When you’re getting ready to send your kid off to summer camp, you’re actually facing the challenge of preparing them to take care of themselves. They will have only what they bring with them, which becomes a great lesson for kids in resilience and resourcefulness. But that silver lining doesn’t minimize the stress of anticipating everything they will need—without sending them into the Santa Cruz Mountains with an extra mountain of their own to lug around.
One critical step is to print out the packing list your camp provides (there may be a specific list for a one-week versus two-week session), then follow it item by item. Check things off only when they are already in the trunk or another designated area that you’re sure won’t be disturbed. Just don’t think of the list as an arbitrary suggestion; the camp staff who created it know from experience exactly what your child will need for a comfortable, successful camp session.
Plus, this list probably has other essential information, like a dress code and guidelines for what technological devices your camper can bring. While your child might be used to wearing spaghetti straps and flip-flops in the Santa Cruz summer sun, camps often discourage certain types of clothing that distract from the focus on community fun, safety, and inclusion. At Kennolyn, we call these positive guidelines “K Rated” and provide all the details you need right on the packing list.
Your Own Up-Front Summer Camp Packing Checklist
You’ll also gain an advantage from starting early—even a month or two in advance. In fact, certain things are possible only when you have a little extra time to pull them off. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you consider just how to pack for summer camp without unnecessary stress.
- Printing your packing list at the last minute doesn’t give you much time to anticipate personal items that it doesn’t include. For example, your child might need to apply wax to their braces only once in awhile, but if the need comes up at camp and they don’t have any wax with them, they could be in for some uncomfortable days. It’s never too early to start adding specific items to the list as they come to mind, even if you don’t actually pack them until closer to go time: a retainer, extra batteries, or fresh hair ties, for example.
- Check your camp’s policies, but it is likely that ALL medications will be stored and distributed by the nurse. American Camp Association accreditation standards require that medication be in its original bottle, with the doctor’s directions on the label. In other words, don’t assume you’re helping by sorting your child’s prescriptions into ziplock bags with hand-written notes on dosage—the camp nurse will probably have to reject medications packed that way.
- Label everything—all of your child’s clothing, yes, but also everything: the pillow and pillowcases, the toiletries, and even teddy bears or other companions. Feel free to get creative and tie a ribbon with your camper’s name on it around their stuffed animal’s neck, or use blue painter’s tape to add names to items like books and cameras. (This tape can easily be peeled off at the end of the summer.) You can also find silver Sharpie markers that work great on dark-colored items. If you have at least a few weeks before camp, try washable iron-on nametags to avoid writing with permanent marker directly on clothes.
- Having enough time for shipping opens up the option of shopping in the camp’s online store. Not only will you find clothing and other gear sporting Kennolyn’s name at our shop (so that your camper can start getting into the community spirit); you’ll find some really convenient items we’ve selected specifically because we know they work well for our campers and fit easily under their bunks or in other camp spaces.
- You can expect that your kid will also be enjoying nature—and dirt—up close. So instead of throwing away worn-out clothing, create a pile of “Camp Clothes.” You can also keep an eye out for any Kennolyn Green gear your kids have outgrown; pack it in a bag labeled “Recycled Kennolyn Gear” and give to the counselor when you arrive, and we can spread the Green spirit around the Kennolyn family.
- Break in shoes and boots. Don’t wait to have your kid try on their hiking boots from last year until it’s almost time to return to camp. Sending them off with a brand new pair of boots, tennis shoes, or even water shoes can mean that they miss out on fun activities because their footwear is too uncomfortable. Looking into new shoes now means more time to break them in. You might even take the opportunity to get some exercise and fresh air in our abundant parks in and around Santa Cruz.
- Encourage your kids to think about what games or books they want to bring, and start an actual list of their ideas. Odds are that the initial list will be too long, so give them time to keep narrowing it down and help them consider the reasons that one game might be better for sharing than another, or why one book would help ease homesickness or spur a sense of adventure more than others.
- Of course, preparing for camp isn’t just the process of sorting through your child’s belongings; it also has psychological components. One really helpful way to get ready, especially for newer campers, is to practice sleeping away from home. If they experience the emotional challenges plenty of kids go through, you’ll have the chance to talk about these together. Then, they can focus more on what to look forward to!
- You can also help your kids begin adjusting to the idea of unplugging from their smartphones, tablets, and video games during the camp experience. You might practice limiting your family’s screen time in preparation, and talk with your child about the positives of detaching from the swirl of digital content.
The whole process really does come down to helping your kids take care of themselves. So, one final suggestion: don’t do all of the planning, organizing, and packing for them. At minimum, being involved gives your child insight into what they’ll actually have and where to find it. But hopefully, they’ll also take this responsibility in stride and learn to anticipate their own needs, be realistic about their wants, and get warmed up for the challenges and excitements of summer camp.
To find out what some of those great summer camp experiences will be, or to learn more about our recommendations for preparing for your camper’s retreat into the Santa Cruz Mountains, get in touch with us anytime. You can be sure that we’re also getting ready at this very moment!
Lead Image Source: Flickr user Sydney Treasures Photography