Care Package Tips for the First Sleep-Away Experience

Summer is filled with family activities and endless bonding time, but many parents are also coping with a new kind of separation anxiety triggered by the first-ever departure of a child to sleepaway camp.

For weeks they plan and pack and encourage their child to go enjoy the outdoor experiences, the social environment, the sports, the arts and crafts, the swimming, etc., but when it comes time for their baby to leave, they choke. They suddenly regret their no-cellphone decision and rush to join the staff at their kid’s preferred camp… But it’s too late. And so, they turn to the traditional care packages to show children that they are loved and missed at home.

KJ Dell’Antonia of the New York Times shared her experience, explaining that she sent a care package for her own sake, and not for that of her son, who spent a week at a hockey camp a mere hour from home.

Here are a number of tips she listed in an NY Times blog for parents with the same idea:

  1. Read the rules. Jan Hoffman, who wrote “At Camp, It’s Not Grub, It’s Cuisine,” for the dining section, reminded me to check with the camp before I send a thing. ‘Most camps I spoke with have banned food packages,’ she said. Packages are usually opened at the camp office, in front of the camper. Some camps have even banned packages altogether, except for necessities…
  2. Ask around. What did kids from your child’s camp crave last year? Playing cards, said one fellow parent. Snacks, said another. Glow sticks. Books. (An exception to the ‘no care packages’ rule at some camps) ‘Graphic novels get passed around’, said Ayun Halliday, from the camp where she is working this summer- and ‘the kid with the battery-operated fan will always be the object of admirations.’ Practical jokes, Noise putty, comic books.
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  4. Send love and flavor. In our case, younger siblings contributed some art to brighten their brother’s surroundings. Rice Krispies Treats are a house classic (with the added advantage of being nut- and-gluten- free and thus shareable with nearly any friend), and I managed to send him almost a whole batch. And a packet of powdered Starbucks iced coffee is one thing that’s sure to remind him of his loving, slightly iced-coffee-addicted, mother.
  5. Think group fun and solo time. To me, that meant cards and Mad Libs, plus a book of puzzles. ‘Something that can be shared with everyone,’ said Ms. Halliday. Several friends, via Facebook, combined the glow theme with sharing: glow-in-the-dark bracelets in a party pack; a glow-in-the-dark Frisbee.
  6. Sweat the details. I wished I’d taken more time to write my note, instead of scribbling it at the post office: do I have no words of wisdom for my eldest on his first extended stay away from home? Maybe my husband covered it. But at least I remembered that puzzles and Mad Libs are useless without pencils.

Dell’Antonia added one more suggestion to parents in search of creative ideas. “If you are hemmed in by a no-care-package policy,” she wrote, “send letters, send origami swans, send a goofy drawing, send a big crayon heart, and embrace a moment away from consumer culture.”



Angie is a home health nurse who has been working with patients for over 20 years. In her free time, she enjoys dabbling in the stock market, taking spinning classes, cooking and gardening. She loves being the editor at Sunstone. Reach her at angie[at]

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