Getting Organized for Camp

Getting Organized for Camp

By Laura Kinsella of

Summer camp is an incredible opportunity for your child to learn, socialize, and grow! And while you may be feeling a lot of conflicting emotions (overwhelm, excitement and tears to name a few), having an organized plan will make you feel more in control, and set your camper up for a seamless summer of fun!

Psst… Check out The New Omicron Variant BA.2 (what you need to know as NYC Plans to Drop Mask and Vaccine Mandates)

Start Early

Your camp will provide a packet of useful information well before summer with good reason! Shopping and gathering camp specific items takes time. Give yourself a few weeks so there is time to run to the store, order online, and exchange (did their feet really grow a whole shoe size over winter?!)

Choose an area in your home where you can start to assemble everything. There will be some things you need to purchase new, and others you are simply collecting from your home. Having a spot for everything to land and review before you pack, avoids neglecting items or packing the same thing twice.

Set Appointments

Just like the start of the school year, there will be required medical forms that need to be submitted. Make sure your child is up to date with checkups, and you have updated records from their pediatrician.

If your child is gone for the full summer, it may also be important to see the dentist, get a haircut, and refill any necessary prescriptions.

Add What Matters to The List

Consider what items are important that may not be on the provided camp list. Perhaps your child wears contacts, takes fiber gummies to stay regular, or has a favorite stuffed animal that they simply cannot be without. Including their specific essentials will make your child feel “at home”, especially if this is their first camp experience!

But more importantly, Subtract

Camp lists are guidelines, not strict regulations. If you know your child will never remember to use a conditioner or a washcloth, save your money and invest in a 3-in-1 shampoo, conditioner & body wash instead. Avoid sending anything that holds irreplaceable value. Camp is particularly rough on clothing, so hand-me-downs or second hand items are ideal!

Label Everything (yes, even their toothbrush and underwear!)

As responsible as your child may be, items will inevitably get mixed up in a bunk or dur- ing a water activity when clothes are coming on and off quickly. Labels are the only way your child and counselors will maintain order and ensure everyone has what they need! 

Adhere fabric labels (or use a name stamp customized with your child’s first and last name) to everything in your pile. If you’re in a bind, a simple sharpie from your junk drawer will do the trick too!

Group like Items and Pack!

Now that you’ve gathered and labeled your custom camp list, it’s time to group like-with- like and pack! 

For day camps: A lightweight backpack with the following: Daily water bottle, swim gear & towel (or tailor to your camp’s specific activities), ziplock for wet items, ziplock with a set of dry clothing, hat/sunglasses, SPF, & bug spray. If you’re required to bring lunch and snacks, choose an insulated bag to help keep items cool. Don’t forget to label everything from their sunglasses to their goggles.

For sleepaway: A rolling trunk with the following: Packing cubes or ziplock bags (the 2-3 gallon kind) for each individual category (labeled of course!) You want to keep it simple so your child doesn’t need a treasure map to find their socks. 

General categories can include: socks & underwear, sleepwear, tees, bottoms, swim & rain gear, toiletries, bedding, theme days, & bunk junk. Store larger bedding in a separate duffle, or large clear bag.

Pack a bedside organizer (to mimic a nightstand) so your camper has a place for the little odds and ends to land, especially when it’s time for lights out!

Walk your child through their trunk so they know what they have, and more impor- tantly where to find it. For extra measure, tape their custom camp list on the inside of their trunk. This serves as a little “cheat sheet”, as well as a reminder of what they’ll need to pack when it’s time to come home.

If your overnighter is interested in sending camp letters, it doesn’t hurt to pre- stamp and pre address the envelopes. Let’s put it this way: if you want to increase the odds of actually receiving a love note over the summer, it’s a must!

For day camp, Streamline your Morning and Evening Routine

Hang the camp calendar near the family command center so you remember things like “wear your PJs” day, or “silly hat” day. The same goes for if your child will be going on field trips where they may need a solid colored shirt or special shoes.

Keep a caddy by the front door of SPF, bug spray, a brush, hair ties, etc. to make mornings a little more manageable and efficient. When your child arrives home, encourage them to clear out their backpack to ensure food containers don’t spoil and those wet items have time to dry without getting smelly.

Teach Problem Solving

As much as we want to think summer camp will be all peaches and cream, there will be times our children will get hurt, find themselves in a situation where they need some- thing, or are working through something upsetting. 

Communicate with your child who they can turn to (friends, counselors & staff) no matter the circumstance (whether they’ve wet themselves, are in need of feminine hy- giene products, or are just missing home.) 

If your child is attending sleep away, sending a letter in advance of their arrival is another way to combat homesickness and to remind them you are always there for them, even from afar!

Let Go!

Camp is a unique experience in which your child is discovering the world through a different lens (parent-free!) It is more likely than not that they’ll come home with paint under their fingernails and a whole trunk of missing socks. But they’ll also come home with gained confidence and independence, and for that, it’ll all be worth it!

Laura Kinsella is a mom, wife and owner of Urban OrgaNYze, a New York City based professional home organizing company. Since 2015, she has helped transform hundreds of homes to be more efficient, elegant, and meaningful. She has been featured as a Professional Organizer on A&E’s Hoarders, and more! She loves color-coded closets, The Container Store, and everything about being a mama, minus the glitter.