Our summer camp series is back with our last installment — read the first post all about Tips for Sending Children to Camp here — where we chat with Carter Breazale, camp director for Alpine Camp for Boys in Alabama. Carter’s family founded Alpine Camp for Boys more than 50 years ago, and she grew up in the “camp world” — bringing with her a unique perspective as not just a camp director, but also a former camper and mother. As with our first post, our hope is that you’ll feel more prepared and confident if you’re sending your child to summer camp this year by reading through what Carter has to say!
Today we’re asking Carter for tips for camp drop-off (which we know can be emotional for children and parents alike!) and while camp is in session. We know it can be difficult for both sides to be away for a week or longer, so read on for Carter’s wisdom on how to navigate it all!
Any general tips for camp drop-off?
If you need to spend the night before in the local area of camp, make reservations as soon as possible. Towns close to camp may have limited options of hotels and Airbnbs. And places can fill up fast with a high volume of families coming in to drop off at camp.
Even if you are a returning camp parent, read all the drop-off information. Sometimes camps make changes to improve on the process, and it is helpful if every parent pulls into camp prepared.
Don’t have a ton of loose items, as it will be easier to forget something — and it will make your move in easier if you don’t have to make a ton of trips to the car. The one item I think is helpful to keep out is a pillow so your child can have it in-hand to run and claim their bunk.
While dropping your child off, you may run into a college roommate or best friend from when you were a camper. Introduce your children to each other, visit for a minute, and then plan to meet for lunch after you leave camp so you can have your longer visit then (and not while your child is trying to get settled into their cabin). I have sometimes gotten so caught up in talking to other parents that I have lost sight about what a big day it is for my own children!
Bottom line: Don’t linger! It is so much easier for campers to ease into camp life once parents are gone!
What should you say in a letter to your camper?
My mother-in-law was brilliant when it came to camp letters! When my husband and his brother were campers, she would write about how boring it was at home and that all they had done was take their little sister to the grocery store. This gave them no reasons to be pining for home.
You will know best what your child needs to hear. They may need a reminder of how proud you are of them for going to camp. They also might have a younger sibling at camp that they need to remember to speak to and check in with, so it’s good to remind them of that as well.
Do you recommend talking to children about what to do if they see or experience something that doesn’t sit well with them or is inappropriate? Do you make sure they know who to go to if they can’t call home?
Absolutely! This is one of the most important things — whether your child is going to a day sports camp, a week-long church camp, or off for a longer camp stay! As parents, it is really crucial that we talk to our children about talking to an adult they trust (their counselor, a head counselor, a camp director, etc.) if they see or encounter something that makes them uncomfortable. I tell campers where my husband and I sit in the dining hall and that they can always come find us at a meal. One of the best lessons you can teach your child is how to advocate for themselves.
Do you have any advice on camp packages and/or letters?
Every camp is different. Our camp has a no package policy. Just make sure to read your camp’s package policy information.
I like to stock up on greeting cards during the year to send my girls while they are at camp. E. Frances has really cute “little notes” that are tiny illustrated cards. Sometimes I stick these in a letter with a verse or quotation written on them.
We have a camp family of three brothers and, each summer, their grandfather sends a letter with a ton of questions about camp and leaves blanks for them to answer. He will ask them everything from who is in your cabin? Where are they from? What’s one new food you have tried at camp? What is something new you have learned? What’s the funniest thing that has happened at camp? These will also be treasures to keep for years to come.
Sometimes parents have sent letters or postcards from family pets which are really funny!
Especially for younger children, sending envelopes that are pre-addressed to parents, grandparents, other relatives, and friends can be really helpful! Just make sure they know where to place the stamp. I have seen children try to seal the envelope with a stamp! Remember: If you don’t get a ton of letters, then that probably means they are having a ton of fun!
Some camps will have a service available where you can send emails to your camper (they will most likely only be able to reply with snail mail). Sending emails can be great — especially if you are out of town. But be sure and send both emails and letters. I have found that the majority of kids actually really love and prefer letters!
If they write home about something concerning, know that you can call the camp office.
Do you have any resources to share with parents?
I love that DoSayGive shares so many thoughtful posts on good literature! I wanted to share a few of my favorite books with you.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv — reiterates the importance of children being outside in nature.
How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims — even just reading this title is good for all of us as parents to be reminded that we are raising children to grow up and fly out of our nests!
Blessings of Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel — again, just reflecting on the title is good for us to do! A beautiful reminder of how we don’t need to be helicopter parents. Our children will learn and grow better when situations aren’t perfect!
Once Upon a Wardrobe by Pattie Callahan — a work of fiction about C.S. Lewis. Through stories about a brother and sister duo and C.S. Lewis and his brother, the book reflects on how childhood experiences and the influence of adults impact children. It has given me a new sense of purpose for working at camp and sending my own children to camp.
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran — a favorite children’s book at our house. I first heard of this classic when I was a cabin counselor, and then my own children read this in elementary school and had a whole curriculum set around creating their own Roxaboxen. Your children can build their own with friends in your backyard. All you need is a really good imagination!
What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner — a great tool for helping children overcome worry and anxiety. There are a total of 12 “What to Do Guides” for kids. I keep several of them to have on hand in my camp office!
I also keep multiple copies of the following books on hand:
Every Moment Holy, Gentle and Lowly, Jesus Storybook Bible and Thoughts that Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Catherine Vos’s Child’s Story Bible, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Bark of the Bog Owl books by Jonathan Rogers, Hank the Cowdog, Shel Silverstein poetry books, and Where’s Waldo.
Thank you again, Carter, for sharing these great tips for sending children to summer camp!
About Carter Breazeale: Since 2006, Carter Breazeale and her husband Glenn have served as Directors of Alpine Camp for Boys atop Lookout Mountain in Mentone, Alabama. Carter grew up at Alpine, which her family started in 1959, and after working many summers camping and on staff at Camp DeSoto for girls, as a counselor and later on administrative staff, she returned to Alpine as a second-generation director. She and Glenn have twin daughters who love living on the mountain year round.