« Return to MightyNest Blog Home

Ready, Pack, Go! A Guide to Summer Camp Preparedness

05.22.14 Ready, Pack, Go! A Guide to Summer Camp Preparedness


Fond memories of childhood summers; playing kick the can, making clothesline tents, catching fireflies… So precious.

But we’re betting you probably also remember saying “Mom, I’m bored!”

A lot.

That just may be why so many kids enjoy spending at least a few weeks at summer camp. And whether it’s day camp or sleepaway, your child’s summer camp experience will mean a whole lot more than just filling time. It’s an opportunity to form new friendships and learn new skills. It’s also a time to build confidence and overcome fears. And it beats the heck out of being bored at home.

Be Prepared: Your Day Camp Checklist

Going to camp is a whole lot different than going to school. And it comes up fast. You may barely have a chance to empty the school backpacks of ratty folders and ancient tests before it’s time to fill them up again with sunscreen, bug repellent and other gear.

Start with our pre-camp checklist to make sure you’ve got everything your child is going to need:

1. Lunch Gear: Good packing will guarantee that the healthy lunch you send is still yummy at lunchtime

  • Lunchbox: Consider an insulated lunchbox to keep it fresh, or a shoulder strap in case the backpack’s stuffed with other gear
  • Containers: Reduce trash by sending reusable containers. Hard containers keep food from getting jostled and smooshed. Bags and wraps replace plastic
  • Freezer pack: Sweat free freezer packs can take the heat
  • Reusable napkin/cutlery: Small but mighty extras you might not have thought of

2. Water BottleMake sure kids stay hydrated by choosing the right water bottle for the job 

  • Daycamp: fits little hands, straw or easy sip top
  • Sports: insulated to keep drink cool, large size for all day use
  • Sleepaway camp: lightweight, easy for child to carry to all the activities
  • Biking: straw or sip top, fits in the holder

3. Sunscreen: Easy to apply and chemical free are key

4. Insect Repellent: The chemicals in commercial repellents are scarier than the bugs they repel

5. Hand Sanitizer: Handwashing opportunities may be few and far between, but germs won't be

6. Hat: A little portable shade for extra sun protection

7. Swimsuit: Something kids can wear under or instead of their clothes will work best

8. Towel: An old bath towel may be the perfect size and you won't feel bad if it gets lost

9. Gym shoes: A fresh, new, breathable pair may be in order (double check the size!)

10. Wet/dirty gear bag: Essential for wet suits, towels and clothes

Be sure to visit our summer camp gear page to see all the best practical, non-toxic options we could find!

Building confidence: Get ready for independence

We tend to take for granted that kids are going to be excited about going to camp -- who wouldn’t be? But the fact is, it’s a big change from the school year routine, with lots of unknowns. Here are a 7 things you want to make sure you talk about in advance:

  1. Schedule/routine for mornings and pickup: Summers have a schedule of their own, and kids may be expecting to sleep in which may not be the case. Review the morning routine, including the dreaded sunscreen application, to send kids off with a smile.
  2. Riding the bus: This could be the first time for a child riding the bus, and supervision is usually minimal. New experience, new route, new kids can add up to a fun ride if you review safety and social expectations
  3. What will I do all day? Kids will be a lot easier to get out of bed if they're excited about the day ahead. You've taken care to choose a camp you think your child will enjoy, remind them why.
  4. Camp rules: The informal environment of camp, and sometimes younger ages of the counselors could lull kids into believing that anything goes! Go over the camp rules and consequences for not following them. Chances are they'll be a lot different than school, and less structure could mean
  5. Make new friends/keep the old: Though your child may find themselves at camp with a buddy or two, chances are there’ll be a lot of unfamiliar faces. Encourage them to branch out and make it easy with a refresher course on basic introductions.
  6. Touch base with counselors/camp leaders: Most camps enrollment forms make room for parental input. Don’t be shy about sending an email to your camp leader, just to let them know you’re interested and involved. 
  7. Re-applying sunscreen and bug spray: Even if your child hasn’t sweated, rubbed, or swum it off, chances are, they'll need to re-apply sunscreen and/or bug spray at least once a day on their own. Most kids resist doing it themselves (if you’ve got a solution to that, please let us know!). Here some guidelines to make it easier, and remember, practice helps (at least you can see where their strengths and weaknesses lie). 
  • Apply 30 min before being in the sun
  • Re-apply often throughout the day (establish a routine, like after lunch and swimming)
  • Re-apply after strenuous activity and swimming
  • Remember to do the tricky parts - ears, nose, around eyes (a sunscreen stick works great for these) and those less seen: tops of feet, back of neck
  • Be extra careful around the eyes and mouth

Bug Spray

  • Use just enough to get good coverage
  • Don't put on cuts/wounds
  • Re-apply often throughout the day (establish a routine, like after lunch and swimming)
  • Wash hands after application
  • If it's super buggy, wear long sleeves/pants

Sleepaway Camp: The next level

  • Practice overnight stays: Even if your child has been successful spending overnights with friends or family, an extended stay will be different. If you have family or trusted friends nearby, consider a multi-night sleepover for extra practice.
  • Share your memories:  If you went to summer camp as a child, tell them about your experiences and how much fun you had. Bedtime stories are the perfect opportunity to tell camp tales.
  • Labeling: Put a name on everything. It’s worth the time to make sure most of it comes back. Resources for iron- and stick-on labels abound on the internet. Sharpies work great too (buy a silver one for dark items), just make sure you don’t wait til the night before so everything has a chance to air out before packing.
  • Letter writing: Make it clear that you hope to hear how much fun your child is having at camp, and put together a little kit to make it easy. Just put pre-stamped and addressed envelopes, paper and writing instruments in a small box.
  • Packing: Create a packing list together to help kids get excited for whats to come. Let them add a few of their favorite things to the list. Then pack together, make sure your child knows what he’s got and where to find it.
  • Care packages: Not all kids get homesick, but they all love to get a little something from home nonetheless. Plan ahead to include notes from siblings and pets, fun little activities, maybe even some tasty treats (be sure to check with your camp for what’s permitted). You might even get something in the mail to be there waiting when they arrive!
  • Prepare yourself: Saying goodbye, even for a little bit, is always heart wrenching. Find some quiet time a few days in advance to sit with your feelings or write them down. Then on the day of departure, you’ll be ready to put on a stiff upper lip to show your kid you know they’re going to do great on their own!


comments powered by Disqus

Where living healthy supports your school.