Kid's Camp 101
Kid's Camp is one of those events that we attend every year as kid's pastors or ministry leaders. Maybe you've been to what seems like 100 camps, or maybe you're just getting started. Either way, I hope this post can give you some helpful hints that will make your camp experience a little easier. If you are taking your kids to camp for the first time, or want to reference my camp packet, feel free to check out my camp packet here: Camp Packet 2015. Our camp packet includes a letter to the parents, all camp details, a list of what to bring, and all of our forms. Now that we have handled the logistical things, I would like to spend the majority of this post talking about the fun items. These are tips that will help you have a less stressful and more fun camp experience.
Part 1 - The Non-Essential Packing List:
1. Extra Sunscreen/Bug Repellent
Never under-estimate the possibility of parents forgetting to send sunscreen and bug repellent with their kids to camp. Always be prepared by bringing an extra bottle just in case.
2. Wrinkle Releaser
Don't knock it until you try it. If you care about wrinkles, Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray is the way to go at camp. You will definitely not have the time or space to iron or steam your clothes. It even comes in a travel-sized spray bottle for convenience.
3. Ziploc Bags/Trash Bags
I've always been taught to bring every size of ziploc bags and trash bags every time I travel. For camp, I always bring about 10 of each so if other people need them, I have enough to share. Ziploc bags are great for keeping partially eaten snacks, dirty/stinky/wet shoes, cosmetics, concessions money, medications, etc. Trash bags are a must have for dirty camp clothing, and of course trash. I handed out several of my bags to leaders and kids this year.
You can label water bottles, food, concessions money, luggage, bedding, etc. It's a great way to know what belongs to each of your kids and leaders.
5. Extension Cords
This is a big deal. Camp cabins never seem to have enough outlets or the outlets tend to be in inconvenient places. Extension cords are lightweight, take up very little space, and will make your life much easier (especially in the girls' cabins).
There are a lot of uses for flashlights at camp. They can be helpful for a power outage, late night bathroom trip, or to check on those kids who won't stop talking while everyone else is trying to sleep.
7. Detangler Spray
This may sound random, but little girls and boys who have longer hair don't brush it very often. We had a leader who needed some detangler spray because her hair was such a mess from the lake, and not one of the girls brought it with them. It's not something you really think about until you need it.
8. Healthy Snacks
Camp food is...camp food. There aren't a lot of nutritious options, so you'd better come prepared. I brought some already popped organic popcorn, larabars, and some real fruit snacks to supplement my diet when the camp food just wasn't cutting it.
9. Reusable Water Bottle
If you don't bring a water bottle from home, you will most likely end up spending $10 or more on one in the camp store. Come prepared, save some money and bring your own.
10. Extra Cash
Extra cash is great for if you see a cool shirt or other random camp merchandise. It is also helpful to have some extra money on hand if one of your kids loses their cash, doesn't have lunch money, or for emergencies.
11. Crafts/Games for the kids
Most kid's camps work some free time or cabin time into their schedules. There is also always a chance that your week of camp gets totally rained out. The kids can go pretty crazy during these times if you don't have something for them to do. I'd suggest bringing kid-friendly card and board games for them to play as well as some crafts. I brought a couple foam crafts from Oriental Trading, as well as some bracelet kits for the girls to make. They loved making them, and it kept them busy while the leaders napped.
Bonus: Selfie Stick
This is definitely a non-essential, but think about all the cool pictures you could capture with your kids if you had a selfie stick with you at camp.
Part 2 - Camp Survival Kits for Leaders:
This year I decided to put together "Camp Survival Kits" for all of my leaders who came to camp with us. The bags can be bought by the dozen Oriental Trading, and labeled with your leaders' names. All of the items inside the kits were $5 or less, and can be found at Walmart or a Dollar Store. My leaders loved the thoughtfulness behind this and several of them commented on how useful the items were. One of the male leaders said that they ended up using every single item I put in the bag, so here is a list of what I put in the kits for my leaders.
1. Mini First Aid Kits
I don't think I need to explain why these were helpful. They were only $1 each at Walmart, and saved us several trips to the nurse for a bandaid.
2. Healthier Snacks
As stated above, camp food is not very healthy. Adults often dislike the food at camp, or get tired of the endless junk food and chicken (?) nuggets. I included some beef jerky sticks, fruit strips (the ones that contain only fruit), and some kashi granola bars. I noticed several leaders scarfing a granola bar in a corner or discreetly during a service.
