The summer months are upon up, and while we love to spend extra time with our kids, there’s only so much time parents can take off work. Which means the kids are often with babysitters, grandparents, or signed into day camps for at least a few weeks while school is out.
Camp, however, is very different from school. Kids don’t necessarily need pens, pencils, books, notebooks, and other educational stuff. Camp is, after all, for fun! It’s for learning interesting new skills like science, survival, or riding a bike. It’s about playing sports, getting active, and enjoying the great outdoors while the weather is beautiful and the sun shining.
But kids still need to bring items with them, just different ones, or modified versions of things you might pack in their school bags. So what should you add to the backpack checklist for summer day camp? Here are the essentials.
10 Water Bottle
It’s always important for kids to stay hydrated, but never more so than during the summer months. Make sure to pack a full bottle of ice-cold water in your child’s bag.
Use an insulated bottle that can keep the water cold for hours, especially if the camp includes a lot of outdoor activities in the sun. If you want to ensure that the aqua will totally cool down and refresh your child as well as quench his thirst, add some crushed ice to it too, so it will remain icy all day long.
This is a must for kids who will be playing outdoors in the sun for long periods of time – or even for 15 minutes or so several times throughout the day for “recess” or free playtime.
Apply sunscreen in the morning, but pack some in your child’s backpack too for reapplication halfway through the day. Make sure to label it with his name, as with everything else on this list. Sunscreen, in particular, can be expensive, so you don’t want your child to lose a full bottle.
Practice applying it with your child as well and grab one that is easier for them to use, whether it’s cream-based or a spray bottle. Make sure the camp counselors are ensuring that all kids are taking the time to apply sunscreen correctly and sufficiently or helping if they’re having trouble.
8 Extra Pair of Runners
Many camps will actually request this, as they don’t want kids tracking mud in from outside. Even if not, it’s always a good idea to pack a spare pair of shoes (again, labeled) in the child’s bag just in case. A water fight could break out and the shoes get soaked, or the child could find his foot in a mud puddle while running to get the ball in a soccer game.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry. An extra pair of shoes can also come in handy if your child decided to wear sandals to the camp (never flip flops) but needs runners to change into for sports and other activities.
7 Extra Clothes
Particularly for younger kids who might be prone to accidents, an extra pair of clothes is always useful. Include shorts, T-shirt, underwear, and, most important, socks. Again, mud puddles, water fights, and more can lead to wet, soggy socks. So it’s always beneficial to have an extra pair.
For other clothes, it isn’t just about bathroom-related accidents: kids might spill food or other items on their clothing, especially if the camp involves lots of arts and crafts, cooking, or other messy (but fun) activities.
6 Swimming Trunks/Bathing Suit
Swimming trunks or bathing suit will ensure the child is ready for any water-related activities.
Make sure it’s dry from the day before (you don’t necessarily need to wash it every night, but at least pop it in the dryer or hang it up to dry when they come home.)
If it’s really hot and sunny, consider a swim shirt for a boy as well, to keep his torso covered and protected from the sun’s rays, especially if you can’t confirm that he’s applied sunscreen as he should.
5 Beach Towel
Part and parcel with the bathing suit/trunks is a towel. Some summer camps might include pool time, or even just time outside in a splash pad. The camp will likely advise you of this, but just in case they haven’t done so, pack a towel so your child can dry off afterward.
Even if the facility provides their own towels, it’s always best that kids use their own, especially if they have sensitive skin. Consider a hooded towel that will cover their head and hair as well, and one with armholes. And make sure it’s big enough to cover the entire body but easy for the child to still walk in it without tripping.
4 Healthy Lunch and Snacks
Just like at school, kids will need a healthy lunch to give them energy halfway through the day. But with many summer camps included full days of physical activity, they might end up eating more than usual.
Make it simple with deli meat sandwiches, crackers and cheese, or hot lunches packed in appropriate thermal containers to ensure they stay warm.
Add some sides and snacks like carrots and cucumbers, yogurt (make sure to include a freezer pack), fruit, crackers, and more. A good tip for hot summer days, especially if the kids will have their bags outside, is to freeze snacks like grapes so they are defrosted but still nice and cold by the time the child is ready to eat them.
Make homemade healthy muffins, granola bars, bread and butter (for the picky eaters), and other items to make sure you cover all four food groups. And don’t forget fun dessert-like snacks, too, like mini dark chocolates or other sweet treats.
3 A Favourite Book
Sometimes kids will have free, quiet time during camp where they can relax and chill with toys. Pack one of your child’s favorite books in their bag so if they get tired or bored or playing with others, they can plop in a corner (with the counselor’s permission) and immerse themselves in a few chapters before getting ready for the next activity.
Make sure to write your child’s name in the book and tell him to always put it back in his bag when he’s done to avoid losing it.
2 A Personalized Note
Surprise your kids with a personalized note in their backpack or lunch bag each day, whether it’s to tell them you love them and will miss them until they get home, remind them to behave and have fun or to share a funny joke.
Maybe give the child a challenge each day, like to make one new friend or to learn one new sport or activity. Even though this is summer camp, you want the learning and thinking to continue. So whether they’re learning a safety tip about swimming, or an interesting fact about a country a new friend is from, there’s always a way to keep their brain, not just their body, active.
1 Any Required Medical Devices
Don’t forget to pack any required medical devices your child might need while away at day camp, like an Epipen, daily medication, inhaler, or other similar items.
If your child has allergies, it might not be a bad idea to pack allergy medication, or at least give the child a dose prior to leaving in the morning, since most last for 24 hours.
Along with packing the items, make sure to inform camp counselors about your child’s condition and what to do if there is an issue. Most camps require that parents fill out a form indicating any medication conditions the child has, and what medication needs to be administered in the event of an emergency.