Having spent the better part of every summer at camp as a camper, instructor and planner, I can speak first hand to some very important basics that should be sent with every child. Making sure they're prepared can yield the best experience possible for them and your own peace of mind.
The things you take to camp are all important for different reasons. Some things keep your kids safe, others prepared and a few keep them cool (socially and physically). Here's a few basics we'd be sure to pack next time you're sending your kid out the door for a few days!
• Flashlight, Bug Spray, Blanket: If they'll be attending a camp where a campfire could be a possibility, these things are a no brainer. Often times kids are too embarrassed to ask another camper for the use of their items and a week spent scratching bug bites is a miserable one!
• Extra Socks, Snack Money: Socks are the first thing lost in any cabin or camp out situation. They pull free from your pack when items are removed and the last few days can be spent sockless and blistery! Snack money, even if they're asked not to bring any can be a bonus, just tape it inside their suitcase or camp chest. If they're riding to or from camp with another family it will help them feel grownup, or have a little something extra if camp does have purchasable snacks.
• Letter From Home, Photo, Trinket: Start every kid off with a letter from home tucked inside their suitcase, even if they have on a brave face, something to read during rest time is a comfort. Photos are great, but don't go overboard. All they'll need is 1 silly photo of the family, nothing serious so they don't get down that they're away from home. Some kids come with stuffed animals from home, others a sticker or note pad to draw on during rest time. Something small is always welcome, but remember it could get lost, so choose carefully.
• Chewing Gum, Self Inking Stamp, Sharpie Marker: What kid doesn't love gum? Candy is banned at many camps, but often time gum can get placed in a pocket and munched on and most won't notice. Plus, it's an easy way to make friends! Self Inking stamps don't really run the risk of leaking in your suitcase and are a fun way to kill time if you're a kid. They might stamp their arm, friends face while they're sleeping or a letter home, but we promise they'll get used! A sharpie is a must to put their name on things, as well as be cool to draw " temporary tattoos" when the counselors aren't looking!
• Books: Without a TV kids usually have a great deal of time to read at camp. There's the time first thing in the morning, late at night, rest time in the afternoon, or any time a group of people is getting ready. Send at least with them, if you send one and they really aren't getting into it, then they'll be bored the rest of the time!
• Flip Flops, Smallest Shower Supplies Possible, Something Nice To Wear: It's inevitable that most camps will have a nice event of some kind. It might be a dance, get together, meal, or final blow out, but having something to wear that's a step up from the traditional attire is nice. That doesn't mean dresses and ties by any means, but a nice pair of shorts and a shirt with buttons or at least a collar is a good addition. Flip flops can break easy and shouldn't be worn all the time, but can be great for heading to the shower or to the mess hall for an early morning breakfast. When campers have to lug their shower gear anywhere, there's bottles, towels and clothing to remember. Make it extra simple (now could be the time for the 2-in-1 shampoo conditioner!) for them so they don't drop anything!
• Camera, Wet Wipes & Toilet Paper, Deck of Cards, Small Activity: By now the suitcase is getting rather full, but a camera is a must, go cheap, they still make instant ones, no one can capture what they can! Wet wipes are great if you're at a serious outdoorsy type camp and can save you from sticky marshmallow fingers post campfire and a small amount of toilet paper is good if you're little one is say a Boy Scout! A deck of cards or small craft activity like string to make friendship bracelets or lanyard material for making keychains or badge holders is perfect!
Do you have anything to add to the list? Something your parents packed for you when you were younger that you were really glad you had, or something you recently sent your kids to camp with that they raved about? Share your thoughts below!
(Image: Flickr member Max Wolfe licensed for use by Creative Commons)