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Dr. Thurber Explains how to Pack for Camp

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Packing Ends and Odds

What to pack isn’t half as interesting as how to pack. As you read this, millions of parents are doing it the wrong way. They’re packing for their children, instead of with their children. In a prior Everything Summer Camp e-mail, I discussed how important it is to involve your child in all of the big and small decisions regarding camp. Parents and children should shop together, choose a footlocker or trunk together, and, of course, pack together. “C’mon,” you protest, “my kid wouldn’t know how to pack a trunk if his life depended on it.” Not unless you let him help.

I laugh thinking about my days as a cabin leader, chastising a camper for wearing only a T-shirt on a cold rainy day, only to have him reply, “But I don’t have a raincoat!” Odd, I think to myself. So we’d open up his footlocker together and lift up the top tray. Lo and behold! Stacks of neatly folded clothes, including—you guessed it—a raincoat. Cue the dreamy harp music. “Oh, I had no idea. My mom packed this all for me.” I think you get the picture. Indeed, there are benefits to packing together that extend far beyond the joys of spending casual time with your son or daughter.

And now a few insider tips on what to pack that most camps won’t tell you.

• Label everything. Admit it. Even though you’ve read this recommendation from me before, you’ve already set aside a few things for camp that don’t have your son or daughter’s name on them. Baseball glove? Toothbrush? Sunglasses? Underwear? Shampoo? Between iron-on labels, laundry markers, and a commercial tape labeler, you can slap a name on anything.

• Label the footlocker or trunk. No, I don’t have a raging case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Believe it or not, you do need to label the container in which you and your child are packing all of this beautifully labeled gear. Good quality footlockers, for example, get used as ladders, card tables, and even wind up outside from time to time. So yes, it has to have a name on it or in it.

• Pack the packing list. Next thing you know I’m going to be asking you to label the laundry marker you send with your child, right? (Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea.) Anyway, placing the list of everything you’ve packed inside the trunk itself serves as an excellent checklist at the end of the season. It’s the guideline for repacking, so be sure it’s complete.

• Avoid sprays. Most bug sprays, deodorant sprays, and even perfume atomizers create flammable vapors. Better to pack stick or lotion forms of bug spray and toiletries. (And leave the perfume at home.) Not convinced? Imagine a bunch of eight-year-olds with a half dozen cans of spray repellent dousing themselves around a roaring campfire. Got that image? Now delete.

• Enlist support. Social support is important and helps promote adjustment. But the kind of support I’m talking about here is more…intimate. Let’s just say that some activities for young men and women and more comfortable with bras and jock straps on. That’s right. Excessive bouncing during horseback riding, mountain biking, and plain old running can be uncomfortable. Almost as uncomfortable as asking your parents to buy these undergarments. So, if your child is hitting puberty, assume they need this support and shop for it (with them, of course) matter-of-factly. Hey, they can always elect not to wear it. Kind of like the raincoat they discover at the bottom of their trunk.


Enjoy the summer!

Dr. Christopher Thurber

Look into grabbing 'The Summer Camp Handbook' for yourself right here!


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