Going to summer camp can be fun, especially for experienced campers, but for the uninitiated child, it can be an intimidating experience filled with firsts, questions, and fears.
Between the strain of new sleeping and living arrangements, the anxiety about meeting new friends, and the real possibility of homesickness ruining a perfectly fun summer, there’s no reason to leave the relatively new burden of ownership entirely on the shoulders of an already overwhelmed child. The best way to teach kids about being responsible for their own items is to show them what responsibility looks like, and doing that is easy, starts at home, and only takes a few minutes of your time.
Here are a few quick steps that anyone can take to help ensure theft and loss won’t be a part of his or her first summer camp experience.
1. Give all of your kids labels for their clothes. Iron-on labels are a great way to protect your child’s clothing from being accidentally lost in the mix of a messy room, or in the chaos of a pillow fight. If you child’s camp is near a lake or another body of water, then there’s an even great probability of loss. Think of it as a roll of the die each time an item of clothing is removed, regardless of where or why.
Just do your kids a favor and don’t iron any tags into their underwear. Tags itch and underwear tags have nerd written all over them. Just pack a spare pack, bury it under a mound of other stuff, and you child will forget its there until he or she desperately needs it.
2. Talk to your kids. It may be hard convincing your sweet, unmarred, innocent children that they do need to protect their items against thieves, but do your best.
Try using a personal story, or an example from their early childhood (maybe during a formulative experience when they were learning about stealing, and took something on accident) to illustrate the importance of protecting things you find valuable.
Once you’ve done everything you can to make your point, it’s time to offer them the resources they need.
3. Buy and encourage use of a lock box. Not a sac with a zipper and a small padlock, not a suitcase with a small padlock, and nothing traditionally used for airline travel. Try finding a hard plastic box that can be used as a personal safe. A padlock with a combination is better than one with a key that can get lost, but another great option is getting a padlocked box on purpose, and giving the spare key (most come with at least two) to the camp counselors in case the original key gets stolen. This serves to protect your child’s most valued objects and teach them about extended responsibility.
Another useful idea is to suggest you child leaves the box in an office or “adult” zone where it will be more likely kept safe and undisturbed.
Don’t forget that some camps do offer lockers. They should be utilized if they’re available.