gearing up for camp

By Sue LeBreton

As you pack and prepare to send your child off to camp, whether it’s the first or fifth time, there’s a lot to consider. Here are some general guidelines I’ve learned – and relearned! – after sending two children to various camps for more than six years. Remember, too, that the camp organizers are experts – so if they’ve given you a camp guide or any instructions, be sure to trust those directions and follow them closely.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Start reviewing the suggested packing list with your child a few weeks before camp. This gives you ample opportunity to purchase any missing items, and it allows your child to start thinking and getting excited about camp.

Have children pack their own bags, with supervision. That way, they can find those all-important socks and underwear – and other basics. Plus, it adds to kids’ sense of independence, another reason we send them to camp to start with.

If it leaves your house, label it. From luggage to individual items, use a system to label every T-shirt, shoe or flashlight.

Be considerate with care packages. Double check if this is even allowed. In more rustic surroundings, food is not allowed in sleeping quarters because it attracts wild animals. If food is permitted, send enough to share with cabin mates – but be sensitive to any allergy issues. Many camps are peanut- or nut-free facilities.

Pack it in and pack it out. A horse camp my daughter attended suggested campers bring a detailed list of their belongings. When she was packing up to come home, it made it easier for her to locate missing items when she knew she was looking for two pink shirts. She liked this technique so much she’s used it to pack for other camps.

What not to pack. Valuables like jewelry, expensive clothing and electronics belong at home. If children attend camp with mobile phones or iPods, they are missing the opportunity to connect and make new friends. Isn’t that why we are sending them to camp in the first place?