Care Package Care
Some species of balloon flies attract potential mates by presenting them with a little silk ball. Forget that a healthy camp experience has nothing to do with mating…and hopefully little to do with flies and other insects. My point is that receiving a package is fun on all branches of the phylogenetic tree. Never mind that the male balloon fly’s little silk ball is empty. It’s enough to…er…grab the attention of female balloon flies. And that’s just my point, when it comes to camp care packages. Care packages grab children’s attention; what’s inside matters less. The package itself says, “I’ve been thinking about you and I love you.” Of course, they’re not part of a courtship ritual, but they are part of a summertime ritual in which millions of families participate.
I said “matters less” not “doesn’t matter.” Remember that camps have rules against contraband. Most camps don’t allow food care packages because they attract ants and critters, some of which are large, like sweets, and rhyme with share. Cookies, cakes, and candies also spoil children’s appetites for healthy camp food, so save it all for the first day home. Most camps also don’t allow dangerous items or electronics. (Yes, parents have tried to ship fillet knives for tackle boxes, fireworks for the Fourth of July, and even cell phones for late-night check-ins.) Camps are ethical environments where following community rules is highly valued. Parents would be wise to set a good example by following care package guidelines.
So, what’s fun to include in a safe, legal, and healthy care package? Keep in mind that camp is about connection. Your son or daughter will be making lifelong friends, so send gear that facilitates connection. Solitary electronic games are about the worst thing to send, but non-electronic games that help young people play together include:
• Frisbees® and other flying disks
• Around-the-Table® games (terrific conversation starters)
• Checkers, chess, Go, Mastermind, and other portable board games
• Balls of all varieties (even though camp has plenty)
• Mad-Libs® and other group word games
• Wildlife identification books (great for nature walks)
• Paper airplane and origami how-to books
• Uno® and other card games (as long as there is no betting involved)
It’s also great to send age-appropriate sports and hobby magazines, literary and science publications, and newspaper clippings. Interesting printed media get shared and traded at camp, but steer clear of magazines and comics with sketchy, sexualized, or violent content.
You also might include an item or two that your child doesn’t have to share, such as:
• a novel
• a T-shirt
• a puzzle
• a baseball cap
• photos of the family
• a small stuffed animal
• colored pencils and paper for drawing
• a blank scrapbook or journal to start at camp
Just remember: Providing the camp experience for your son or daughter already shows how much you care. You care about their growth and development. You care about their happiness. And you care about their out-of-classroom learning. Seen in this light, care packages are completely unnecessary. In fact, most overnight campers don’t receive care packages. Feel free not to send one. Instead, tell your children how much you love them in a newsy, upbeat, handwritten letter. A couple letters a week is plenty enough to sustain a meaningful connection with home. And if you can’t resist the temptation to send something more, keep it modest. You might even try sending a hollow silk ball. On second thought…
Enjoy the summer!
Dr. Christopher Thurber