Summer camp is an adventure that remains in the minds and hearts of children well into adulthood, but a successful experience depends on proactive packing. Careful planning and organization will go far to ensure that campers have a chance to express their independence and individuality while feeling comfortable and prepared.
Parents should send at least one set of linens, including a mattress pad, blanket, sheets, towels, washcloths and a pillow. Laundry services are usually provided, but a spare set of bed linens is a good idea for accident-prone campers; having clean sheets on hand can help children forgo the embarrassment and anxiety of nighttime mishaps.
Clothing and footwear should be appropriate for summer camp. Long pants, socks and closed-toe shoes are best for walks in the woods; include a swimsuit, cover-up and waterproof shoes for water sports. A light sweater or sweatshirt may also come in handy, as will rain apparel.
Campers may not be allowed to keep prescription medications, so these should be packed separately with a note to camp staff. Parents can count on first aid being available to campers, but caregivers often forget essentials that make the great outdoors comfortable. Few things are more miserable than spending summer camp nursing severe sunburns or scratching bug bites, so insect repellent and sunscreen are indispensable additions to a child’s regular toiletries.
Children will be kept busy with daily activities, but there will also be time for breaks. Include books, magazines and small games, and encourage correspondence with family and friends by sending postage stamps and stationery. Inexpensive disposable cameras are smart alternatives to digital cameras, which risk being lost or damaged. Campers will probably have little need for money, but it’s never a bad idea to send a small supply of loose change or petty cash for commissary purchases or incidentals.
While independence is an encouraged byproduct of summer camp, campers of all ages may appreciate a special touch from home. Stash a short note of encouragement from parents, a drawing or letter from siblings, a photo of a favorite pet or a small reminder of family and friends.
Most importantly, label each possession with a first and last name using a waterproof marker. This may seem like a chore for parents of first-time campers, but it’s the closest thing to a guarantee that items sent to camp will actually make the return trip home.
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