In the absence of regular school lessons, one of the highlights of the summer holidays for children is their enrollment in summer camp. Fortunately, these camps are typically run by well trained professionals who are equipped to put the safety of camp participants first. That said, it is still useful for parents and children to be mindful of the various health and safety precautions they should be taking, given that it is a new environment, and one where safe habits may not come automatically. To this end, here is an acrostic you can use as a starting point for remembering some of these key tips.
S – Sun. Sunstroke is one of the leading ailments afflicting campers, so you want to ensure that your child is well protected against the sun's effects. Hats, sunscreen, and protective eyewear are all important, and regular hydration is critical. Be sure to pack a water bottle amongst your child's provisions for the duration of the camp, and to ascertain beforehand that clean drinking water will always be accessible. If it is not, consider sending your child to camp with a portable water purification system (tablets, filtered bottles, etc.) Also encourage your child to seek shade when possible.
U - Usernames and passwords. Even though we think of the outdoors as a place we go to escape the noise of the electronic world children are increasingly being expected to carry electronics with them—even if it is something as basic as a mobile phone. You should protect your child's personal information by ensuring that all such devices are locked with usernames and passwords. When you set a password, you should have some sort of algorithm or procedure for constructing them so that you can remember them, while others would not be able to guess them.
M – Mental health. Homesickness can be quite common in summer camp situations because unlike day school, you don't get to go home at the end of the day. Usually it is overcome, but in severe instances, it can stop a child from eating or sleeping. Let your child know that if it gets to that point, they should come home.
M – Medications. Be sure to remember any medications that your child may need throughout the duration of the camp. Connect with camp leaders beforehand to ensure that these medications are kept in a safe place, and to give them a schedule of when your child should be taking each medication.
E – Emergency procedures. Ensure that there will always be staff present who are trained in CPR. Also, learn of the camp's various emergency procedures well beforehand so that you can go over them with your child until your child knows them very well. Be sure to ask about various situations such as fire protocols, water-related emergencies, and any others that come to mind.
R – Rules. Obtain the camp rules before sending your child to camp so that you can go over them with your child, being sure to discuss why they are important. In these rules, try to learn of areas that are out of bounds, and of areas and activities that require specific procedures and safety equipment.
C – Creatures. Know the flora and fauna of the area you are sending your child camping in. If there are bears in the area, go over basic bear safety with them. If there are poisonous plants, be sure to look at pictures of these together so that your child can identify and avoid them. It is also a good idea to prepare your child to protect themselves against mosquito bites, and bites of other insects. Clothing that covers the skin, as well as bug repellents, are useful here.
A – Allergies. The best way to communicate your child's allergies to anyone who may need to know them is with a bracelet or pendant that indicates what these allergies are. (You needn't invest in a pricey one, if cost is a deterrent for you; handmade ones will do just fine, as long as they are worn). Additionally, let all supervisory staff know of these allergies in advance, and inform them of (and supply them with) any medications that should be administered in the event of an allergy attack, such as an EPI pen.
M – Meals and snacks. Encourage your child to make healthy choices when they are away, pointing out that they will enjoy their time at camp more when their energy levels are stable due to eating balanced meals and snacks.
P – Physical illnesses and injuries. Let your child know of the importance of reporting illnesses and injuries to their supervisors right away, so that they are tended to immediately.