7 tips to prepare for sleepover camp
Signing your child up for camp is simple; getting them ready, on the other hand, is a whole other story.
For the past number of years, I’ve enrolled my daughter in a sleepover (residential) camp. And each year, as she gets ready to leave — a process involving several shopping expeditions and a day of cramming bags and boxes full of stuff — I am reminded that signing up and attending camp is the easy part. The tough part falls on the parents, who must find, purchase, label and organize a multitude of items. Of course, the look of joy on her face when she talks about her camp experience makes the work worthwhile, but over the years I’ve learned a few things that make preparing for camp just a little bit easier:
- Scour the sales to save money. Camps will provide a list of required items and it can be a shock to see the amount of stuff needed, even for a weeklong stay. Keep in mind that brand new items aren’t always necessary, especially as some items might not make it home. Two years ago, my daughter’s new, labelled (and pricey) windbreaker went missing but eventually made it home; her beloved grey sweatshirt, also labelled, did not. So see what clothing, footwear and gear you can borrow from family and friends. Camp employees are a great source of help about what items are worth investing in (like a warm sleeping bag). Clothing, which is likely to get dirty and stained, certainly does not have to be new.
- Don’t overlook rain gear and warm clothes. One summer, it rained for nine of the 13 days my daughter was at camp, yet she and her fellow campers had a terrific time anyway. They were prepared with rubber boots and coats. But camp directors say parents sometimes overlook these items, which can spell misery if the weather turns rainy. Ditto for a few items to keep a child warm. Nothing ruins an evening of games faster for a child than having to shiver in the outdoors because temperatures have dropped.
- Label, label, label. If you want to make sure your child’s clothing and equipment come back, you must label it. Don’t assume that she is the only one with a bright purple water bottle sporting a blue alien. Someone else will have one too! Companies such as Mabel’s Labels (www.mabel.ca) and Stuck on You (www.stuckonyou.biz) make labels of all sizes, including ones for shoes and sandals.
- Ask about storage space. Depending on the camp’s accommodations, your child may have a very narrow space in which to store her belongings. Don’t assume that a suitcase or duffle bag will work — ask the staff or check out packing information. I ended up purchasing plastic bins for my daughter’s gear. It made transporting it to the car and eventually to her tent a bit more difficult, but the bins stored neatly under the bed. They also kept everything dry, were easy to label and inexpensive!
- Have a plan in case of illness. Check with the camp staff about policies on sending a child who has been ill in the weeks leading up to camp. You may be asked to keep a child home until she has been fever or symptom free for a week. This could derail or at least postpone the camp stay.
- Do a head and body check. Lice aren’t only a problem at school — those pesky critters like to travel to camp as well. Check your child’s head before leaving and upon arriving home. As well, check to make sure your child doesn’t show signs of athlete’s foot or any other skin problem. If yes, consult with the camp and your doctor about what to do.
- Prepare a care package. If your child is going to be away for more than a week, she’ll probably appreciate receiving a care package (note that most camps request you NOT send food, as it attracts bugs and animals). Rather than rushing around at the last minute, start keeping an eye out for inexpensive items: colourful pens and notepaper, magazines, books, even a pair of funky socks. Tuck them into a box and when the time comes, all you’ll need to do is send it off.
Going away to camp proved to be an enriching and delightful experience for my daughter, even though it is a bit of work for me. But with a little planning and savvy, you can get your camper out the door with all the necessary gear and still have some energy left to enjoy the peace and quiet of home.