We made it! The kids are finally out of school for summer and if you know my kids, you know that means Summer Camp is just around the corner!
My kids didn’t start going to summer camp until they were in middle school, but I feel like I am a pretty seasoned camp mom. And when they started going they went two at a time! Well, not really, but it felt like it.
When my oldest, Michael, first went to camp I was a little neurotic about getting it right. I asked all my friends for their best piece of advice for packing kids to camp. These tips hold true for church camp, sports camp, summer camp and all other camps. This is my list of the best of the best.
Create a Summer Camp packing list
The camp should send a list to you of what to bring and what not to, and what is not allowed. I also give my kids a list I created in Excel that has everything we would need for a week away – 5 t-shirts, 5 pair of shorts, socks, underpants, etc. Be sure to save it because chances are you will need it next year. There are tons of lists on Pinterest if you are not sure what to include.
Check what the kids packed
I have boys. I have two boys who are easily distracted (turns out ADD is very common in kids with Dyslexia), and I have one who follows directions to a tee. So I have all of them bring everything to me once they have pulled all the items they need for camp. Then I check it against the list and we divide it into days. It is amazing how many times they would have taken 5 shirts, 2 pair of shorts, 3 socks and no underpants. Seriously, even at the age of 15.
Label everything that you want to come home
This is especially true for younger kids. If you can trust them to put all their dirty clothes directly into a laundry bag and keep their items neatly together then skip this step. Take a look at their bedroom if you are in doubt and you should be able to decide from there. I ALWAYS label their towels. There is just something nasty about the thought of dying off with some other dudes towel.
This is my very BEST summer camp packing tip! Seriously! If you do nothing but get your kids to this point they can make it through the week. Go buy a box of the 1-gallon Ziploc bags. On the outside of each bag write a day of the week that he will be gone, then make sure he packs a shirt, shorts, socks and undies in each bag. This is really easy if you followed step #2. The bags are also great to pack their shampoo, soap and sunscreen in. Finally, I send a laundry bag to put all the dirty laundry in. Tell them to leave the empty bags in their luggage and you can reuse them later in the summer for vacation or next year for summer camp.
I have to share a funny story from the first year I sent one of mine, who will remain unnamed. We packed him this way, and it went very well. I was able to rest assured knowing we had sent enough clothes, and pretty confident he would start off in clean clothes every day. However, when we emptied his bag after he got home, I found unworn underpants still in the bags. Like a lot of them. Like five out of seven pair!!! Really, there were entirely too many pair of clean underwear left in his bag.
To this day, he swears that he wore his swimsuit most of the time and basically didn’t need the underwear because he was not in shorts. Whatever! I’m still not buying it, but I do tell him every year, before every camp to “put on new underpants every day!”
Prepare their medications
My kids are on a lot of Medications. My oldest has Juvenile Arthritis as well as Anxiety, and he is ADD. Mav also has Juvenile Arthritis and has some pretty heavy-duty allergies. During the school year, I put their meds in one of those containers that are divided by the days of the week. It works out for us and we all know if anything is left out or a day is missed.
When you send Meds to camp they want them to come in the original bottles. I put them in the pill case as usual, but day, and send the original bottles. It takes the pressure off the nurse on duty that has to pass the pills out and it helps the boys feel assured that they are getting everything they normally do. Win-Win.
Pack in a trunk
Trunks are just easier to handle. I would advise to get them with wheels. Most camps hand the bags to the kids at the bus and they have to get them to their rooms. They have things packed really tight on the bus in most cases and a trunk keeps things from getting crushed. They need something durable but easy to handle. They range greatly in price. I saw one last night for $20 and have seen them over $100.
Trunks are also fun and easy to decorate. You can paint them, put stickers on them, or go all out and get an artist to customize them. It’s fun, and again, if summer camp is going to be something your kids do every year, or several times each summer, go ahead and invest in one.
It’s easy to say, “don’t take them,” and I agree with that on some things. They don’t need to take the special ring or watch that the grandparents gave them for graduating from elementary school. And don’t take any treasures they can’t live without or that could be broken.
But, as for not taking devices, the reality of it is that if your kid has a cell phone it is their camera. If your kid is a reader, they probably have a Nook or Kindle and may read at night to unwind. The camp counselors are really good about keeping them too busy to spend a lot of time on their devices. Also, most summer camps are in areas where coverage is very poor, and most of the other kids will have their device as well.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but after reading this list I am looking forward to camp this year. Summer camp is a time for our kids to grow. It’s almost like going off to college, but without the school part, hopefully not quite as expensive and for a much shorter time. But some of the lessons about people and life and friendship can be the same.
I hope these tips help you and your kids as you prepare for summer camp! I am sure there are other super tips that you use, so please share them in the comments and be sure to share this with your friends who are sending kids to camp this summer!