Ask the Nurse: How do I know if my child is ready for sleepaway summer camp?

CINCINNATI - This is the season for sleepover summer camp. And no matter what your child’s interest, there’s probably a camp for that: swimming, horseback riding, fishing, science and math, sports, cheerleading, music, drama, you name it. Sounds like great fun, but is your child ready for a week away from home?

Jinda Bowerman, NP-C

  • Where She Works: UC Health, Internal Medicine & Pediatrics Clinic
  • Specialty: Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Nursing Schools Attended: Miami University, BSN & University of Cincinnati, MSN

Jinda Bowerman was commissioned as an Air Force officer in the Nurse Corps and worked as an RN for 6 years in internal medicine, primary care and pediatrics. She served a 4-month tour of duty in SW Asia and also worked at Travis Air Force Base and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.Outside of the Air Force, Bowerman continued her career working as an oncology infusion nurse, travel nurse, and outpatient RN.She became a family nurse practitioner in 2011 and serves all ages as a primary care practitioner at the Internal Medicine & Pediatrics Clinic at UC Health.

Q&A with Nurse Bowerman

1. How do you know if your child is ready for a sleepover summer camp?

Every child is different, so I always defer to the parents’ opinion on this.

Look for a few developmental markers that convey signs of independence: the ability to follow directions; the ability to dress oneself; the ability to communicate. These skills are necessary for a child to enjoy most camps.

Also, does your child want to go to camp? Does he or she want to engage in specialty activities? Even children who may not possess the developmental milestones listed above might be eligible for certain overnight camps if the camp offers the appropriate support systems.

A parent’s enthusiasm over the camp experience can also deeply influence how a child responds to camp.Our children absorb so much information from how we approach a situation.

2. How can parents tell if a camp is going to be safe and well-chaperoned?

I always recommend a camp tour and meeting with the camp director. During the interview, I would want to know how the staff is selected; what the expectations are regarding parent contact during camp; and what activities are planned for the week. I would want to know about safety mechanisms:

  • Where is the closest medical facility?
  • What is done during an emergency?
  • How can I contact someone in the event of an emergency?

Ask about accreditation and references from other parents.

3. Any advice for young campers who are picky eaters?

I’ve never seen a child starve from picky eating.It’s amazing to see how much picky children are willing to try when they are not around people who accommodate their inclinations.

I am also amazed at the power of peer pressure, and how many children are willing to try a new food when they see their peers doing the same.

My advice is to allow your children the freedom to explore the world and the challenges that come with eating in new locations and situations.Trust that they will not only survive, but grow in the experience.

4. How do you help a child who might be a little homesick?

You can try shorter stay camps (overnights, for example) to test how your children do with one or two nights away from home. Write a letter, or send a photo message or gift to remind your children of how much you love them or how proud you are that they are growing up and doing things on their own .Ask the camp director for ideas on how to manage homesickness.

5. What should kids pack before heading off for summer camp?

Most camps have their own lists of recommended items, including restricted items. I heartily recommend following these lists, as they tend to reflect years of refinement from experience specific to the camp.

6. How can you guard against bed bugs?

Bed bugs tend to reside near areas where people sleep. You can limit your risk of obtaining bed bugs by storing personal items away from these areas.

Be vigilant and scan for “hitchhikers” to help prevent an infestation in your home. Look for traces of bed bugs, such as small pieces of dark dots, blood stains, light casts, or shed skins of the insects.

An easy way to eliminate bed bugs is to vacuum and dispose of them. If you find lingering signs of infestation, contact a professional exterminator.

7. Any tips on washing clothes, sheets, & sleeping bags when they come home?

Heat can also eliminate bed bugs. Place clothes in a dryer for 30 minutes. You can also wrap an item in a plastic bag and leave it in the sun for 4+ hours (until the temperature reaches at least 120 degrees for at least 30 minutes). If you feel you have a possible infestation, I recommend consulting with a professional.

8. What are the benefits of camp?

Camp provides a child with a unique growing experience – a chance to learn independence and embrace the challenges of dealing with the unfamiliar.

Most camps incorporate team-building and fundamental

concepts of shared virtues such as selflessness and integrity.

Most camps also share a love of the outdoors and encourage a connection with nature.

Camp activities help to foster overall health in our children and, hopefully, stimulate interests and relationships that they continue to cultivate the rest of the year and the rest of their lives.


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