I take it you’re just as thrilled as I am that summer camp is back! For some of you, it never left. For a lot of you, it’s been over a year since the last “first day.”

But, even with all the excitement, getting kids ready for summer camp can be overwhelming. You’re probably asking yourself all sorts of questions. How should I pack? What should I pack? Scariest of all: what if my child loses everything? Well, I’m here to tell you what I tell all my Happy Camper Live campers: you can do it!

In this article, I’ll cover the six essential things you need to pack your camper on his or her first day, plus a bonus recommendation at the end. Here we go!

A camp bag

Okay, let’s rewind for a second. The first thing you need so your child is perfectly packed and prepared for the first day of camp is something to pack in! I recommend a mesh bag, which makes it easy to find items quickly. Ideally, the bag will have an exterior pouch for bottle storage. Usually, the more get-at-able a camper’s water supply is, the better hydrated he or she will be.

Enough water

Time spent running around with friends is fun… and tiring! Especially in the sweat-inducing summer heat. For this reason, it’s very important your camper stays hydrated. Make sure you pack a refillable water bottle!

Something to eat

First and foremost, I’m big on breakfast. Do all you can to send your camper off with a full belly. This will really benefit him or her during any play or physical activity happening before lunch.

You should also determine whether your child’s camp provides meals and/or snacks. (While you’re at it, ask about allergy policies!) If not, be sure to pack some nutritious bites for your camper, like carrots, apple slices, raisins, a granola bar (for kids), as fuel for the day. Snacks are also great for bus or van rides to and from camp, if relevant. It’s best to pack food in an insulated lunch box.

If you decide to pack your child a snack or meal, keep in mind he or she may need utensils and a napkin. 

Sun protection

At most summer camps, children spend a majority of the day outside. So, sun protection is a must. I always tell parents to apply sunscreen and lip balm with SPF to their children before dropping them off. Don’t forget to pack both the sunscreen and lip balm in your camper’s camp bag for reapplication after swimming and/or lunchtime. Sun shirts and sun hats are also great for keeping your child safe from harmful sun exposure!

An extra outfit

Summer camp is full of fun and adventure, which means things can get messy! It’s good to pack your camper an extra outfit in case anything gets ripped, dirtied, or dampened. What’s worse than walking around in a pair of wet socks and underwear?

If you know your camper will be swimming, send him or her with a bathing suit, swim shoes, and towels. Don’t forget the hairbrush!

Labels for everything

As a parent, you know some things leave home in your child’s hands never to return. But, if your camper doesn’t come home with his or her stuff at the end of the day, how can you pack for tomorrow? Once again, worry not! Mabel’s Labels makes a line of personalized labels specifically for campers to label all their things. With these labels, you’ll never have to worry about your camper misplacing his or her items again (okay, maybe not never again)!

If your camper gets home (with all of his or her items. Thanks, Mabel’s Labels) and doesn’t want the fun to stop, I do have one more recommendation: check out the virtual summer camp activities and adventures on Happy Camper Live! We keep the fun going 365 days a year.

Allison Corey Miller is a veteran camp director and the CEO and founder of Happy Camper Live. Her vision is to bring the magic of summer camp to every kid in the world 365 days a year.


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