Tips for fun and thoughtful camp care packages — that don't go overboard or break the rules.

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Allison Hendrix puts  a lot of thought but not much money into the care packages she sends her children at summer camp.

She looks for items that will help them engage with cabin mates, and skips things that they would worry about breaking or losing. She seeks out items to make them laugh, and avoids anything that could induce homesickness.

“I want to let them know I’m thinking of them and I love them, but I don’t want to make them miss home,” says Hendrix, of Orlando, Florida.

She has sent costumes and wigs, yarn for making friendship bracelets, games and balls. Less is more, she says.

Other tips for creating a good care package for summer campers?

Tailor it to a child’s personality, says Gay Gasser, owner of Mirth in a Box, a company in Fairfield, Connecticut, that specializes in sending camp care packages. Sending a shy kid a game might serve as an icebreaker in the cabin, she says. An outgoing kid might want stickers or other small, inexpensive items to share with friends.

“The Book of Cards for 
Kids,” $15 at workman.com; Crayola Fabric Markers, $8 for 10 at amazon.com
“The Book of Cards for Kids,” $15 at workman.com; Crayola Fabric Markers, $8 for 10 at amazon.com

Be sure to follow camp guidelines about packages, says Malcom Petty, owner of Sealed with A Kiss Camp Services in Kansas City. Many camps don’t allow food or electronics. Others only accept packages of a certain size.

“They don’t want anything that will create a mess, like water balloons or confetti. Nothing that in any way looks like a weapon,” Petty says. “You want things that are going to add value to the experience.”

Done right, packages are a “sweet and lovely touchstone” to home, says Paul Sheridan, director at Four Winds Camp on Orcas Island in Washington.

But parents who try to outdo each other with lavish and frequent gifts, or who ignore camp rules, can create difficult situations for camps and campers, he says.

Lindsay Matteson, director at Camp Winacka in San Diego, California, suggests sending playing cards, the group word game Mad Libs, party favors and decorations, or other things that can be enjoyed by the entire cabin.