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"Care packages" are boxes of goodies (toys, clothes, magazines, etc.) that families send to campers. Kids feel really special when they get a care package. It can even be something of a status symbol. Still, you shouldn't feel obligated to send a package to your son or daughter. Overnight camp is a huge gift in itself. High quality camps provide more than enough fun for each camper. If you do decide to mail your child a care package, here are some tips on what to send and what not to send. Above all, remember to follow the camp's policy about what items campers are allowed to possess.
1. Size. The package should be reasonable in size. Sending a refrigerator-sized crate of treats is going to be expensive for you and embarrassing for your child. Keep the size reasonable, about the size of a shoe box. Kids should not expect to receive large, costly items at camp. The point is not to spoil them, it's simply to say "I love you and I'm thinking about you."
2. Food/Perishables. Send only what the camp allows. For example, some camps allow campers to receive food, candy, and gum in the mail; others do not. Why? Food attracts animals and bugs. Also, without proper storage, food rots and becomes a health hazard. Don't put your child in an awkward position by smuggling food, candy, or gum to her if it's forbidden. It is especially frustrating for a camper to receive a nice batch of homemade cookies, only to have them confiscated.
3. Games/Books/Toys. Games, toys, and reading material are excellent additions to any care package. Include some things that your child can share with his fellow campers. For example, you might send:
miniature board games, like checkers or chessFrisbees and other sorts of flying disksnewspapers and magazinesbean bag balls, such as Hackey Sacksplaying cards, and maybe poker chipsUno and other sorts of card gameschoose-your-own-adventure booksNerf balls and other sorts of sponge ballscomic books, or the Comics section of the Sunday paperMadLibs and other sorts of word games
You also might include an item or two that your child doesn't have to share, such as:
a small stuffed animalmarkers and paper for drawinga disposable cameraa novelorigami paper and instructionsa T-shirta puzzlea baseball capa blank scrapbook or journal to start at campphotos of the family
4. Money. Don't send money. Cash or checks can be lost or stolen. If you want your child to have money for a spending account at camp, send it to the camp directors. Most camps do not allow children to carry around cash, checks, credit cards, and bank cards. Check the camp's policy.
5. Contraband. Basically, don't send anything that the camp forbids. Such contraband may include electronic games or appliances, knives, matches, lighters, or fireworks. It's probably not even a good idea to send squirt guns, cap guns, laser guns, or other types of toy guns. They may be confused for the real thing and create quite a disturbance.
6. Commercial Care Packages. Although it will lack your personal touch, you can send your child a commercial care package. For about $30, commercial care package companies will send your child an age-appropriate, gender-appropriate combination of entertaining little toys, games, and knick-knacks. Because any care package is more special when another child hasn't received the exact same thing, most of these companies are careful not to duplicate items sent to the same camp.
7. Birthdays. If your child's birthday happens during the camp session, make a celebration plan before she leaves. Some families celebrate birthdays before or after the camp session. That way, the whole family can get together and have a party, a special dinner, or some other kind of celebration. Other families arrange for their children to celebrate their birthdays at camp. Many camps are ready to accommodate these requests by providing a birthday cake and ice cream for your child and her cabin mates. Other camps simply sing "Happy Birthday" in the dining hall. If you and your child plan for her to celebrate her birthday at camp, find out ahead of time what that celebration will entail. Advanced planning will prevent disappointments.
All kids enjoy getting a small present on their actual birthday, especially if it happens during camp. Things that would otherwise go in a care package are perfect. Save any big, expensive presents until after camp is over. You wouldn't want anything really important to get lost, stolen, or broken. Plus, a treasure trove of fancy presents might make your child's fellow campers green with jealousy. Instead, send a birthday card, a modest care package, and a note reminding your child that he has presents waiting for him at home when camp is over.
[via Summer Camp Handbook: 13.4 "Care Packages"]