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Careless Packages

Once again, we’ll go beyond letters to camp…. Now that you’ve mastered the basics of care packages (see my last post), it’s time for the “remedial” class on “careless packages.”  This is the part where you get lazy and decide to have someone else make your “care” package for you.  Ah, the joys of parenting!

Now, I know what you’re thinking…  We’re all busy, don’t have time, want to show we care but don’t know what to do… blah blah blah.  If you can’t spend time building your kids’ care package, just how much care does that show anyways?  Is it possible to substitute an expensive package from some giant corporation for “care”?  Only you’ll know for sure.   And who knows, maybe your kid won’t care.  Heck, I’m not sure mine would care – they just want packages.  But I just wouldn’t feel right having someone else make it for me.  Yeah, right!

But I digress… Following is a list of companies that will gladly have you pay them to build “careless packages.”

NOTE: This is not a recommendation or endorsement of any of these online stores.

#1: Food Stuff
Most camps do not permit food so make sure to check your camp policies on food before sending.  IMPORTANT: some of these contain peanuts, which your camp may not permit due to allergies.  Make sure to check camp rules on peanuts.

  • The Popcorn Factory – Popcorn in all sizes and flavors – sure to be a kid favorite.
  • Oh Nuts – Kosher treats.  Beware of the peanuts if your camp has a peanut policy.  Looks tasty.

#2: Foodless “Care” Packages & Individual Stuff
Stuff, stuff, stuff.  A wide variety of choices.

  • Beyond Bookmarks – Their site states “Our care packages are in compliance with summer camp rules and are a favorite of camp directors.”  Lots of interesting packages with varied themes.  From the looks of their prices, it you must have to pay extra for camp director approval. $$$$
  • Fearless and Freckles – This shows up in Google under “Bunk Junk”!  Need I say more?  Individual items and “care” pails (as opposed to packages).  The pails seem expensive to me but they have lots of reasonable individual items. $$
  • Fuss Budget – Lots of interesting stuff – mainly individual items rather than care packages.  Reasonable price. $$
  • Gift Baskets – A few choice care packages.  Reasonable prices.  $$
  • Just4Camp – Stationery, pillows, games. Seems a little pricey. $$$
  • Sealed With a Kiss – “The original camp care package company since 1984”  Ready-to-go packages start at $20 but they’ll also do individual items and custom care packages.  Web site is very easy to use.  Yikes, these guys sent 7,000 “care” packages last year alone! $$
  • Send A Smile Gifts – Lots of reasonably priced care packages.  You can also order advance delivery.  $$
  • The Wrinkled Egg – Custom “care” packages.  $$$$

#3: Outdoors/Camping Supplies

  • Campbound – Check out the summer camp store.  Not much in the way of “care” packages but they are a business affiliate of the American Camping Association.

#4: Necessities

  • Minimus – Small sized toiletries etc.  Most camps sell necessities – check with camp before sending.

#5: More ideas – The Find

For additional care package ideas, check out The Find shopping site.  The Find is just an aggregator site so you’ll have to assemble these items yourself from different online stores featured.  Here are a few searches to get you started.

Advice: Letters FROM Camp

I started this blog because it’s so hard to find ideas about writing letters TO camp.  But there’s no shortage of parental advice and concern about letters FROM camp.  Check these out:

  • Decoding letters from camp. A recent New York Times post, “Letters from Sleep-away Camp,” included Randy Wedin’s decoding of his kids’ letters and their evolving sentiments.
  • No news… The Summer Camp Handbook advises that “No news is good news when it comes to kids at camp.  If you don’t receive any letters from your child while she’s at camp, you’re not alone.”
  • Downs and Ups. In the blog, Life the C Train, Clare’s “Letters from Camp” chronology perfectly summarizes the parent/child letter-writing experience.  If your child has never been to camp before, this is a must-read.
  • Letters = Love. Amy Howorth guest-wrote for Parent Talk Today.  She told how she dutifully to her kids at camp, which her kids did not of course reciprocate.  But all was forgotten when her son wrote, “Thanks for sending me the letters mom. It made me feel loved.”
  • Letter from a shopaholic. If you’re a shopaholic, it’s probably a safe bet that your kid is one too, even at camp.  Check out Camp Letters – An SOS Letter from Summer Camp.
  • Visiting Day. A touching story from several years ago.  Every parent will relate to this story of letters and visitng day.
  • Funny letters back and forth. Mike Sacks’ funny — and very sarcastic — letters to and from camp – I recently linked to this funny post too.

Care Packages 101

Do you really “care”? Is the size and volume of your care package directly proportional to the amount of love you have for your child?  Of course not!  But a care package can be a great gift that your child will appreciate.

Ah, care packages, always a camp favorite.  I remember that as a camper, I always looked forward to them.  And it’s amazing what can come in a good care package.  A care package is simply a package full of goodies (not necessarily food) for your camper.  The best ones are the ones you make yourself.  But companies offer convenient, pre-made care packages as well.

I recently came across an old but still relevant article on care packages from the Columbus Parent Magazine.  The article  includes a plethora of tips on care packages.  Among others, the article includes a suggestion for a “letter shower,” a package full of letters from your child’s friends.  That’s a great idea, especially for their birthday when they may be missing their friends.  You can also send pictures.

Also check out this excellent story from the Associated Press:  Summer camp care package: What to send tweens and teens.

