School is ending and camp is right around the corner. Do you know where your summer camp packing list is?

I suspected as much.

In addition to being a camp director, I’m also a camp parent, so I am well aware of that “where did I put that camp handbook?” feeling.

With two of my own kids attending camp this summer, I am – like you – in all-out alert mode to get them ready. I may have waited for a tad too long on a few items, so I thought I’d share some advice before I get in gear and help them get packed! This may be one of my “do as I blog, not as I do” posts, but it’s gotten me motivated to get going.

Here are some tips to keep chaos at a minimum during camp preparations for your child:

#1 Order clothing labels!

I really like these labels, because you DON’T EVEN HAVE TO IRON THEM! Seriously, when I was getting my older kids ready for camp 20 years ago, we didn’t have such conveniences. Now, it’s super easy to have my kids label all those socks and undies on their own.

#2 Fill out your forms.

The forms camps require are the primary way you communicate your child’s information to the camp staff. If you stick those forms in your child’s luggage as they depart (YOU WOULD NEVER DO THAT, RIGHT?), the staff may not have vital information about your child. Allergy lists for the kitchen, special activity requests, etc., are all made available before campers arrive, so neglecting to send them ahead of your camper will keep staff in the dark regarding your child’s wants and needs. Late forms are not okay. Fill them out. (As a related aside, I thought I could call our pediatrician at the end of April and schedule my son for a physical in May, but that was not the case. I had to send an apologetic email to the camp explaining that his appointment is four days before the session starts. This is embarrassing for a 31-year veteran camp director! I reiterate, “do as I blog.”)

#3 Look at the packing list.

Sweat pants? Those are very hard to find in stores this time of year, and if your kids are like mine, last winter’s are way too small. You’ll have to order them online. I know Amazon is fast, but if you’re looking at the packing list the night before camp, you won’t get the sweatpants in time. Check out the list. See what your camper needs. Get it now rather than risking a panic attack at 11:45 the night before camp.

#4 Plan for some downtime.

When I hear about the schedules some of our campers have before and after camp—with not a minute to rest Calendarbefore or recuperate after—I worry. Remember our childhood summer days? A whole lot of nothing, almost every day, so that by September school was actually sounding pretty good? Today’s kids have summer school, sports camp, junior lifeguards, test prep, sports practices, band camp, family vacation (need I go on?). Please schedule some time for rest and reflection after camp. The experience is so profound it needs to be savored, not wedged in between everything else.

#5 Figure out how to work your camp’s online system.

As soon as your camper arrives at camp, you’ll want grandparents to know how to send emails, and you’ll be anxious to see photos. Practice now so that on camp’s first day, you’re not fumbling around online.

There you have it—just a few tips to get you ahead of the curve on camp preparations. Trust me on these. I have been there, and I know that ironing labels past midnight before an early camp departure is not a fun experience.


Summer Camp (lots of Sunshine Parenting resources to help you prepare for camp!)

Camp Supplies (there are TONS of other places to get camp gear besides these places but here are a few suggestions):
Everything Summer Camp (trunks, duffels, other camp gear)
Label Daddy (no iron clothing labels)
Gruvy Wear (UV protective swimwear)
LL Bean

If you enjoy reading Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post, or follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest for links to articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Thank you for reading and happy camping!

More information about Audrey’s book is here: Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults.

In Happy Campers, Audrey shares what she’s learned from three decades of creating a culture where kids become happier while gaining important social and emotional skills. The book is based on her thousands of interactions with campers, camp counselors, and parents, her academic research in positive psychology, and interviews with camp directors from across the country.

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