I'm on year four of packing my kids for sleepaway camp and every year I learn something new that helps with making the process go a little more smoothly - for both the parents AND the kids. So, I thought I would share some of those tips with you and save you some of the trial and errors we've gone through.
1. Labels - lots of labels
It takes a LOT of labels to label everything for summer camp. I often under estimate how many we'll need or forget to order them until the last minute.
I love Mabel's Labels because they ship really quickly and they have a camp specific kit that makes it easier for me to know what I need. I go through a lot of their little labels on clothes (and stopped bothering to label their socks) and put multiple big labels on the really valuable things (like life jackets!).
I also just order our last name since a lot of the stuff passes from kid to kid and when I'm lucky, some of the things are already labeled when I go through it the next year!
While I am sometimes tempted to not label everything, the camp my kids go to do the entire cabin's laundry in one go, once a week, so having names on things is an easy way for everyone to get their own stuff back.
2. Send the old stuff
These kids are going to get DIRTY and stinky and wreck a lot of the clothing that gets sent to camp. Send the old crappy clothing and don't worry about trying to get them all kinds of new stuff.
Along this same note... be prepared that some things won't make it home - the brand new water shoes and lifejacket that disappeared are ultimately a small price to pay for the amazing experience of camp! :)
3. Plastic bins and plastic drawer systems
I've been using the bins for three years and only just discovered the drawer systems so haven't implemented it yet, but will definitely be doing this next year.
Plastic bins are a great way to store all the non-clothing stuff and get it to and from camp easily. I've found that some of the cabins have shelving and storage and some don't, so having an easy way to separate the clothing from the other things the kids will need is a handy and easy way to pack.
I recently discovered something other parents do and plan to try it next year: buy plastic drawer systems and essentially deliver your children to camp with a dresser and their clothing already organized!
4. Make sure your kids know what's theirs
The first year my child tried to use shampoo as insect repellant for a week (WHAT?!) because he never took the time to read the bottle carefully and last year one of my kids thought he didn't have a toiletries bag because he didn't recognize the one on his shelf with all of his stuff (that was also full of his stuff) so BORROWED toiletries all week.
Make sure your kids know what they have with them, even if you're only finalizing all the packing late the night before you leave, or all your time and effort may go to waste if they don't even realize all the amazing stuff you packed them is theirs!
5. Get your kids involved in the packing
My kids each get a copy of the packing list and they are responsible for getting me everything they're bringing in one spot, creating a shopping list for what they're missing and labelling the items. Packing kids up for camp is a big job and I get them as involved as possible. See note above for what happens when they aren't involved in every single step! ;)
I keep learning more every year but hopefully these tips will help make packing your kids up for sleepaway camp a bit easier!