Pack for Camp as a Team — with No Tears

The inside scoop on how to guide, direct and suggest — then let the kids make their own decisions

As parents, we want to teach our children the best way to do things. It’s sort of our job, right? Whether they’re learning basic manners or how to make healthy eating choices, we are constantly making minor (or sometimes major) adjustments to their behavior while also cultivating their newfound and growing independence.

Since we’re gearing up for summer, packing our kids’ bags for camp or vacation is in the forefront of our mind —but will it be a battle to pack “normal” outfits?

There’s a way to help our kids make the right decisions and follow camp packing rules, while also letting them be themselves.

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Know where they problem lies. As parents, we know where we may run into issues with our kids and their decisions. Knowing where we may hit a roadblock is important in ensuring that we can navigate with ease while still helping our kids be the independent people they want to be. When helping your children pack, there can and likely will be pushback on those special clothes that your kids just love but we know won’t be acceptable at sleepaway camp. Prepare yourself beforehand for the conversation about leaving the galactic gear or cowboy hat at home. It can help avoid a sudden meltdown when packing starts.

Bring a positive attitude. Positive reinforcement can go a very long way. Rather than telling your kids that they absolutely cannot bring their princess dresses or pirate costumes to camp with them, highlight why it’s important to follow camp dress-code rules, and go through those rules with them. Explain why they may not be comfortable running around outside in a dress, or how an eye patch could easily get lost throughout the day’s activities. (Not to mention it makes it hard to see what’s going on!)

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This way, you’re teaching your kids about the importance of rules and encouraging them to make the best decisions on their own.

If they’re still not convinced, offer to take the kids shopping for new, camp-appropriate pieces they can pick out on their own.

Do the laundry together. Parents know that washing clothes beforehand is an important part of packing. Getting the kids involved in household chores is fantastic all the time, but especially so when you want to talk about the important items to pack for camp, such as underwear, socks, T-shirts and shorts. Have your kids help you prep and sort their laundry. While you’re putting clothes in the washer or dryer, talk about how great it will be to have everything they need for camp and why it’s important to have those items on hand.

Find a compromise. Kids can be persistent — that’s a fact. Rather than letting this disagreement over clothes escalate, offer to help them pack T-shirts or ball caps printed with their favorite characters. A comfy T-shirt featuring a favorite princess will often do in place of the full tiara and gown. If they’re still not convinced, offer to take them shopping for new, camp-appropriate pieces they can pick out on their own. This doesn’t have to break the bank — head to a local consignment shop or browse online thrift stores for discounted but high-quality kids clothing that can stand up to the wear and tear and summer camp.

Related: Hardest Part of Raising Kids Isn’t the Kids

Make it a team effort. At the end of the day, you want to make sure what your kids are packing ensures that they are well-prepared for camp, including the weather, activities, and length of time that they’re staying. You know what’s best and can easily comprehend what the rules are and why they exist. Your kids may not have these same goals in mind when it comes to packing their bags. The important thing is to make packing a team effort so that your kids feel involved and informed, so you’re sending them off prepared.

Keep it positive and keep it fun. When you see your kids making the right decisions on their own, give yourself a pat on the back. In parenting, the small wins are everything.

Amanda Light is a mom of two in Littleton, Massachusetts. She writes for her blog, Prim and Propah, and for, an online thrift store.

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