I’m notorious for learning life lessons the hard way (just ask my mom), and summer camp was no different. Every year I packed up my duffle bag for a week of adventures and came home with memories, mosquito bites, and a few more lessons learned. The campers in my new book Float have the same propensity for learning life lessons the hard way (it’s funny when it’s not you), so I thought I’d type up a quick guide for all those parents packing up their kids for camp this summer. Because while learning things the hard way is great (*rolls eyes), it’s also nice to avoid poison ivy between your toes. You can thank me later.
Things to Bring
1. Deodorant. Deodorant. And probably some more deodorant.
Welcome to summer camp! It’s hot. Really hot. Your kiddo is going to spend most of their time running around outside, and odds are they’ll count a swim in the lake as a shower most nights. And even if your kid does shower, there is a very solid chance they’ll forgot their soap or shampoo or refuse to take off their bathing suit because while the camp has showers it doesn’t have shower curtains. It’s a lot easier to make friends when you aren’t the stinky kid. Their camp counselor will thank you for this one as well.
2. A friend. Or two.
Is it great to make friends at camp? Absolutely. Camp friends happen fast and are so much fun for the weeks they’re all crammed in a cabin together trying to figure out who got the worst mosquito bite. But it’s also equally awesome to go to camp with an old tried and true friend. Not only does it make camp less overwhelming, but I can personally attest that there is nothing better than pulling out camp stories and photos with your friends as an adult. Besides, who else will take that awkward picture of them holding hands with their first crush so they can be humiliated by it later?
3. WAY more Clothing than You Think They’ll Need.
Shoot for at least one or two additional outfits a day. Because at camp, they never know when they’re going to get muddy and need to change mid-day. It’s also very tricky to do your business in the woods on those overnight campouts. Things happen. A change of clothing is nice. As is an air-tight plastic laundry bag to house all those dirty clothes so they don’t get shoved back into the duffle bag with the clean stuff.
4. A Good old-fashioned disposable camera
Does your child have a camera on their phone? Probably. Do you want them bringing their phone into a tippy canoe just so they can get a selfie of themselves standing in said canoe? That’s a big no. Besides, phones don’t belong at camp. Leave the phone at home and send them with a waterproof camera that winds. Go old school. They will love looking at the pictures when they get home and telling you all about their crazy adventures.
5. A Good Book
Almost every camp has a rest period in the middle of the day. I’m not sure who thinks kids will actually nap during this time, but I have a feeling the guy who thought this up didn’t actually know any children. Your kids won’t nap. But they will be required to stay in their bunk and stay quiet, without a phone or iPad. Send a couple good books with them, the good old-fashioned kind with the rustley pages and that lovely bookish-smell. That way when they tuck it in their overnight pack and then fall into the creek trying to walk over that completely stable looking log, you aren’t out an expensive piece of equipment. Plus, there is just something about a battered, been-totted-around and loved-on book that holds memories and sassafras leaves between the pages better than the digital variety. I have some suggestions for that. (Cough. Cough.)
Things to Leave at Home
1. That sleeping bag made to weather the sub-arctic.
Remember, summer camp happens in the SUMMER. It’s hot in those cabins. Which means unless your kid wants to pretend that they’re sweating it out in a sauna every night, they are going to end up on top of the sleeping bag. Pack a light sheet as well so they have an option between boiling and mosquito bites in awkward places.
2. Those Cute Flipflops from the Target Dollar Spot
Have your kids ever gotten poison ivy on their toes? Do they want to? Then by all means, let them wear cheap flip flops around camp. Even if they manage to avoid the poison ivy, they’ll probably end up with blisters the size of Wisconsin or a flipflop held together with duct tape and their camp counselor’s scrunchie. Instead, bring some old gym shoes they can hike around in, and water shoes that can hack the great outdoors.
3. A Phone. iPad. Laptop. Etc.
Worried that your precious darling won’t be able to get in contact with you at a moment’s notice? Good. You don’t want them to. If they get attacked by a bear someone will call you. I promise. But baring any bear encounters, you want your kids to try out their independence wings to see if they can fly. Do they have a problem with a kid in their cabin? Good. They’ll learn to problem solve without you there to intervene. Camp is a chance for kids to grow and become more self-sufficient. Let them.
4. The Bailout Plan.
“Oh honey, if you don’t like it, we’ll come get you.” You can say this. Don’t actually do it. Better yet, don’t say it at all. Tell them that camp is going to be awesome. That they are going to make some amazing memories that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. That the best adventures happen when we step outside our comfort zone. Make sure that they know that you believe them to be tough, resilient, resourceful human beings who are more than capable of hacking a few days without their mom and dad. Let them know that homesickness is normal, but it is not a reason to go running home. Reassure them that if they get attacked by a bear, someone will let you know. This will be incredibly comforting information for them, I’m sure.
5. Easily accessible food.
If you threw the package of food in water, would it be ruined? If the answer is yes, leave it home. Because if water can get into that package, so can lots of other creepy crawlies. Ever opened up your duffle bag to discover that everything you owned was crawling with ants? It’s delightful, let me tell you. Send things in air-tight containers, preferably things that don’t melt and in large enough quantities to share. No one likes the kid hoarding his gummy worms like Ebenezer Scrooge.
Most importantly, remind your kids to have fun! Camp is one of the best parts of summer, and they’re only young once!
About the Author:
Laura Martin is a mom by day and a middle grade author by night, although in her heart she will always be a seventh grade language arts teacher. She still has a hard time remembering that writing isn’t just something she does for fun, and there is nothing she loves more than crafting an un-put-downable story while eating a Honeycrisp apple. After spending six years teaching the fine art of dream chasing as a teacher, she is enjoying every minute of this life-long-dream of being an author. She lives in the Indianapolis area with her dashing husband Josh, their too-cute-for-their-own-good kids, and a couple of high-maintenance bulldogs. You can connect with her on Instagram @LauraMartinBooks or visit her author’s website at www.LauraMartinBooks.com.
About the Book:
Emerson can float…he just can’t do it very well. His uncontrollable floating is his RISK factor, which means that he deals with Reoccurring Incidents of the Strange Kind. The last place Emerson wants to be is at a government-mandated summer camp for RISK kids like him, so he’s shocked when he actually starts having fun at camp — and he even makes some new friends.
But it’s not all canoeing and capture the flag at Camp Outlier. The summer of fun takes a serious turn when Emerson and his friends discover that one of their own is hiding a deadly secret that puts all of their lives in danger. It’s up to the Red Maple boys to save themselves — and everyone like them.