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Expert advice on preparing for a stress-free first day of summer camp

packing for camp 2By SHANNON IGNEY

The countdown to camp is officially almost over. Excited kids, and parents, anxiously anticipate the beginning of a memorable and fun-filled summer experience.  But before backing the minivan out of the driveway, experts suggest a few final tips might be in order to ease the arrival experience.

Myra Pravda, RN, MSN, author of “Off to Camp!,” a book to introduce first-time campers to overnight adventures, suggests that children should be involved in the packing process.

“When it comes time to pack for camp, let the kids do the work,” Pravda suggests on her website, www.offtocamp.com.

Most camps, both day and overnight, provide a packing list. The list will detail the must-have items like soap, shampoo, bug spray, etc. as well as the prohibited items, such as cellphones, electronic games and laptops to name a few. Pravda and others say it is essential to follow the list, especially when it comes to contraband.

“By encouraging your children to sneak in forbidden items, you’re sending the message that they are somehow special and rules don’t apply to them,” explained Ann Sheets, past president of the American Camp Association. “This will cause problems with the staff and with fellow campers, which won’t help your child settle in.”

Once a family is familiar with the suggested packing list, Pravda tells campers to pack old clothes only; camp activities take place in the great outdoors after all. The same advice holds true for shoes.

“Camp is not the place to break in a new pair of shoes,” she warned.

Another tip camp experts share is to label everything with a permanent marker. In most cases, campers share cabins or tents and belongings tend to get tossed around aimlessly. It also is a good idea to label shower supplies and toiletries. In fact, it is best to put all shower supplies in a plastic, waterproof carry case and label it as well.

Medications require special care. Put them in a sealed, waterproof bag with your child’s name and date of birth written on the front. And, of course, all medications should be in the original prescription bottles with dosing instructions and personal information. Pravda strongly suggests that all medications be stored in the nurse’s station rather than with the camper – which is a common camp requirement. This regulation ensures both child safety and the effectiveness of the medication, as the nurse’s station is temperature controlled, whereas most cabins are not.

Other items to consider packing include stationery sets [pre-addressed for younger campers], pens and postage. These essentials help to encourage letter writing for both the camper and other family members. Sending letters back and forth can ease homesickness and serve as an account of the experience to reflect upon at a later date.

Additionally, it is a good idea to pack books, magazines, a family picture or two and a personal item, like a teddy bear or favorite pillow. These items will provide the camper some comfort during down time. If allowed, Pravda suggests packing a disposable camera for your child to document the experience and create tangible keepsakes.

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