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School camps are an Australian institution. Each year, children from senior primary classes through to high school head off for a night or two of fun, adventure and education at specialised facilities across the country.
School camps are a great opportunity for learning about the great outdoors, experiencing nature-play while developing entire new skill sets that become invaluable as life goes on.
However, an Australian school bush camp is often a child's first experience being away from home, and that excitement and independence can come with a little bit of anxiety – for kids and parents alike.
One way to help alleviate that anxiety is to be organised. Helping to pack and organise their own gear for school camp is a great way to give children an idea about the kinds of activities that they'll be undertaking while they're away.
For example: practicing using a sleeping bag, and putting it back in it's bag will give them the confidence that they'll be able to handle it when the time comes, without becoming overwhelmed.
Having an idea of what they'll need, and what to pack for school camp will get them off to a great start for the independence that this experience will expose them to.
Hot tip: Label, label … and double check the labels. Having every single item that goes into your child's bag labelled with their name will assist when – inevitably – their gear takes a detour.
Your child's school will usually send home a list which has been co-ordinated by them and the facilities your child will be visiting. This is a guideline and should be followed, however please do go through that list thoroughly and add to it if you feel there are necessary items that will make the difference between your child having a great time, or a not-so-great time at school camp.
Making the list is one thing, remembering it all is quite another! Organisation is key, so get started ahead of time with your child, so that you both know what you'll need to find, buy or borrow well before the date arrives. Nobody wants a last minute scramble.
Here's what your child should consider bringing, and what they might want to leave at home for school camp.
Shoes: Your child will need two pairs of sneakers. At least one of those pairs will get wet/filthy due to water-based activities, so don't send their best gear! A pair of thongs for use in the communal showers is also recommended, although it is unlikely that they'll be permitted to use any open-toed footwear in other areas of the school camp. Image: Getty Images.
Clothes: Consider the weather – is it a summer or winter camp? – and pack accordingly. You will also need to think about the activities scheduled for your child's camp. Long sleeves and full legs may required even in summer if your child will be hiking through tick-prone areas. At the very minimum your child may need: shorts and t-shirts, socks and underwear, warm jacket/jumper, swim suits, pyjamas, hat and/or beanie and a raincoat/waterproof jacket. You might also be asked to pack for theme nights during the camp, so double check your school's list. Image: Getty Images.
Toiletries: Your child will need to practice their own hygiene at camp, so make sure you've gone over what is expected from them and how to do it, well in advance of the camp trip. Your child may need: toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, soap/body wash, shampoo and conditioner (if the camp's duration requires), sunblock, insect repellent, brush and hair ties, deodorant and sanitary products (if older), lip balm, hand sanitiser, towel and face washer. Image: Getty Images.
Eating: One rite of passage of school camp is the kitchen clean-up! Nobody gets away without doing a dish or two, so you will be asked to provide a tea-towel or two to help with that process. You may also need to pack a bowl, plate, mug and utensils for your child. Another rite of passage is a sneaky treat from home, although it is always best to double check your child's school policy on how strict their policies are on that. Always consider allergies in other children when sending treats along to school camp. Any special dietary requirements should be discussed with your school. Image: Getty Images.
Medication: Speak with your child's school about any medication and the administering of that during the time they are away, and don't forget to pack it! Non-prescription medications should be left at home. Image: Getty Images.
Sleeping: Different school camp facilities may have individual requirements when it comes to bed time. You may be asked to provide any of the following: Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, pillow, sheets, travel pillow and even, on occasion, a small tent. Image: Getty Images.
Bits and pieces: School camp is not school camp without a torch – consider sending spare batteries along too. Your child may also require a backpack for day activities, a bag for rubbish, a large plastic bag for dirty/wet laundry, tissues, a drink bottle and/or paper, pens and pencils. Image: Getty Images.