Getting ready to send your sensory-sensitive child to sleep away camp? Chances are just being away and in the great outdoors will provide a giant serving of sensory input. However, it’s a great idea to consider your child’s sensory diet when packing their bags.
Whether your child is a sensory seeker or sensory avoider, organization eases the way. My favorite tip: Pack each category of items into gallon-size zip lock bags. This makes it simple for your child to unpack the duffle bag and place related items in cubbies or on shelves. (Counselors love this too.)
Bedding. Does your child use a weighted blanket or sleeping bag at night? If so, don’t leave it behind! In addition to providing warmth, the weight and compression adds calm and comfort. For warmer climates, the lightweight Hug Sleeping Bag is made of spandex for compression. If your child is at a special needs camp, they will be familiar with the benefits of a weighted blanket; if not, send a note ahead explaining the purpose.
Clothing. Keep it simple! Don’t over pack but do include easy-to-wear clothing – preferably without tags. Kids who are sensitive to climate change may prefer lightweight long sleeve shirts and hug tees made of organic cotton for all-day comfort.
Weather Protection. Avoiding sunburn and bugs is always a must but it’s a real lifesaver for kids who are super sensitive to irritating bites or sun exposure. Consider an all-natural bug spray as well as a weighted baseball cap for sun protection. Most camps encourage insect repellent and sunscreen. If your child has extra sensitivities, be sure to let the camp know in advance.
Personal Items. Leave the electronics at home. Period. Camp is a great time to learn new social skills, new games and how to play and engage without electronics. That said, be sure to pack your child’s favorite fidgets, games and chewies as well as self-addressed postcards and a pen to write home. Include a journal for making memories. A flashlight is a must for overnight camp, but choose one that won’t require extra batteries like an LED flashlight. And label everything!!
Special Diet/Medications. If your child is on meds or a special diet, plan ahead and work with the camp so it’s set up from day one. It’s important that both your child and the staff know what to expect.
No Returns. Do not send anything valuable to camp nor clothing that you would want to use again. Camp is a place for getting dirty and exploring the environment without worrying about material items.
Camp is one of the most beneficial experiences a child can have, providing independence and accomplishment away from mom and dad. At the entryway to my childhood camp, the sign quoted from the book of Proverbs, “Every child makes himself known by his own doings.” Today I believe camp was a fundamental experience of my youth – and I wish you and your campers an amazing summer.