Think of day camp as training wheels for sleepaway camp: it gives kids the same opportunities to make new friends and learn new skills, and gives structure to long, lazy summer days. But they also get the security of going home every night, eating dinner with their parents, and sleeping in their own bed.
Kids are generally ready to take that first step into all-day camping around age 5 (although of course it depends on your child’s temperament, which you know best!), and will probably be ready for the big adventure of sleepaway camp by age 8 or 9. In the meantime, while day camp doesn’t require the intense packing lists that sleepaway camp does, there are some essentials for fun in the sun that your kid can’t leave home without. Here’s a few of our must-haves!
BACKPACKS FOR DAY CAMP
Since all of the packs we carry are sized right for little campers and feature high-quality design that ensure they won’t fall apart on their first day out, the important question to answer here is: what’s your kid’s personal style? They’ve got plenty of great choices, including the playful Zoo Packs from Skip Hop, and the adorable winged backpacks from Bixbee.
Got a forgetful kid who’s bound to leave her carefully prepared camp lunch on the kitchen counter? The super-cute Forget Me Not Backpacks from Skip Hop come with matching lunch bags with a dedicated compartment with a clear window, so it’s quite obvious when something is missing!
As for what goes in the backpack: little kids get dirty, so About.com recommends sending your child with an extra full outfit (shorts, t-shirt, socks, underwear), an extra pair of closed-toed shoes, and a hoodie for chilly mornings, along with appropriate sun protection, lunch, and swim gear.
LUNCH GEAR FOR DAY CAMP
Healthy options for lunch needn’t be limited by whether refrigeration is available or not: the Packit Mini Cooler will keep lunch at a safe temperature for hours, with 360 degrees of cooling, or you can put yummy meals into a Foogo Leakproof Insulated Food Jar. The Skip Hop Stainless Steel Food Jar is also insulated to keep foods properly cooled, and comes with a matching spork!
For more traditional lunch-on-the-go, kids who like to get matchy-matchy can add a Skip Hop Zoo Lunchies bag to their matching backpack; we also have similarly kid-friendly designs from Crocodile Creek and Bixbee.
And of course, a quality reusable water bottle is a must – gotta stay hydrated!
SUN GEAR & BUG REPELLANT
While your preschool has much sturdier skin than he did as a baby, protecting it from the sun is still a must – sunburn isn’t just painful, it also raises your child’s risk of skin cancer when they’re older.
As we mentioned the other day, you’ve got much better options for sunscreen now than we did as kids; you can choose from wipes, sprays, and sticks, along with the traditional lotion. Typically, you’ll need to get your child all slathered up with the stuff before they leave for camp, and counselors will reapply later in the day.
SPF lip balm is a good idea too, as is bug repellent – Acure’s Baby Bug Repellent Stick uses high-quality, soothing, non-toxic ingredients, and since it’s applied with a stick, there’s no risk of your child accidentally spraying the kid next to him in the face with it.
Kids should also wear hats all day when it’s sunny, and wear sunglasses as well: Real Kids Shades sunglasses come in a variety of cool styles and are designed to be virtually impossible to break, so you won’t have to repeatedly buy more pairs all summer long. (Of course, we can’t guarantee that your kid won’t lose them…)
More day camp tips: