If your kids are headed to sleepaway camp — or already there — you’re probably already planning out a great summer care package, filled with items your kids will love, to help ease the anxiety, keep them busy during quiet hours, help them make friends, or just make them even happier campers than they already are.
But with a lot of camps banning the sugary stuff or discouraging food altogether, I know it can be hard to think of care package ideas besides gummi worms and Oreos. So I’ve spoken to our resident sleepaway camp parents, and we’ve put together some fantastic summer camp care package ideas that should thrill your kids when their name is announced during mail call.
And be sure to consider including some items with enough for all their bunkmates. Because sharing is caring. –Georgette with Liz
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Cool flip flops can be a fantastic summer care package idea, and they’re practical too — perfect for those shower floors (ugh), walks down to the waterfront, or just tip-toeing around the bunk. While any brand would be appreciated, we love Showaflops which offer drainage holes, antimicrobial layers, and slip-resistant soles. Plus they come in trendy designs for boys and girls, like the fun happy camper flip flops, above. There are slide styles too, for kids who hate straps between their toes. ($22 and up, Showaflops)
Games that the whole bunk can play together are always a hit, and we’re all in love with this new game that will have everyone laughing, guaranteed. Think of it like Cards Against Humanity for kids, packed full of kid-appropriate potty humor. Let’s just say the official rules state the player who goes first is determined by a burp-off. ($24.99, Amazon)
While there are probably sturdier, longer-lasting headlamps for kids, we can’t resist this awesome version featuring a Stormtrooper. Be sure to send this one ready-labeled with your child’s name on it so it makes it home! ($31+, various sellers on Amazon)
A lot of camps don’t allow electronic devices of any kind, but they do allow disposable cameras. It makes it so fun for your camper to capture special moments, and this waterproof camera lets them take it in the canoe or underwater, too. Up to 35 feet underwater, in fact! Not that your kid will be diving that deep (yikes). ($10.85, Amazon with free Prime shipping)
Alternately, we’re also big fans of the Fujifilm Instax. Of course it’s a bigger investment, and you need to send packs of film with it, but fortunate your campers can bring it back to camp year after year. To make it extra special, take one photo of the family back home or the family pet, and tuck it in the box before you ship it off. ($64, Amazon)
Every sleepaway camp parent knows the torture of waiting for letters from your camper that never come. Make it easier for them with these Letters From Camp Mad Libs which offers a silly, easy, decidedly fun way to get more mail headed to your ZIP code. ($3.24, Amazon)
If your camper misses a four-legged best friend back home, how amazing are these cuddly, custom pet pillows? Spendy for sure, but what a fantastic keepsake. Just send in a photo of your pet and he’ll be silkscreened on a pillow by this Brooklyn Etsy artist, all ready to ship in just 1-2 weeks. ($80, Broder Press)
A great camp care package needs a good book and while the next in your kid’s favorite book series is always going to be a hit, what kid can resist comics? We highly recommend the newly released Comics Squad #3: Detention, an anthology of original short stories about detention that will have your kids cracking up — and glad that school’s out for summer!)
With some of the biggest authors in graphic novels — Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre, Ben Hatke, Victoria Jamieson, and many more — you can be sure that the stories are winners. While you’re at it, pack the other books in the series too, Comics Squad: Recess and Comics Squad #2: Lunch. ($3.70-7.99, Amazon)
Crafting gifts are always appreciated to keep campers busy between activities. Both boys and girls can never get enough of friendship bracelets, so send off a massive pack (or four) of embroidery thread in a care package, so there will be enough for the entire bunk to get crafty. To make it extra special, print out a bunch of friendship bracelet pattern instructions from the web and send them along. ($15.99, Michaels)
If your kid is more into lanyards, check out Klutz’s Scoubidou Craft Kit, which is evidently what they call lanyards (or gimp) these days and comes with everything they need to make little gifts for their bunkmates.($13.24, Amazon)
Our kids can keep busy for hours with a deck of playing cards, and this glow-in-the-dark set is pretty awesome when they’re on a camping overnight, or enjoying the comfortable summer weather out after the sun’s gone down. ($9.97, Amazon)
For quiet hour in the bunk, the newly updated edition of the popular Wreck This Journal offers edgy prompts that encourage mess-making, mistakes, and imperfections for creative kids. ($15 or $13.50 for members, MoMA store) For more advanced writers or journal-ers, our own contributor Eva Katz created Creative Writing: A Journal with Art to Kickstart Your Writing to help get kids writing with easy, fun idea-starters like defending your self-esteem as a unicorn who no one believes really exists.
If you have a first time sleepaway camper who’s confessing to a little homesickness, Worry Eater Dolls are like a big kid lovey. Kids write their worries or concerns on a note to zip away in the doll’s mouth; just tell them the doll can hold onto any of their camp-related concerns so they can focus on having fun. (Though of course if there’s a real problem at camp, let them know that’s what their counselors are there for!)
Send more letters, kids! Hint hint. (Forever Stamps, $9.80/sheet, USPS)