So, it’s off to sleepaway camp for your youngster, and the only mountain left to climb is… packing. Most camps will provide a list of what items to bring as well as what not to bring, giving you a good starting point. Try to keep things as simple as possible; the more your camper brings, the more there is to keep track of amid the hodgepodge of multiple kids’ clothing and paraphernalia.
Shopping for camp necessities is a great way to get your child involved in preparations and excited about their upcoming adventure, especially if it’s the first time away at camp. Pick up everything on the camp’s list, and then let your camper add something really cool of his own, like a trendy brand of socks or a t-shirt “everyone” has; it can help first-summer campers in particular feel like they’ll fit in with a new batch of kids. Wash all new clothes and mark with your child’s name.
Pack several bathing suits, as kids at camp can be in and out of the water multiple times a day and bathing suits have a definite habit of getting lost. Goggles and flip flops are other must-haves for around the pool.
Comfort of Home
Some kids, especially younger or first-time campers, find some relief from initial homesickness by bringing a bit of home along with them, like a family photo or a stuffed animal. However, be sure everything you send is replaceable; it’s easy to lose things in a cabin full of kids and their belongings!
Many camps discourage use of the computer and camp can be a great way to introduce kids to the joys of handwritten “snail mail.” Pack a bunch of colorful writing paper, preaddressed envelopes and stamps to encourage your camper to stay in touch. You’ll often be amazed and amused at what arrives in the mail during their summer away. If it’s your child’s first summer away, pack a letter to them in with their belongings just a last little verbal “hug”.
Sun protection ranks high on any list of summer camp musts. It’s common knowledge now that even one bad sunburn in childhood can lead to increased risk of cancer in adulthood. The American Cancer Society recommends an SPF of at least 30 and it’s not a bad idea to go up to SPF 50. Spray types are great for reaching those tough places like backs, as kids are encouraged to apply their own sun screen. Remind them that feet and back of necks get burnt too! Let your youngster pick out an acceptable hat or two; most opt for baseball style hats of some sort. And don’t forget the sunglasses!
All the Little Extras
There are lots of little extras that can make camp a bit easier. Look around for a clip on light (for reading after lights-out!), a clip-on fan for hot cabin nights and a stain-away stick for rescuing especially beloved clothing items from camp ketchup disasters. Water-tight bags are super for canoe trips, keeping clothing and sleeping bags safe from the inevitable dunking. Don’t forget every day isn’t sunny, or even warm, so be sure to send along long pants, fleeces and rain gear.