Summer is here, and kids all over the country are excited for sleepaway camp. For many children, this will be their first time spending a week or more away from their family. As parents, you want to make sure everything goes smoothly. And, since you won’t be there for them physically, the most important thing for you to do is to make sure they arrive at camp prepared.
Each summer camp will typically send home a unique camping checklist for parents to follow. This means that the exact type and number of items will vary depending on the length of stay, provided amenities, and camp’s theme or focus. However, quite a few important items can be considered camping essentials for almost every kid.
In general, you will need to pack one of these staple summer wardrobe items for each day plus a few extras: T-shirts, shorts, underwear, and pairs of socks. Many camps also encourage children to bring at least one poncho, jacket, pair of pants, sweatshirt, and/or extra set of sneakers.
Most summer camps involve some kind of swimming, whether that’s at a lake, a pool, or a beach. Make sure your child brings at least two bathing suits so he or she can join in on the fun. Water shoes, sandals, or sneakers you don’t mind getting wet are also a must; walking along certain waterfronts barefoot can be dangerous.
You’ll also need a laundry bag for dirty clothes. A simple nylon bag with drawstrings that cinch shut is the standard for sleepaway camp, but plastic garbage bags will also do in a pinch. Remember that a separate bag may be necessary for wet or especially dirty clothing.
At summer camp, your kids will be spending plenty of time outdoors during the part of the year when damaging UV rays are at their strongest. Always remember that painful sunburns now can end up causing cancer later. Sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 — higher if your child is prone to sunburns — should be at the top of every summer camp checklist.
Since most people (and children especially) either miss putting sunscreen on their scalps or don’t want the product in their hair, this vulnerable part of the skin often goes unprotected. Packing a cap for your kid to wear will prevent painful scalp burns. Hats with wide brims, such as baseball caps, will also provide extra protection for the face, ears, and neck. The eyes are another often forgotten spot. While not as popular with kids as hats, sunglasses are an optional type of sun protection for you to consider packing.
Unfortunately, sun protection routines are often skipped. Be sure to pack a bottle of moisturizer with aloe vera in case your kid does get sunburned. Dehydration of the skin is a big part of why sunburns are so uncomfortable, and the aloe will also help to soothe inflammation.
Mosquitos, ticks, and other creepy crawlies are a major nuisance during the summer months. Depending where you live, biting insects can also be a serious health concern. Because of this, children are often encouraged to bring along their own non-aerosol bug repellants. Before buying any of these products, however, be sure to read their instructions to make sure they’re safe for children to apply themselves. Very young children shouldn’t handle insect repellants without adult supervision.
If you live in a high-risk area for serious mosquito-borne infections, you may also consider packing a personal mosquito net for your child’s bunk. Check with the camp to find out if this is appropriate.
While some sleepaway camps may provide toiletries, most do not. Your child is likely to need to bring their own soap and shampoo with them. Also keep in mind that summer is a season of sugary treats, making a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss even more essential than usual. Mouthwash isn’t necessary for most kids and shouldn’t be used without adult supervision, so packing this item isn’t typically advised.
Likewise, while some camps provide them, in general you should plan to pack washcloths as well as towels for both swimming and bathing. Also, if you have older kids who have started puberty, don’t forget to pack deodorant and/or feminine hygiene products if necessary.
Miscellaneous essentials include a reusable water bottle, a flashlight with batteries, and any prescribed medications (be sure to keep counselors informed about any health issues). Many camps also require personal bedding or sleeping bags. Make sure your child brings a book or two; rainy days are a perfect time to catch up on summer reading. Depending on the place, campers may be allowed to bring a small amount of spending money.
Finally, some summer camps include activities for which your child needs to pack specialty equipment. For example, if a camp offers horseback riding, you may be asked to bring riding pants and boots. Likewise, a camp featuring sailing lessons may require personal sailing gloves.
Storing All That Camping Gear
Of course, many of these items will only get regular use during the camping season. If you don’t have enough room at home, consider stowing it away in a personal storage unit for the rest of the year.