Summer Break: Packing Your Kid Off to Camp

Sending your child to camp is a rite of passage not just for the kid, but for you as well. No doubt you’re fantasizing about the quiet days and evenings spent alone with your spouse. Sure, there will be some “empty nest” feelings, but you know your kids will be back home in a matter of weeks, so you plan to make the most of them.

But before all that fun can happen you have to pack, and probably shop.

The best advice out there for parents who are sending their kid to camp for the first — or fifth time — follow the list provided by the camp as to what is needed and what is forbidden. Now, this list is just the minimum, in that it’s probably a good idea to send an extra set of flip flops/shower shoes and an extra bathing suit and possibly sneakers. Remember that the list is based on years of experience with a multitude of campers. Trust the experts.

Another piece of advice in the purchasing and packing stage: involve your child in the process. When you go out to buy colored towels and a flashlight and even toiletries, let your kid have a say in what you buy. This way they have an attachment to the item and will remember which stuff is theirs — and be more likely to return home with it at the end of the summer. It’s also a good idea to have your kids help you pack their duffle bag, suitcase, or trunk. Once they arrive at camp, they’ll remember what they have and where to find it, so they don’t have a minor meltdown looking for their favorite shirt. Believe us, the camp counselor will be grateful.

Here’s a few more tips for packing your kid for camp:

  • Get a sleeping bag that fits your child, i.e., don’t send them with an adult bag.
  • Use zip lock bags to separate small items from everything else in the duffle bag/trunk. Think socks, underwear, etc.
  • Buy travel size toiletries and put them all in a single zip lock or nylon case. Kids only need the basics: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, so it should easily fit.
  • Don’t fight about “extras” (unless they are in the “don’t pack” list below). If there’s room in the bag, let your kid take their favorite stuffed animal and your tween take her hair dryer, etc.
  • Include pre-stamped, addressed envelopes for letters home — and don’t forget the stationary and a pen/pencil for writing.
  • Let your child choose a few “icebreaker” items that they can share/trade with their new bunkmates. This could be snacks, comic books, playing cards, or whatever else kids are trading these days.
  • Label everything. Period.

There are a few things that you should leave out when you’re packing.

  • Technology. The whole point of camp is to “get away from regular life” — kids can’t do that if they are texting their friends back home or playing games on their tablet.
  • First aid. Each bunk has a first aid kit and a trained counselor. The camp likely has a trained nurse with even more supplies. All prescription medications should be delivered to her/him and you should not pack any over the counter medications, band aids, etc. with your child.
  • Anything that is forbidden by the camp. Really. Don’t try to sneak things because your kid is begging.

One last tip: while you’re out shopping for camp gear, invest in a storage tub or two. When they come home at the end of the summer, you can store all their gear in one place. That will make packing so much easier next year!

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