Remember to include a few comfort items, like "prestamped, addressed envelopes and paper...for easy letter writing," says Kathy Buckworth, mother of four and author of Shut Up and Eat: Tales of Chicken, Children and Chardonnay (Key Porter Books, 2010). Udell also recommends tucking love notes and a small family photo album in among your child's belongings.
Ellen Pober Rittberg, mother of three and author of 35 Things Your Teen Won't Tell You, So I Will (Trade Paper Press, 2010), recommends items to encourage your camper to express his thoughts and feelings and document his summer, such as a journal or art supplies. Rittberg offers some practical tips, too. "Pack an extra set of flip-flops," she says. "If your child breaks his or hers...he or she [could come] home with a case of athlete's foot."
"You might consider packing an extra bathing suit, especially if your child is on the young side," Rittberg continues. "If the child wears a bathing suit that is not quite dry [the day after swimming], that could be an invitation for...an unhygienic condition." Both Buckworth and Rittberg suggest sending camp-bound kids off with some icebreaker items to share or trade with bunkmates, like individually wrapped nonperishable snacks-Rittberg likes sugar-free lollipops-playing cards, or comic books.
Now, what not to pack? Anne McSorley, a psychotherapist for children and teens and consultant to the Aloha Camps in Vermont, urges, "Leave the technology at home." This advice jibes with what we heard from several of our experts: Don't pack anything valuable. In addition, McSorley explains that keeping iPods, cell phones, and laptops out of the camp experience "let[s] kids have a break from being entertained that way" so they can come home having developed valuable new resources like "self-concept, problem-solving...the ability to detach from Mom and Dad" and an increased capacity to "develop their own ways of [finding] entertainment and fulfillment."