Five Things To Expect From Sending Your Kids Away To Summer Camp

We packed their bags together. We(okay, mostly I) carefully put shirts and shorts together in tight rolls as outfits….enough for six days. We put clean underwear and socks in one tidy compartment, and packed four pairs of long pants to wear during horseback riding. I told them that they would most likely want to change into shorts or something after riding as they would be stinky, and that I packed some extra shirts too, just in case.


I also bought them shower shoes for the communal showers at the camp. I filled shampoo and soap bottles so they had enough for a shower a day…but yet I still fretted that they wouldn’t have enough soap. I reminded them to shower each day, and brush their teeth. I packed the requested (1) beach towel and (1) bath towel and really tried to figure out how I could send them each for a few more towels – because how could two towels really be enough for a whole week?


Their bags were heavy as they each packed about six books each, and journals and pens and note-cards for writing about their days and to write home. They both love to read and I think I imagined each of them using their few hours of free-time each day leaning against trees and getting lost in a book…just like at home.


The bus ride up to camp was three hours long, so I assumed they would need a snack. I packed granola bars and crackers, a little candy snack, and some fun little games to keep them occupied.


I guess in my crazy mom head I assumed they were going to fashion camp, where each camper would have a large closet where they could hang-up their large wardrobe of clothes, feel the need to shower daily(just like at home), and they would have unlimited leisure time in which to curl-up with a book. Maybe I also thought they would be alone. Especially on the bus. And the camp would not feed them.


I was clueless and should evidently not be allowed to send my kids off to sleep-away camp again as I think I’m actually ‘That Mom’ that packs embarrassing things in their luggage and sends them too much mail.


In fact they liked being away from me so much that the first thing both of them said to me at pick-up was “Mom, can we go for 2-3 weeks next year?”

So for those parents who have never sent their kids away to camp – here are a few pointers for you to make their camp preparations a little bit easier.


1. They will not shower. Sure, they seem like clean beings at home. They shower daily, wash their faces and brush their teeth..but until their camp counselors actually physically force them into the shower…they will not shower. So don’t waste your time packing all the fancy toiletries and soap and stuff..just assume a few good swims in the lake will suffice.


2. They will not change clothes. Ever. Like you know that outfit they are wearing when you drop them off? That’s what they will be wearing when you pick them up. Yes, even those kids who like to change their clothing 85 times when you are at home – they will also wear the same clothing for seven days straight.


3. They will not use the plastic laundry bag that you included in their suitcase for their dirty clothing and wet suits and towels. They will throw that wet towel right into their suitcase, and pile in onto ALL of their clean clothing and it will stink to high heaven. In fact it will stink so much that half way home you have to stop and tie the suitcase onto your car’s roof because you swear something died in there.


4. They will not read or journal or write notes home. Not because they don’t like to do those things, but because they are busy and making new friends. Don’t get mad because you never heard from them…because they don’t need that shit. Just be glad they were too busy to miss you.


Which brings me to #5…


5. Chances are that your kids won’t miss you. Oh sure, they still love you and want to live with you and all and don’t want to leave you forever….yet, but Summer camp provides so much to do – new experiences, new friends, new fun, and is busy and awesome and seriously so fabulous, that they don’t have time to miss you. So don’t be sad if your 10 year old – instead of running up to you and giving you a big hug when she first sees you at pick-up – just throws her sweatshirt at you and says “hold this” while she continues to go off and hang-out with her new friends. She’ll eventually come around and give her baby sister a hug…right before she tells you that she needs to come to camp for much, much longer next Summer.


So next Summer, when I pack their bags again for camp, and this time for 2-3 weeks, I’m pretty sure a small backpack with two changes of clothing and a toothbrush will suffice…along with my mother-heart during this letting go process that just gets bigger and bigger each year.


But that’s okay, clean or not, I’m so damn proud of my kids.


About Tracy

My name is Tracy Morrison and I live in sunny Minnesota. I'm neither British nor a nun - I'm just a Midwesterner with a headache. This is mainly a humor and lifestyle blog that documents the lighter side of parenting. I am an ex-corporate ladder climber turned freelance writer, social media manager, and fashion expert - and ruler of my own little universe(very small). Aren't we all. I would love for you to contact me at

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  1. says

    It sounds like they had a wonderful time. I would have pictured downtime and reading but spending time with new friends sounds like a lot of fun, too. And I would have totally over-packed. (I always do.)
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted..Faster

  2. Alison Spicer says

    Noah goes to camp in a few weeks. Wonder if I could get away with 3 shorts, 3 shirts, a sweatshirt, swim suit, running pants – one small backpack and just toss it ALL when I pick him up?
    Love that you let your girls go!!! I went to camp for a month every summer growing up and have the most wonderful memories. Noah is 8 almost 9 and will start this summer but most of his friends parents will not let them go.

    • says

      I truly believe that most kids would love this experience and I’m so glad that my girls did it and loved it and are already planning on doing it for the next 10 summers!

