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Appendix B. Preparing Children for Camp

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

After a camp has been selected, the children registered there as campers, and billing arrangements taken care of, it is time to prepare the children for their camp experience. Preparation for camp includes both physical preparation and packing, and also mental and emotional preparation. This preparation step is particularly important if the camp is an overnight camp and children have never before spent an extended period away from family.

Clothing and Supplies

Most camps provide families with a list of items campers should bring. Parents should start with that list and add to it any further items their children may find useful:

  • Even for the least intensive day camps, children will likely need to pack appropriate swimwear or rain gear. If campers will spend any time outdoors, they will need to pack plenty of sun block as well as hats and sunglasses to block out harmful sun rays.
  • Parents will also want to pack their campers a rain coat or other waterproof covering for any activities out in the rain. Furthermore, families should check the camp's recommendations about appropriate shoes, and youth will probably want more than one pair in case one pair gets soaking wet or muddy.
  • If the camp environment offers specialized training, particular equipment like tennis rackets or computers may be required.
  • If swimming is a camp activity, youth will need appropriate swimwear and any other devices they use in the water, such as goggles.
  • Campers will also want to make sure they have enough clothing, including underwear and socks, for a clean change each day and have clothing they can wear in layers, to put on or take off, depending upon the temperature. Parents of overnight campers will want to inquire about the camp's laundry schedule so as to know how many days their children's clothes supply is expected to last.
  • If children are spending the night at camp, they will need weather-appropriate pajamas as well as a bathrobe and shower shoes they can wear to and from the shower to maintain their modesty and protect their feet from communicable diseases.
  • If the camp is an overnight camp, children will probably need to bring their own sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, and wash cloths, as well as any daily toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, lotion, deodorant, etc. As well, children will want to have a good flashlight or headlamp, and possibly a few quiet time objects such as a book, playing cards, or a diary.
  • They may also want to take a comfort item, such as a small stuffed animal or small photo album of friends and family. These familiar objects can help soothe a child in the dark of the night or during a homesick moment.
  • If the camp doesn't have Internet access for email, parents should also send along paper, pencils, and postage so the youth can write letters home (a now quaint but time-honored activity).

All of these items should be labeled with the camper's name, as items can easily get lost or confused with another camper's belongings. They can be labeled with indelible ink stamps or laundry pens.

There are many items children should leave at home and not pack for camp. Parents should closely review the camp's list of items not to pack. Campers should never pack alcohol, illicit drugs, weapons, knives, flammables, or explosives like firecrackers. Live pets should also stay home, even though it can be difficult for some children to leave them behind. Children should leave home any expensive items that can be lost or easily stolen, such as iPods, cell phones, other expensive electronics, and jewelry. Parents should also check to see how much money children will need to buy incidentals or souvenirs, and make sure kids do not take too much money. Also, many camps do not allow campers to bring in outside food.

Parents will probably need to fill out some medical history paperwork as well as emergency medical forms. Often, campers will need a recent physical check-up from the doctor, and they will need to have all of their immunizations up-to-date. If campers need to take medication at camp, whether it's prescription medication or an over-the-counter drug, the medication will need to be stored it its original container and be accompanied by appropriate forms about its use, along with doctors' signatures.