What to Expect on Your Child’s First Day at Summer Camp

As a parent, preparing your child for their first day at beach summer camp can be both thrilling and nerve-wracking. From sandy shores to crashing waves, the beach offers a unique setting for summer adventures. And depending on which camp you decide to go with, these feelings of excitement (or woe) can be exacerbated. I was incredibly lucky to have chosen the right camp for my child and their personality. Not everyone is as lucky, therefore, I am hoping that this blog helps inform you to make a more informed decision.


Southern California offers the perfect backdrop for a summer camp. Whether in Santa Monica, Venice, Pacific Palisades or even somewhere a bit more exclusive (such as the Jonathan Club) there really is not a bad choice to make here. Other shores around the United States do not have all that Southern California seems to offer. This is not to say that there are many other gorgeous locales around the country, but I will be upfront and admit my own, small bias to this region. Regardless, I know it can be difficult to drop your kids off anywhere around the ocean, no matter how perfect the scenario is. Having been through this journey with my children, here’s what your child can expect on their first day of beach camp: Also, keep in mind, that the following was what my child experienced at a camp called, Fitness By the Sea.


A Coastal Welcome

Arriving at Fitness by the Sea, your child will be greeted by the sound of seagulls and the salty breeze. Friendly staff and counselors will be waiting to welcome them with open arms, eager to kick off a summer of fun and exploration. What I found most impressive about the Staff was the immediate personalization they demonstrated with my kids. Not all camps have Staff that are trained to do this. I’ve even experienced camps that will not bother to learn your child’s name. Fitness By the Sea is a whole different breed in this way. They ensure all kids are known… After all, my child’s name is not “buddy”, “pal” or “guy”. 


Beach Orientation & Introductions

After a brief, cheer-fueled opening ceremony, your child will have the chance to meet their fellow campers and counselors. Icebreaker games, friendly sports, and an array of eclectic activities will help break the ice and forge new friendships against the backdrop of the ocean. This is also where I found that Fitness by the Sea was not some ordinary camp. For Staff to know your name is great, but for other kids to learn each other’s name was a game changer. In camp settings, many times children are left unattended, socially. This usually results in shy children being left to their own devices. My kids are not spotlight seekers. If it were up to them, they would exclusively play with each other the whole day and come home, the same way they left it, friendless. With the camp pushing for socialization, my kids met friends they would have never met on their own.


Exploring the Beach

From sandy stretches perfect for building sandcastles to shallow areas ideal for splashing, the beach offers endless opportunities for discovery and adventure. Your child will have the chance to feel the sand between their toes, search for seashells, and dip their feet in the surf. At Fitness by the Sea, when you go on a nature walk, you learn about the sand crabs, receding tides and the affects the sun has on Earth. Once back home, my child was eager to share the knowledge they had learned at camp. While I love to hear kids talk about how they saw a dolphin or dug a hole, there is something very special about listening to them explain how a rip tide works. I was wildly impressed with the Staff’s ability to teach a 6-year-old such things


Embracing Beach Activities

As the day unfolds, your child will dive into a variety of beachside activities. From swimming and surfing to paddleboarding and beachcombing, they will have the chance to try their hand at a wide range of ocean-centric adventures and water sports. THIS is where Fitness by the Sea impressed me the most. As scary as it sounds, Fitness by the Sea does not group the kids together and force them through a series of activities. Once they set your kids loose, they are free to roam wherever and whenever they want. In the extensive number of years, I have been around childcare and camp systems, this was unheard of to me. Especially with the ocean nearby. In my opinion this comes down to an immense amount of trust. Trust that the Staff will seamlessly pass kids off to each other and never lose track or sight of them. My child joined a game of flag football until they wanted to go boogie boarding. In an ordinary camp setting, they would need to complete the game of flag football and hope that the next rotation was boogie boarding. At Fitness by the Sea, the minute they feel inclined to leave any activity, they can leave the activity. A mind-blowing adaptation to beach camp that has allowed true freedom to those who attend. By the way, here is a list of many activities you can do with your young ones during summer break. 


Connecting with Beach-loving Counselors

Throughout the day, your child will bond with their beach-loving counselors, who will serve as guides, mentors, and friends during their time at camp. From sharing surf stories and beach games to offering guidance on ocean safety and marine ecology, counselors play a crucial role in ensuring your child feels safe, supported, and inspired by the wonders of the sea. When I came to pick my children up from Fitness by the Sea, I had certain assumptions about what they might share with me. Never did I dream they would go into a deluge of information about how their counselor once worked for the circus and was inspired when their counselor was able to back it up by showing their juggling skills while riding on a unicycle. Where does this camp find their staff? Even several years later, it is still something I have wondered about. While many other camps seem to employ younger, lower paid, less experienced teenagers, it feels this camp truly vets and finds talents that are meant to inspire the likes of young children. 


Wind-down and Story Time

As the afternoon winds down, your child will gather with their fellow campers for storytelling and socializing. Sitting around under a cabana, they will share tales of adventure, laughter, and imagination, forging bonds that will last long after the sun sets on their first day of camp. Now this might seem odd, but I fear story time when it is not done by myself or my wife. Let me explain. There have been numerous occasions when we have woken up to the screams of our kids in the middle of the night due to some truly troublesome dreams. When we ask why they might have had them, the answer usually comes from a story that was told to them by the babysitter, friends or even the occasional teacher. The story my child seemingly verbatim passed to me at the end of the day was epic and frankly left me wanting to attend the camp myself. Exceptionally creative and extremely kid-friendly stories are possible, and this camp and their Staff proved this to be true. 


Returning Home with Sand in Their Toes

As the day comes to an end, it is time to say goodbye to beach camp and head home. With sand in their toes and memories in their hearts, your child will return home with a sense of joy and fulfillment, eagerly anticipating the adventures that await them on their next day of beach exploration. Our day ended in tears. Not because there was an injury or because of hurt feelings. My children (adamantly) did not want to leave. This being the ultimate sign of success. While I do not necessarily want to experience this at pick-up every day, it felt to me like that camp had a magical draw that left my kids wanting to never leave. I have tracked the camp to this day, hoping that they would possibly expand into an overnight camp, as they have proven to be as astounding as their reputation. Bravo to Fitness by the Sea, bravo to the Staff, to the schedule, to the structure and to the beach. 


Beach camps (when done right) offer endless opportunities for adventure and discovery. I hope that you find a camp for your children that inspires, elevates and astounds your young ones, just as Fitness by the Sea did for mine. And I hope you find the confidence to give them a hug and send them off with a heart full of love and excitement as they embark on an incredible seaside adventure!