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Send the perfect care package

  • This 2019 photo shows some of the items that would be welcome in a camp care package. Katie Workman via AP

Associated Press
Published: 5/10/2019 4:10:49 PM
Modified: 5/10/2019 4:10:37 PM

For parents of campers heading to sleepaway camp, spring can mean a whole lot of shopping, finding duffel bags, labeling clothes, packing... And then they’re off! And then it’s time to think about popping a little something in the mail so your camper can have the thrill of receiving a care package.

But what to send? How much and how often?

Moderation is the word to keep in mind, warns Amy Broadbridge, director of Camp Deerhorn in Rhinelander, Wis. Her camp has tried to deemphasize care packages in recent years.

“Because honestly, care packages at camp have kind of gotten out of control. Parents feel pressure to send multiple care packages and they have to all be awesome,” she said. Camp Deerhorn asks parents to send only one care package per summer.

In all likelihood, no food

This is a pretty universal rule among camps, for some very good reasons. Broadbridge explains, “We have life-threatening allergies, and woodland creatures who love to come into cabins to hunt for food.” Her camp’s ban on food in care packages includes all candy and gum, but not all parents (or grandparents) stick to the rules.

If your camp does allow food care packages, it will likely have strict guidelines.

Group gifts

Broadbridge recommends sending items that kids can play with friends and cabinmates, such as Frisbees and other outdoor games, Mad Libs, joke books and playing cards.

Isaac Baumfeld, camp director of French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in Hancock, N.Y., suggests pick-up sticks, a small chess set and hacky sacks.

If you are thinking of sending the whole cabin a gift, make sure you know how many kids are in it (send one extra, just in case!). Ideas for group gifts include fun sunglasses, flashlights, glow sticks or necklaces, or funny socks. The gifts should be cute and fun but not show-offy or expensive.

Activities for downtime

For quieter moments, when your camper might need to recharge and have some alone time, Broadbridge suggests puzzles like Rubik’s cubes, books, comics, and markers, pens and paper. Baumfeld adds: a camp journal, small plush animals, collapsible water bottle, yo-yo, a slinky, a small fan.

Practical gifts

Should you forget an essential when packing for camp, it will be more than welcome in the mail! Your campers may not ask for a rain poncho or a flashlight, but when it gets rainy or they have to do something at night, they will be happy to have them. My kids always ended up with one sock at the end of their camp stay, and a six-pack of fresh socks mid-session was greeted with more enthusiasm than you might think.

If your kid is working on something particular at camp, think about sending something to support their hobby: new guitar strings, a magic trick, or a can of fresh tennis balls, for instance.

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