heart.  For this camp, I believe Jeremiah 1:5 is the verse to pray for Ethan:

“Before you were born, I set you apart to serve Me.” 

I am praying that God sets Ethan apart to serve Him for life and that Ethan will be forever changed by time at the altar seeking God and feeling His presence in a powerful way.  Before he left, our family prayed over him.  Instill in your child the expectation that God is going to do something supernatural during camp.

I remember being touched by God when I went to church camp and it changed me forever.  I can’t wait to hear what God has done in Ethan’s life this week.  I’ll keep you posted.

What else have you done to help your kid get ready for camp?

Arlene Pellicane

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