      And yes – small backpack full of play clothes that you can just toss at the end!

  3. says

    Yes, I can confirm your list is very accurate. My oldest is going on year 3 of sleepaway camp, my middle on year 2. They are going for two weeks this year. They will not miss me at all, but they will miss the Wii.

    The camp posts pictures of them on their site and FB page every day, and my children will be wearing the exact same outfits they wear wearing when I last saw them in every picture. And a part of me will die inside.

    For two years, I have carefully ordered Lands End things and nice fleeces, etc. This year, we’ll be up in the area a week ahead of time, and I am all, “Hell. There’s a Wal-Mart there. We’ll get everything then.”

    But most of all, the biggest thing to know about sleepaway camp? That it might likely be your child’s favorite thing he or she ever did in her life. That’s what mine tells me. And you’ll spend a million dollars on it for that reason. And you’ll be broke. The end.

    Allison Slater Tate recently posted..On staying home, regret, and the big world of the preschool parking lot

    • says

      Yes, next year it’s Wal-mart and everything gets tossed at the nearest dumpster after camp pick-up.

      And yes, seriously – EXPENSIVE but 100% worth it. I’m already saving for next year. I went away to camp as a kid, and truly those are some of my best memories of childhood ever. xo

  4. kristen wotruba-kolb says

    Havalah’s camp posts pictures every day … last year I was horrified to see one of her wearing a sweatshirt I had never seen before – paired with those little white shorts intended only for wearing under dresses.
    To add to her total disregard for what was intended to go together …. they have all these clothing donations and they let the kids go through and pick out as many things as they want. Havalah came home with a whole suitcase full of clothes and shoes people had donated – not just stuff for her – but many things in varying sizes for her little sister.

  5. says

    LOL! Check out my recent blog post about camp. Nina was literally wearing the exact same outfit at drop-off and pick-up!!! :) And yes, the big mesh laundry bags had hardly anything in them, and yet the rubbermaid bins were full of stink, wet clothes and towels. ICK! It is all AWESOME though!
    Ann recently posted..Simple Woman’s Daybook, June 24, 2013

  6. says

    I have never sent my kids to camp. I expect I never will because I’m not strong enough to let go like that.
    But this post is so funny. I can only imagine what the kids would look (and smell) like after a week at camp! And oh my goodness, 2-3 weeks next year? I suggest you pick them up while wearing a HazMat suit next time. LOL.

  7. Deb Sheffield says

    When your girls are a little older, you might check out Concordia Language Villages if they’re interested in a foreign language. The camps have changed since I went many, many, many years ago (lots more options, and much more expensive, too) but the memories of my time there are the BEST of my high school days. SO well worth it, as you already know!

    • says

      Our neighbors actually go there and I did look into it as my girls do take language at school…and we may consider when they are a bit older. It looks incredible!

  8. says

    Cady went to stay with a friend overnight this weekend. I woke up in a blind panic because “OMG, what if she has a bad dream and I’m not there”. I finally managed to calm myself down. It was an effort. I don’t think that I’M ready for summer camp quite yet.
    Jennifer recently posted..Summer Loving {Creative Writing}

  9. says

    Yup, you were right on the mark with these…this is the 6th summer I’ve sent one or more of my kids to sleepaway…this year all three are going for 3 weeks. One other thing you forgot to mention is that when they come back, their luggage will also contain other people’s items/clothes…I always try to buy the cheapest bathing suits, towels, etc. because most of it is NOT coming back!
    Emily recently posted..How To Kill Time On Your Child’s Last Day Of School (When It’s Only 30 Minutes Long)

    • says

      SO TRUE! Yes, a few items were missing..and a few others were included. Also ALL THREE for three weeks – that sounds incredible!

  10. says

    My 7yo went to a three day sleepover camp. He also did not brush his teeth or shower. And he didn’t want to come home. But man…what a great experience for them! I still remember camp as a kid.

    • says

      As much as we love them, it’s certainly a good feeling when they love something so much(that is completely theirs) that they don’t want to come home.

  11. says

    My mom never let me go to sleepaway camp and I was kind of sad about that. I want my kids to have that experience (although I’m pretty sure that it will break my heart to have them leave and then not miss me). I can only imagine what an amazing experience your girls had. But the growing up bit? I don’t think that I’m ready for that.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..A subtle hint

  12. says

    Oh dear. What a slap in the face for the momma school of life! :-)

    I know I would be JUST LIKE you! And my kids would be just like yours. And i would be standing there holding a (possibly stinky) sweatshirt.

    But I have to say I thought rolling the outfit was a good idea to keep it together.
    Lady Jennie recently posted..Fais Gaffe!

  13. says

    This is probably why I went to camp once and never wanted to go back. I actually did all the things you prepared for your girls to do. I hated being dirty. I took showers and kept my dirty clothes separate from my clean. I read and wrote.

    And I never went back. Ha!
    Katie Sluiter recently posted..The Way You are Now {Eddie Age 4}

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