You will almost never find gum at camp, probably because they don't want the kids sticking it to everything. Gum can be great to get that wonderful camp food taste out of your mouth, or as a sad substitute for brushing your teeth because you didn't have time. Either way, gum is a nice addition to the survival kit.
4. Collapsible Water Bottle/Mio Energy
I found these awesome collapsible water bottles that will hook to your bag or pants at Walmart for $3. Also, I purchased a Mio Energy Water Enhancer for each leader (mainly as joke, but also because camp coffee is pretty interesting).
5. Hand Sanitizer
This is a must-have. We used our hand sanitizer all the time. I bought cute scented ones for the ladies, and just the basic ones for the guys.
6. Tissue Pack
These come in handy for spills, runny noses, bleeding cuts, or as a substitute for toilet paper or paper towels.
7. Antibacterial Wipes
Use these on pretty much everything. Camp is dirty.
8. Lip Balm with Sunscreen
I bought fun-flavored lip balms for the ladies, and your basic chapstick for the men. If you have ever forgotten, lip balm you know how important this item is, especially if you are getting slightly dehydrated.
9. Sunscreen/Bug Repellent
This is for the leaders, but mainly for the reason I stated in the previous list. I want all my leaders to be prepared if any of their campers forgot to bring these essential items, instead of having to use up all of their personal sunscreen and bug repellent.
10. Make-up Remover Wipes
This one is just for the ladies, of course. If you are a woman, and you have been to camp before, you know how hard it is to find time to wash your face. My female leaders were thrilled to see this addition to their kits.
Part 3 - Team Spirit Items
Last, but certainly not least, I want to talk about some items that will make camp more fun for your kids. Camp is a time when kids get really excited about whatever team they are on. It isn't really about winning, but more about having an awesome time cheering on your team. Here is a list of some items you can bring to deck your kids out in all the crazy team colors.
If you know your team color ahead of time:
1. Tablecloth Roll
We found out we were on the blue team, and I just happened to have a giant roll of blue plastic tablecloth left over from another event. I brought it to camp, and we made superhero capes and headbands for the kids by cutting them into strips. There was more than enough to make capes and several other items for 30+ kids.
You can buy these by the dozen online or at party stores.
This one might sound weird, but we had these blue lanyards lying around, so we brought them with us to camp. You can buy similar lanyards on Oriental Trading by the dozen. We let the kids write their names on the white paper insert and decorate them with blue markers. They loved doing this and they were also much sturdier than the lanyards the camp provided.
4. Cheap T-Shirts
We already had a bunch of cheap blue t-shirts from a theme we did a few months so so we brought them with us. One day at camp, we had almost all the girls wearing the same blue shirt. It looked pretty awesome. You can get plain t-shirts in almost any color for $3-$5 at most craft stores or Walmart.
Party streamers and yarn are both extremely cheap, and will go pretty far if you have a lot of kids. Our kids made jewelry and other crafts using the yarn and used the streamers to make head bands and decorate the cabin in our team color.
You can buy cheap glasses, like these shutter glasses by the dozen on Oriental Trading for your kids to wear, or keep as a souvenir from their team.
If you don't know your team color:
1. Washable Markers
Markers are small and come in packs with many different colors so it is easy to pack all the colors of the rainbow if you don't know your team color yet. You can use washable markers to write on the kids faces and arms or make a team sign using poster board or foam board.
2. Face Paint
You can buy a variety pack of face paint online if you don't know your team color and be prepared for anything. This pack by Snazaroo is my favorite. Don't forget to bring some extra paint brushes.
3. Nail Polish
This one is just for the girls (although I've seen some boys go for it as well). You can bring a bunch of colors of nail polish and it won't take up too much space in your suitcase. Don't forget to bring a big bottle of nail polish remover and cotton pads for clean-up time.
You can buy a bunch of standard balloons in every color imaginable from Wal-Mart or Dollar Tree and not break the bank. These are a great way to take your team spirit to the next level. You can bring a couple hand pumps and a variety pack of tying balloons to make a real bang (pun intended) as a team. We brought several colors of blue, and made simple one-balloon hats and pirate swords for all the kids one day. It was a blast! If you don't know how to make balloon animals, what are you waiting for? You can teach yourself simple balloon shapes using YouTube videos, and wow your kids. It's worth it.
Well, there you have it. Those are my Kid's Camp 101 tips. I would love to hear any of your camp tips and items you love to bring to camp.