Sleeping at Camp:
Bedtime at camp will feel different than bedtime at home. To help campers adjust to camp bedtimes, counselors and staff will start the first night off setting the routine. We begin our bedtime routine by having campfire as a full camp. We will watch skits, hear stories, and sing songs together.
Next, campers will have 30 minutes to get ready for bed. Counselors will escort their cabins to the bathhouse and lodge bathrooms to brush teeth, get into pajamas, and shower if it is their shower time.
When there are only ten minutes left until TAPs, or lights out, the staff on row give a reminder called “Blinks.” This helps keep everyone on track to get back to their cabins for the night.
When it’s time for lights out, the staff members on row sing TAPs. When TAPs is sung, all campers and counselors are back in their cabins and ready to hit the hay. Staff members often stop by each cabin to wish them a good night, and maybe even ready a story or two. Counselors help their campers feel ready for bed by reading stories, asking about their day, and talking about what they have to look forward to in the morning.
Counselor Approved tips for preparing to sleep at camp, especially if it’s a campers first time away from home:
- Bring bedding / stuffed animals that help your camper feel safe and cozy. It can get chilly at night, depending on when your camper is at camp, so we suggest that you send an extra blanket or two to help make sure they are warm and comfortable. Bringing a favorite blanket or stuffed animal can help campers feel secure and comforted when falling asleep in an unfamiliar environment.
- Bring a battery-operated nightlight if your camper is used to sleeping with some light. The cabins have some light in them due to the lights outside on cabin row, but if your camper feels most comfortable with a personal nightlight to keep beside their bed, then we suggest something small and battery operated. Likewise, if your camper is used to having a very dark room, you may consider an eye mask.
- Bring a book to read before bed. If your camper usually is read to or reads stories before bed, please pack a book or two for them to read. They can also borrow books from our camp library. Counselors are happy to read books that campers bring from home as well to help everyone fall asleep.
How does VBYC support campers when they are missing home?
At VBYC, we call Homesickness what it really is – Missing Home. We intentionally keep the word “sickness’ out of it because missing home is a completely typical and normal thing for people to experience when they are in an unfamiliar environment!
Missing home can happen at any age and our counselors and staff are ready to help campers through it. Extensive time is spent during training to help counselors and staff know how to spot when a camper needs a little extra love and support to help them have a successful week at camp.
You can help set up your camper for success by verbalizing that you believe that they are going to have a great time at camp. Avoid making promises such as picking them up early if they don’t like it because that undermines their ability to allow themselves to be brave and fully connect with the camp experience. Please know that we are on their side 100% and will do whatever we can to help them connect with other campers and feel comfortable at camp. Read more about Dealing With Homesickness At Camp.
If you are worried that your camper may have difficulties adjusting to camp, here are some ideas for preparing them:
- Plan a visit to camp! Contact us to see when you and your camper can come explore the camp. If you visit during one of our spring work weekends, we would love to send you on a tour with a group of our counselors.
- Talk about what your camper can do if they are missing home. Whether it’s hugging a stuffed animal, writing a note, looking at a photo, or talking to their counselor, sending your camper to camp with tools to regulate their feelings is a great way to set them up for success.
- Remind your camper that even if they miss home, you believe that they will have a great week at camp. It’s okay to miss home from time to time; you can still make friends and have fun.
- Talk to your camper about what they can expect to happen at camp. Our Typical Day page gives an outline of what our daily life at camp looks like. Reviewing this with them may help them feel prepared for camp.
- Read books about summer camp.
- Van Buren Youth Camp Social Story
- Written by a VBYC staff member, this social story walks young first time campers through typical camp experiences. From bunk beds to flag raising, reading this book with your perspective camper can help them feel prepared for coming to camp.
- Notes from the Camp Bunk: A Guide for First-Time Campers from a Camper.
- This young author, Eden Martin, a middle school student and camper, has written a reassuring guide for kids 7-14 who will be attending sleepaway camp for the first time. She offers the unique perspective of a young camper who has been to camp herself for several summers. Topics covered include: what is so great about camp, a day in the life of a camper, sleeping and eating at camp, coping with homesickness and what to pack.
- Summer Camp Critter Jitters
- Some familiar faces and some new ones meet up at summer camp . . . and they all feel nervous! There’s a duck afraid everyone will find out he can’t swim, a bear afraid of noises in the woods, and a sloth who worries he’ll have to catch his own lunch. But can they get over their nerves to have some fun and make new friends?
Practice for Camp
Counselors Tips for skills to practice before camp:
- Showering independently or with minimal help
- Brushing hair / putting in hair ties
- Putting on bathing suits (We suggest suits that are easy for campers to pull on independently even when wet.)
- Sleeping away from home
- Using the bathroom independently
- Trying new foods (Please Please let us know if your camper is an extremely selective eater so we can have a plan in place to keep them fed and happy).
- Meeting new friends (Please prepare your camper for staying in a cabin with new friends and remember that we do not accept cabin mate requests. Read more about our cabin assignments here).
Please know that the staff and counselors at VBYC are prepared to help lend a hand to campers when they need it. These are just a few tips to help your camper prepare for life at camp.
Advice from Camp Families
2022 Parent Testimonials
“My son really enjoyed his time there and when we were leaving he said he wanted to go back next summer. At pick-up I noticed a difference in how my son carried himself; he was more confident in himself. I think this was probably the best experience he has had all summer; I think sending him to VBYC was the best thing we could’ve done for him.”
“[My camper] was really nervous/anxious about sleeping away from home and wanted to change her mind about going on several occasions. In the end, she is SOOOOOOOOOO glad that she overcame her fear and went.”
“You child will come home as the best version of themselves. They’ll need lots of sleep immediately after, but make sure to have something planned to keep them busy the following week, because after a week filled with so much fun, a quiet week at home is SO BORING! :)”
“Have confidence that your kid can make new friends, have a fun time, and be ok for a week away from home.”
“Don’t be worried about your littles being homesick. The staff will handle it with ease and your littles will be fine.”
“Well worth the week for your kids to interact with other age groups and kids from various backgrounds.”
“This is a great place for the youth to experience something different from home in a very friendly, safe, and welcoming environment.”