Summer day camps and overnight jaunts are back in full swing with plenty of opportunities to boost kids’ social skills, build resilience, teach independence—and maybe get a break for yourself in the process.

While the thought of packing everything your kids will need for summer camp list can seem daunting, we’ve rounded up this handy list of things to bring to camp to make packing easier than ever.

From clothing and supplies, to accessories and personal hygiene, here’s everything your kiddo will need while away from home—for any (and every!) type of activity and weather.

Tight on time? Download our summer camp packing checklist and simply check off as you shop and pack.

Then, check out our list of tips to help you—and your kid—prepare for summer camp, for less separation anxiety and more happy memories all summer long.

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What to pack for summer camp

Sleep and Shelter

Summer Camp Tips for Parents

Read on for helpful tips on getting ready for summer camp.

Preparing your kid for camp

  • Look at photos: Once you’ve selected your camp, head online to check out photos of the place. Visit any social media pages or the official website, and show your kid all of the fun things they’re going to do once they arrive.
  • Go shopping: Take your kid with you when you head out to pick up some of their gear, or get them to help you shop online. Being able to pick out a few new items for their upcoming summer camp activities is sure to drum up excitement and anticipation.
  • Start a countdown: If you have a family calendar, mark down the days or weeks your kids will be away and start a countdown so they know exactly when they depart. Before you know it, they’ll be telling you how many days until they blow dodge.

Help your child develop independence

  • Create a chore list: If you want to encourage independence with your kids before they leave, (whether it’s overnight or just for a few hours at a summer day camp), start at home with a chore list. Either create a new list or add to an existing one, showing them you trust them with the extra responsibility.
  • Practice sun safety: Any youth camp checklist will probably include sunscreen, but do your children know how to apply it themselves and how often to reapply? Practice applying sunscreen with them, and talk about when and how to do it. Now’s also a good time to touch on the importance of hats and sunglasses, too.
  • Go over camp rules: It’s easier to do what’s expected of you if you actually know what’s expected of you. In that vein, go over camp rules with your kids ahead of time and talk about each item. Ask if they have any questions and address concerns right away.

Pack the right clothes

  • Ensure the proper fit: Whether you’re buying new clothes for summer camp or throwing some old ones into a knapsack, make sure everything fits. Most camps recommend loose and comfortable clothing that kids can easily change in and out of on their own.
  • Pick clothes that can get ruined or lost: When you’re considering summer camp outfits, keep in mind your children will be outside, playing, crafting and testing their limits. During that period of newfound responsibility, their clothing may get ruined or lost. So while you may want to pack, say, a favourite pair of pajamas for comfort, keep any sentimental or special items at home.
  • Consider waterproof gear: Weather is unpredictable, so adding a few waterproof or water-resistant clothing items into your kids’ packs is always a good idea. Think things like a waterproof shell or jacket, rain paints, or even a poncho.
  • Label everything: When your kid is away and sharing space with other kids, things are bound to get mixed up. That’s why it’s a good idea to label anything and everything your kid is bringing. You can purchase labels that easily stick onto tags and inside shoes and packs, or in a pinch a regular old sharpie works too.

Staying organized

  • Pack together: To help you and your kid stay organized, get them involved in the process of packing so that your kid actually knows what they’re taking with them to camp. Take time to go through your summer camp list, and discuss what each item is for in advance.
  • Practice folding: To avoid complete chaos when your child is away and to cut down on the likelihood of lost items, practice folding and packing before the big trip. Besides, who couldn’t use an extra hand come laundry day?
  •  Use packing cubes: One great way to stay organized, even for kids, is with packing cubes. They fit into most suitcases and backpacks, and are an easy way to separate items and keep track of things while away from home.

Items to avoid

  • Expensive and sentimental items: If something costs a lot of money or means a lot to you and/or your child, don’t include t it among the things to bring to camp. If it gets lost or stolen, that could taint the entire experience of building happy memories.
  • Devices: Some camps allow electronic devices while others don’t, so check ahead if your child wants to bring one. However, if you’re sending your child to camp to help them engage with others and enjoy more time outdoors, you may want to just leave devices off your list of things to bring to camp
  • Pets: It may seem obvious, but pets—no matter how big or small—should definitely not be smuggled into a backpack.
  • Leave-at-home items (based on your camp’s recommendations): Most camps offer parents a list of what to pack for overnight camp and what to leave at home. The camp is experienced with hosting children and will be able to provide further clarification on what’s necessary (and not necessary) to have for the summer camp activities they’ve planned. When it doubt, always go with the official summer camp list.

Dealing with separation

  • Practice overnight stays: Camp may not be the first time you want your children to experience sleeping away on their own. If you can, arrange a sleepover at a family or friend’s house in advance so your kid can get used to sleeping in a strange new environment—one where you’re preferably not so far away in cause things go south.
  • Focus on the positive: It may be hard to let go, especially if this is the first time your children are leaving for an extended period. But focusing on the positive (rather than dwelling on how much you’ll miss them or how long you’ll be apart), will help set them up for success once they arrive.
  • Practice overnight stays: Camp may not be the first time you want your children to experience sleeping away on their own. If you can, arrange a sleepover at a family or friend’s house in advance so your kid can get used to sleeping in a strange new environment—one where you’re preferably not so far away in cause things go south.
  • Sign up with a friend: While it’s always nice to make new friends at camp, sometimes there’s comfort in knowing you get to face things with a friend. If you have a relative or family friend of the same age, see if you can’t sign them up for camp together and add that extra layer of familiarity.
  • Pack a surprise: Many kids get homesick, so it may be a nice surprise if you slip in a note, a photo, or some other small and sentimental item that may help your kid deal with their separation anxiety while they’re away.

Print this Summer Camp Checklist

It will help you keep track of everything you need to stay organized whether you’re shopping or packing


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