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What to put in camp care packages

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Sending camp care packages is a great way to show your kids that you’re thinking of them while they’re at sleep away camp. I’ve got lots of summer camp care package ideas, most of which I’ve sent to my own kids over the years!

A sign in the sand that says "Summer Camp".

Summer camp packages

This will be the sixth summer that my kids are attending sleepaway camp. They both love it and look forward to it each year, and let’s face it, so do I.

According to my kids, one of the most exciting things at camp is to get a package from home, so I try to send one every other week or so.

The first year I used one of those companies that specializes in camp packages, but I wasn’t thrilled with the selection or the prices.

So after that I just started using Amazon Prime. The stuff gets there fast (free two-day shipping for most things!), and I can mark the items as gifts so that there’s no tacky price list included. I can even type in a little note.

Watch out for summer camp rules

Different camps have different rules for what you can send in sleepaway camp care packages. You should be able to find these rules in the camp handbook, but if you can talk to a parent who has dealt with that particular camp before, that’s even better.

Why? Because while the camp handbook should be the final word on how things work, I haven’t found that to be the case for everything at my kids’ camps.

Can you send food to camp?

For example, the sleepaway camp where both of my kids started out stated very clearly in the handbook that care packages absolutely could not include any food. I’m a major rule follower, so I sent them totally non-food packages.

On visiting day we asked them how they were liking their care packages so far. My daughter frowned and said, “I wanted food! I was the only one in my cabin that didn’t get food!”

So, yeah. That rule had probably been in the handbook for decades, but who knows when they had stopped enforcing it?

After that, I sent food.

At the camp where my son went for the past few years, though, they take that rule very seriously. The camp is kosher, and absolutely no food can be sent in care packages. You can’t even bring snacks in for visiting day.

So if in doubt you should follow the stated rules, but talking to someone who has had a child at that particular camp is best.

And if you own a camp, for goodness’ sake, please update your handbook to reflect reality!

What else can’t you send?

It’s never a good idea to send anything expensive to camp. This isn’t the time to give your child that new iPod she’s been wanting.

Every year my kids come home from camp with about 3/4 of the things I sent them with. They don’t come home with less stuff, they just come home with other kids’ stuff.

Losing a shirt or a pair of shoes isn’t a big deal. Losing electronics or jewelry or something irreplaceable would be. Give them those gifts when they get home. (Although I am going to recommend a camera later in this post, so clearly I don’t follow my own advice.)

Camp care package ideas

What should you send in summer camp care packages?

  • Things that kids can do on rainy days
  • Activities that the whole cabin can participate in
  • Activities that can make memories
  • Projects that don’t make a mess

Here are some of my favorite kid-approved things to send. Most of the items on this list I’ve sent to my kids at some point, others are suggestions from other camp moms, and a few are things my kids wish I had sent. (I’ve also come back occasionally and added more links, since we’ve had a few more years of summer camp since I first published this.)

And don’t forget to pack labels, so that your kids can label all of the stuff you send! I’ve been a long-time customer of Mabel’s Labels. They’re really fantastic. I order a pack of Sleepaway Camp labels for each of my kids every year (they also have smaller packs of Day Camp labels).

Writing supplies

These gel pens in assorted colors are my daughter’s favorite.

Foldover Cards with Stickers are a really cute alternative to paper and envelopes.

Did you know that you can buy stamps on Amazon? Well, you can! If your kids actually write to you from camp and they run low on stamps, you can replenish their supply with a click.

Food

The key to sending snacks to camp is to make sure they’re individual-sized packages. You don’t want your child to get in trouble for leaving a giant bag of candy open on her bed. Amazon sells a ton of different kinds, definitely something for everyone.

My daughter’s cabin had a lot of fun with this Pop Rocks Assortment Box. It comes in twelve individual packets, so it’s perfect for sharing.

The Bean Boozled jelly bean game is super gross, which is why my kids loved it. This set comes with refills.

Activities

Mad Libs never get old. There’s even one for sending letters home!

This glow stick party pack will be an instant hit.

This hair chalk is designed not to be messy.

Books

Books are really popular in camp cabins. Before bedtime and on rainy days, my kids do a lot of reading. Kids also like to trade the books, which is fantastic, so don’t expect to get them back!

Murder is Bad Manners, by Robin Stevens, grade 4 and up

The Marvels, by Brian Selznick, grade 4 and up

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, grade 4-6

You Can Fly: The Tuskeegee Airmen, by Carole Boston Weatherford, grade 4-7

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, grade 5 and up

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, grade 6 and up

Tonight The Streets Are Ours, by Leila Sales, grade 7 and up

The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon, grade 7-9

Finnikin of the Rock (the Lumatere Chronicles), by Melina Marchetta, grade 8 and up

The Hate You Give, by Angie Thomas, grade 8 and up

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, by Phillip Hoose, grade 9 and up

The Family Romanov, by Candace Fleming, grade 9 and up

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness, grade 9 and up

I Crawl Through It, by A.S.King, grade 9 and up

Paper Towns, by John Green, grade 9 and up

Be More Chill, by Ned Vizzini, grade 9 and up

Memories

A camp journal is a great way to keep track of the addresses, pictures, and autographs of new friends, camp memories, and more.

Autograph pillows are a great way to remember camp friends after camp is over.

Instant Photos

This one is a little more “special” than the rest of the items on the list, but there’s a good reason. Once my daughter had a smartphone, she begged to bring it to camp (the “no phones” rule in the camp handbook was apparently another one that wasn’t followed at all).

We did not give in on the phone, but I did sympathize with her claim that she wanted to be able to take pictures of her camp friends. An instant camera is a great way to facilitate pictures without the other baggage that would go along with a cell phone.

I bought this Fujifilm Instax Mini instant camera for my daughter for her birthday last month, and she’ll be taking it to camp. It runs on batteries and is very easy to use, making it perfect for taking lots of pictures with friends and sharing them right away.

You can get it in five different colors. It comes with a case, batteries, and a starter pack of film, but you’ll probably want to send more film.

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Stephanie

Tuesday 28th of May 2019

Well, it's okay. It is definitely girl related. I was looking more for something that my son would enjoy. He's not into drawing, journaling, or writing but the pop rocks idea sounded fun.

Amy Oztan

Sunday 16th of June 2019

I'm not 100% sure why, but I've always had a harder time shopping for my son, whether it's a souvenir when I'm out of town, birthdays, or camp care packages. If he's at home he usually just wants a video game, which is easy, but obvously that doesn't help me at camp! He does love getting the books at camp, though.

I'm going to ask around and try to add a few more items for different interests.

Laury1

Saturday 24th of June 2017

GREAT ideas!! thanks!

Amy Oztan

Saturday 24th of June 2017

You're very welcome! I'll be updating it soon with whatever I send them this time.

Camp Keystone

Monday 13th of June 2016

All great tips that any mom can use, great article!

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