Summer camp is a great place for young people to make friends and gain independence, but that doesn't mean kids of all ages won't want to have a piece of home with them while they're away. In addition to the other items on your summer camp packing list, send your camper off into the (supervised) wilderness with a box of treats that will enhance their experience and let them know you care. You can pack these items in advance or mail them mid-summer as part of a surprise gift package (just make sure to reference your camp's rules on presents).
1. Canvas backpack with fabric pens
Send your kid off to camp in style with a canvas backpack that’s both functional and stylish. Include a pack of fabric pens so your kid can have their new friends sign it. In addition to holding their essentials (bug spray, sunscreen, journals, treats, what have you), these graffiti'd bags will serve as a great summer memento for kids once camp is over.
Tom Clovers canvas backpack, $29.99 at Amazon
2. Reading light
As much as we’d like to think our kids will obey “lights out” orders, there’s a chance they’ll want to continue reading or coloring after a long day of play. Pack a clip-on light in their care package to ensure their creative journeys don’t interfere with the other campers’ sleep.
French Bull LED book light, $9.99 at Amazon
3. Healthy treats
One of the best parts of summer camp is the food. Who among us doesn’t love a good chili (or, okay, veggie) dog? That said, you want to make sure your child also has a selection of healthy, tasty snacks on hand for when they get hungry in between meals. Pack some favorites, like this delicious nut-free trail mix from Homemade for Elle that includes pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.
4. A conversation-starting card game
Making new friends can be intimidating at any age. Help your teen break the ice with this conversation-starting game that asks age-appropriate questions like, “What’s the scariest movie you’ve seen?” If your camper is on the younger side, there’s also a kids version that’s great for kids ages 6 to 10.
TableTopics teen conversation-starting card game, $25 at Amazon
5. Activity books
With all the outdoor activities at camp, you know your kid is going to get plenty of physical exercise. Ensure they're also working out their brain with fun activity books filled with crosswords and puzzles.
Brain Games for Clever Kids, $7.99 at Amazon
6. All the SPF
Many summer camps are stocked up on everything campers will need to avoid burns and bites, but it never hurts to pack extra. If your little one is only away for a week or two, travel-size kits like this one from Sun Bum — which includes sunscreen, aloe lotion and SPF lip balm — are great options. Don’t forget to pack bug repellant too.
Sun Bum Day Tripper kit, $19.99 at Sun Bum
7. Waterproof disposable camera
Fujifilm waterproof disposable camera, $9.68 at Amazon
8. Journal & pens
Pack a journal with a few colorful pens so your camper can document daily activities, jot down their deepest (or silliest) thoughts and draw the beautiful nature surrounding them. Tuck a handwritten note between the pages for a special touch.
Adventures at Camp journal, $9.95 at Paper Source
9. Glow sticks
Glow sticks are the perfect accessories for everything from late-night dance parties to moonlit hikes, and this party pack comes with enough goodies to share with the whole cabin crew. Camp’s gonna be lit.
Glow stick party pack, $13.99 at Amazon
10. Reusable water bottle
Keep your camper feeling — and looking — fresh with a kid-friendly reusable water bottle. If you’re afraid they’ll forget it while they’re running around, send a carabiner (like this inexpensive option from REI), so they can attach the bottle to their backpacks.
Hydro Flask water bottle, $29.95 at REI
11. Shower shoes
While we love the communal aspect of camp, it's easy to get squeamish about kids sharing germs on the shower floor. Protect your camper’s tootsies by providing a pair of shower shoes like these printed flip-flops from Old Navy.
Printed flip-flops, $4 at Old Navy
12. Books or magazines
Keep their imaginations growing by tossing in a new book, like a page-turning mystery. Your kid will appreciate having something to read during downtime or before bed. If your child is a real bookworm, encourage them to start a camp book club that they can continue with their friends once summer’s over.
Framed! by James Ponti (paperback), $7.19 at Barnes & Noble
13. Family photo (glitter optional)
A photo of the family or the family pet can mean a lot to a homesick-prone camper. Up the cool factor by sending an acrylic frame filled with sparkling glitter for the ultimate bedside display.
Instax Wide glitter picture frame, $6 at Urban Outfitters