Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pack your Bags: for Sleepaway Camp

Are you one of those parents who booked your kids for a week or two or three at a sleep-away camp?  Horse-riding, canoeing, playing sports, dancing, pranks late into the night?  For many kids, overnight camp is a summer rights of passage.  Not for me.  Not for me as a kid and not for me as a parent.  (I don’t have the space here to go into all the psychological reasons why, just read Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.)

Not that my children don’t ask.  My oldest is going on her second year mentioning a college-stay sports camp and “because all of her friends are going” hasn’t swayed my thoughts.  The college is close enough that I’ve offered to register her for the day portion the same week her friends are there, but she’s pushing for all or nothing.  I like her gambling instinct, but she needs to learn to better understand the odds.

One of my kids’ friends gets a week or two every summer on his own, a flight or a long drive, but far away.  During that time, his parents cruise off into the sunset – literally, they go on vacation while he’s gone.  Admittedly, that’s tempting, but if I have to put 4 kids into sleep away camp, me & D won’t get much further than sharing a sweet tea & fries at the McDonald's across the street.

For all the kids who are going away, you know – all the kids in the world except my daughter – I turned to a friend, Tanya, for tips on making sure your child is well stocked and comfy in his summer home away from home.  One of the first things she said was to find others who have been to that camp before because they may have suggestions that are not listed on the camp provided list.  

The bags: a trunk, the kind you took to college, a duffle bag, and a small to medium-sized backpack for getting around during the day

In the duffle (to save space in the trunk): the sheets, pillows, sleeping bags, towels, etc. 

In the trunk: everything else -  clothes, pajamas, underwear, hiking boots, etc. Mom Tanya said, "the first year, I grabbed my camp packing list and started packing the trunk.  Quickly it became obvious to me that I couldn't fit everything in the trunk that was on the list.  Well, after several times of taking everything out of the trunk and putting things back in the trunk in a different order, my husband strolled by and offered another strategy to pack the trunk.  It worked!  However, in my excitement I didn't realize that I had taken out regular T-shirts and only put in white T-shirts, with 2 regular T-shirts.  So, in every camp photo, he has on the same two shirts."  
  • Have your camper help with the packing, have them put in their favorite shorts, swimtrunks, books (most camps have time set aside for mandatory reading). 
  • Pack some fun things for the whole cabin:  glow in the dark necklaces, yo yo's, whoopee cushions, etc.  Do not listen to people who used to go to camp back in the day and send horns, and other really loud noisy devices.  These will be confiscated from your camper, with a nice email sent back to you. 
  • Don't send any electronics because most camps don't want kids bringing video games or other electronics.  (Although another mom's experience has allowed some e-games, or at least kids can bring DVDs to watch at camp, so check with your camp if your child will just wither away without his e-entertainment.)
  • Don't send food.  If you want to send cookies baked by mom, send it in the care package, do not pack them in the trunk.  But go easy on sending care packages, if your camper is at camp three weeks or more, 1 package a week is enough.  Another friend, mom Denyse, says to also consider non-perishables such as granola bars or cereal bars for a picky eater.
While you’re waiting for your child to return to you:
  • Don't expect to receive a lot of letters.  Most camps have postage cards and encourage campers to write down a few words and mail it home.  Some kids send lots of letters, Tanya's did not. 
  • Try not to worry, let your camper have fun and take some time for yourself to have fun.  Your camper will be home before you know it!

Thanks to Tanya Landry and Denyse Hamilton, busy moms, for their packing tips.

1 comment:

Tania Galyon said...

It feels so nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Really thankful to you for starting this.