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How To Get Your Preschooler Excited for Day Camp

7 activities to prepare little ones for their new experience.

“Who’s excited about camp?”

My twin toddlers looked up at me with a perplexed expression on their faces. They had no idea what I was talking about. Since they were already signed up, I wanted to make sure they had fun. Here’s how I got them excited about their first day at camp:

Go to the Library

Go to the local library with your aspiring camper and check out every video and picture book regarding the topic. You can also look on YouTube for camp videos or songs or stream the videos online through your library. The idea behind this is to create excitement and help them to understand what to expect. You could also talk about your own camp experiences.

Hit the Stores

With the camp list in hand, we went to the local mall and shopped for the items. They loved picking out their favorite towels, bathing suits, and sunglasses. I even let them buy a new backpack just for camp. While we shopped, we discussed the different activities they would participate in at camp like swimming and sports.

Learning About Friendship

When you are at home playing games like Candyland with your kid, talk about things like taking turns and how to have conversations with new kids. You can ask your kid questions like, “What are some things you can talk about with kids your age?” Or ask them, “What are some ways to make new friends?” You can also read books or watch movies about friendship.

Play Camp Games

Games are a large part of the camp experience. You can play some camp games at home to get kids excited and prepared. One common camp game is mini Olympics. To play, set up a couple different types of races like relay races. Another suggestion is to create a scavenger hunt with camp-related items like a backpack and sunglasses (see right). After you are done, cook up some s’mores.

Go Swimming

Most camps offer swimming lessons and free swim. You will want to take your child swimming beforehand to discuss water safety and to help reinforce that swimming is fun. A lot of kids fear going into the water when they first take swimming lessons, especially when there are tons of kids splashing around. By taking your child swimming before camp starts you will ease some of these anxieties.

Schedule A Visit

Many camps will offer an open house or orientation to help your child understand what camp will be like. This is a perfect time for your kid to ask questions and meet counselors or other campers. If possible, before camp starts set up a play date with some kids who are going to be at the camp. It will make it easier during drop off if they recognize some familiar faces.

Create A Countdown

My kids love countdowns for holidays like Christmas and vacations. Keep track of the number of days until camp starts by using a countdown calendar, countdown app, or create paper chain links for the number of days until camp starts that you tear off every day. This helps to build excitement and prepare kids for when the big day will occur.

Who’s excited about camp?

After I did all the above suggestions with my twins, when I asked the question again, they both jumped up and down with excitement. And when they attended camp, they loved it. 

Summer Camp Scavenger Hunt

Camp is all about fun and learning, but little ones may be nervous about the new experience. Give them a glimpse of the playful adventures they’ll have with a camp-themed scavenger hunt. Here’s a list of camp items to hide around the house. Once kids find everything on the list, talk about how they might encounter each item at camp.


—Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Parents Magazine, and many other publications.

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