While February may seem like a long way off from summer, it’s the perfect time to take stock of your children’s skill set especially if they will be headed off to camp in June. If your child is headed to sleep away camp, managing the self-care routine is especially imperative. Mastering these skills now will help them transition to camp with confidence, especially if it's their first summer at sleep-away camp.
Making their own bed
Camp might be the first time in their lives when your children are required to pick up after themselves and keep their space tidy. By teaching them to make their beds in the winter by the time camp rolls around making their bed will be second nature. Try to send bedding to camp that can be managed the same way bedding is at home. Be sure to have your children help change the sheets and pillow cases too!
Folding their own clothes
Folding is another task that your children can begin working on in the winter. Have your children help you do the laundry at home. Have them start by helping you sort and roll the socks, and then move on to larger tasks such as folding shirts and pants. Don’t worry if their folding isn’t perfect now, you can build up their skills slowly if you start now.
Master Personal hygiene/self-care skills
Make sure your children can bush their teeth to your standard, manage their own hair including detangling and pony tales rubber bands, and shower and wash their hair independently.
Master dressing independently
During the course of a camp day children change clothing numerous time. Shoes, buttons, laces, tee shirts over-the-head, and bathing suits -- dressing oneself requires numerous skills,. Start filling in missing skills in the winter so by the time June rolls around your child will be independent in the bunk. If your child has clothing hypersensitivities, make sure he or she has a large enough selection of clothing to last the summer. For children whose intolerance of tags, seams, textures, etc. is impacting on their lives on a daily basis, consult an occupational therapist for help overcoming this daily obstacle.
Mastering independence will also require that children learn to tolerate changes in temperature as camp days may not be the same as camp nights and they will need to learn to change from short to long sleeves depending on the weather. Begin this spring when the temperature changes and allow them to make decisions for themselves. You can ask questions like, “Do you think you will need a sweater later?” or “Do you think you might want to dress in layers in case you get warm this afternoon and you want to be wearing short sleeves.”
Mealtimes at camp might pose their own challenges – your child should be able to eat a variety of foods and tolerate the smells of food that is served. If your child has restrictive eating the POTS staff can help expand your child’s food choices now to help with this transition from eating at home to eating in the mess hall.
Being a part of a team
Thinking about others as well as themselves is a skill children explode in camp, but getting your children used to going out of their way for teammates and bunkmates that they will be with 24/7 is a conversation you can start now.
Not every team will excel at every event. Learning to lose gracefully is imperative. Practice with your child ways handle losing and winning gracefully. Give them a sentence or two that will be appropriate for them to use like, “good game,” or “great win” and go out of your way to model good losing techniques when you are with them.
Long days outside will mean sound sleep at camp, but make sure your child has the stamina to withstand those days perhaps by systematically encouraging them to spend more time outside playing now.
For children with sensory processing challenges, weak fine motor and gross motor skills, low endurance and restricted eating the best time to start building up your child’s skills is in the winter, a solid five or six months before the camp season opens. If you have any specific concerns, don’t hesitate to bring them up with your child’s therapist. POTS therapists are available to help children master these skills. By working together, we can assure you that by the time the bus arrives, your child will be ready.