Camp rules. Finally, remember that some camps have different rules for different types of “packages.”  Because of potential pest problems, many camps won’t allow food in bunks and thus care packages may not allow food.  Other camps limit the number of care packages so that other kids don’t feel bad when they don’t get care packages.  Our camp only allows one care package per session.  But they’ll allow needed clothes to be sent.  And they also treat most manila envelopes as regular mail, which is unlimited.

Remember: make sure that you have the correct address for packages at your camp.  Our camp uses a PO box for mail but packages have to be delivered directly to the camp.

The Last Word: Care packages are great and always appreciated.  But it’s the everyday, ongoing communication in letters, emails and faxes (where allowed) that helps your child to have a great experience day in and day out.

Stories of Fires, Hurricanes and Pirate Ships

Parents’ letters to camp can get a little, well, monotonous.  If your letters are getting boring, you can always resort to creative stories of fires, hurricanes, pirate ships and daring rescues… See Rosie Hawthorn’s Kitchens Are Monkey Business blog.

Tip: Especially for younger children, you won’t want to cause concern, so make sure they know the stories are fictional.

Ah, letters to camp… Letter-writing is all about communication.  And since I was a camper sometime way before 1990, things have changed… and how!

My loving parents used to pack us off to camp on a bus and that was the last they saw of us until visiting day over three weeks later.  That’s just the way they did things back before 1990.  Now parents can instantly send email, sometimes even receive email from campers, send and receive faxes (policies vary of course), see pictures of their campers, read blog posts, and even see videos!  Check out Julie Kraut’s guest opinion in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for more thoughts.

Parents become experts at picking up little hints about their kids’ experience from posted phots and blog posts… who is she standing next to?  Why isn’t he smiling?  Why is the other kid in so many pictures when my kid is invisible? Problem is, we’re not really experts at deciphering this, and believe it or not, there really is no way to know what your child is experiencing.  Heck, it can be hard enough to tell when your kid is standing right in front of you, let alone in a picture from camp (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit but you get the point).

This became even more clear for me recently when I visited a great camp that’s similar to my own kids’ camp.  As I sat at dinner watching other kids happily sing songs, dance and engage in many special camp traditions, I realized just how few of the songs, dances and traditions I actually knew from my own kids’ camp.  And because I didn’t go there as a camper, I realized that I will never be able to fully understand their camp experience as they do. But I can see that it’s OK for my kids to have their own special and unique experiences.  Those experiences are just a part kids’ growth into independent individuals.  When they choose to share, they will.  And when they don’t, I’ll have to trust the highly capable people that run their camp.   

Remember, camp is really all about your camper’s experience, not yours.  The bottom line: for your child, the most important form of communication is the letter, email or fax that you send them.

Great Letter-Writing Advice from Camp Greystone

What do letters to camp have to do with camp atmosphere?
As it turns out, plenty!

A great summer camp will work to create a specific type of atmosphere in camp.  Many camps believe that summer is a time to disconnect from email, cell phones, etc.  When sending letters, emails or faxes, remember that camps set their policies to reflect the atmosphere and values of the camp.  In other words, expect that policies will vary widely from camp to camp.

I come across many camp websites that offer thoughtful suggestions and guidelines for letter-writing.  For example, check out Camp Greystone in North Carolina.  They also had great advice about birthdays too – see the last blog post.

Among other things, Camp Greystone advises parents to:

  • Write letters by hand
  • Be creative
  • Take time to do a good job
  • Write often
  • Allow plenty of time for “snail mail” to work

You can read more on their site.  As you can tell from their tips, kids enjoy letters and letter-writing is an art that requires time and even planning.  Of course, that’s why I started this blog – to help parents write great letters to their campers.

A final note on logistics. As I mentioned earlier, while most camps allow and encourage hand-written USPS mail (aka “snail mail”), email and fax policies vary widely between camps.  Unlike Camp Greystone, most camps seems to allow email although many will charge extra for it.  Make sure to check with your camp to ensure that you fully understand their policies.

For more tips, see last summer’s post on letter-writing advice .

Birthdays at Camp

The Letters to Camp blog is all about, well, letters and parent-camper communication.  And from time to time, we’ll discuss related topics.  Today we cover birthdays.

If your child has a birthday at camp, you’ll want to make it as special as possible while keeping to your camp’s rules.

Every camp is different (and most don’t seem to allow any sort of food for birthdays) but Camp Greystone in North Carolina offers some great birthday tips for parents that including letter-writing and cards.  For example, they say that you should:

  • Let your child know special their birthday will be at camp.
  • Have a separate family and friend celebration at home either before or after camp.
  • Send birthday cards, letters, and [if permitted by your camp,] a package.
  • Mark the delivery day on the package or letter so that the camp can deliver it on that day.  [Check with your camp to see if they’ll do this.]

They ask parents not to:

  • Send food.
  • Send balloons… they really clutter up the cabin.
  • Send lots of presents… the best thing to get at camp is a letter; give most of the presents at the hometown party.

…This is all outstanding advice.  As a long time parent of campers whose birthdays fall during camp, I suggest that you also contact your camp to understand how they celebrate birthdays and what you are permitted to do.  Each camp’s birthday observance will vary.  Some camps celebrate the birthday on the day of the birthday while others will have a single celebration for all kids with birthdays during that session.  At our camp, our kids are also allowed to call us on their birthdays.

You can help your child to have a great birthday at camp… Happy Birthday!

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