The first year I sent my kids to sleep away camp, I had the care packages gig all wrong. I had signed up to be a Camp Mom, so I figured my kids didn’t need extra treats – I was on campus and if they really needed something, I could easily accommodate. Little did I know that kids LIVE for care packages. At least at Camp Harrison they did. I found myself scrambling for anything I could find at the camp store and I had to do that times four.
The seasoned camp moms had the care packages down to a science. They showed up to camp with a zip lock or box pre-packaged with their daily sercies. They had them organized by day, labeled with their child’s name and the day of the week. So when the moms checked their kids in, all they had to do was fill in the cabin number. Hello? Why didn’t anyone tell me that?! So no need to mail your packages ever again, especially for a one-week sleep away camp. I’m sure you space it out differently when your kids are away for multiple weeks. But you get the drift – PLAN AHEAD.
Now with three years of Camp Mom under my belt, I came up with these Smarty Tips for Care Packages done right:
1) Don’t ever send a letter to your child for the first two nights. This was a common mistake that I saw happen all the time. Even though you want to comfort your child with a note, it’s probably not a good idea to do it the first few days since the kids are all getting settled. The mail is usually delivered during afternoon down time (B.O.B. time at Camp Harrison) and the kids get a little more homesick during that relaxing time. The last thing they want to do is read a mushy note from mom telling them how much you miss them. Actually, I would argue never to say that you miss them. Just tell them you love them and leave it at that.
2) Don’t go crazy with endless candy and snacks. Somebody gave me advice that the kids are dying for candy, and lots of it to share with everyone in the cabin. Well my candy HOUNDS (who will gorge themselves with any candy they can scrounge up) came back with loads of candy that first time. I was kicking myself for investing in that much. Plus, the counselors don’t want sugared up kids. They LIVE for B.O.B. time. I would recommend some unique candy treats that you don’t normally buy – like old school Pop Rocks or gummy snakes, Candy Girl Confections on East Blvd has the best selection.
3) Don’t overdo it with fancy gifts. I would recommend a camp tee-shirt or sweatshirt or bandana for the first night if you planned on purchasing one. Or if you were planning on buying a Crazy Creek, go ahead and send it as a treat killing two birds with one stone.
Then pick out things that they’ll use, like these finger lights, huge hit for boys cabins:
Since mine already have these, this year they are dying for head lamps. They may be a little high for a camp sercie, but rest assured they’ll be used for years to come:
Mad Libs – my girls LOVE these:
My girls also loved these Pillow Pet Pee-Wee camp pillows, I added a small camp bandana to it. They use it every time we go camping.
This is a really cute personalized care package that you can customize yourself:
4) Do send the address and cabin information to your relatives to send a care package. Give them detailed instructions to include the Camper’s name, Camp Session (just in case it arrives early), the cabin number (if you have it) on every letter or package. Make sure you give them plenty of time to coordinate and ship (2 weeks is perfect). Our cousins and grandparents had so much fun sending packages. Remember, keep it simple. My FLA relatives sent sea shells to share with the cabin. That was a great inexpensive treat that held a lot of sentimental value. Stickers/pens are always fun and cheap too. And remember to return the favor when the cousins go to camp:-)
5) Do utilize the camp email system. So easy and you don’t even need a stamp! But you do need to include the camper’s name and cabin number in the subject line. Remember that everything is screened and pre-read, so don’t include anything that might upset the camper like, the dog ran away or the hamster died. Yes, we actually flagged a few messages along these lines last year. Camp is not the time to drop a bombshell, save it for when they come home.
The reality is that the kids live for care packages and notes. It’s like Christmas in July. Happy camping! Share some of your favorite camp care package ideas in the comments below!