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Summer supplies for children: What kids need for camp and outdoor activities

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Sure, the kids may be chanting “No more pencils, no more books” for the next three months, but now that school’s out for summer, you’ll still need plenty of supplies.

With many youngsters heading off to day camp — or Grandma’s, or the swimming pool, or even (shudder) summer school — it’s important to have them outfitted with the right gear.

“Summer for kids is all about ease and comfort,” says Debbie Podberesky, Old Navy’s senior vice president of kids and baby merchandising. Finding versatile pieces to support all sorts of activities is key for the season, she says. “For boys, pull-on shorts with graphic tees work for casual days, or pair the shorts with a short-sleeve button-down shirt for family outings. For girls, easy summer dresses are a must that she can wear for all occasions — from camp to a barbecue.”

Ready to stock up? Here’s a style checklist to help ensure your child stays comfy — and looks cool — in the hot months ahead.

Know the trends

A bright pop of neon color is the biggest trend for both boys and girls this summer, Syndi Stark, vice president for Lands’ End Kids, says. “Print bottoms in girls are coming on strong in all lengths — shorts, capris and pants,” she adds. “For boys, our new boat short, with its rib-knit waistband, has been a big hit.”

Graphic T-shirts, popular now for several seasons for both genders, remain summer staples, but fun treatments freshen things up, Stark says. Styles that glow in the dark, feature chalkboard finishes so kids can jot notes right on their clothes, and even fruity-scented scratch-and-sniff shirts are among the new treatments. Technology has come a long way since the Hypercolor shirts we parents used to wear.

Buy the right shoes

FE06STKIDS3.jpg“It’s Keens, Keens and more Keens,” Beth Palent-Saper, owner of Little Feet in Denver, says of popular summer styles for both boys and girls. The brand works particularly well for camping as the shoes can be worn in water, but the closed toe also allows kids to hike, play soccer and just run around. The retailer says enclosed water shoes are gaining traction with kids, as well, with styles from Teva, Columbia, Merrell and others making waves.

“They’re heavy to swim in, but if kids are by a lake or creek at camp, these are great hybrids that can also be worn on a hiking path,” she says.

If you think your youngster will be doing a lot of hiking this summer, Palent-Saper recommends a low-top hiker/sneaker hybrid or even just a really good sneaker. Just make sure you get the right fit, she warns.

“About a thumbnail back to the big toe is the general rule,” she says. “But don’t go too big. People don’t always realize blisters can happen not only because a shoe is too small, but because it’s too big, too.”

Be sun smart

You do your best to be vigilant when it comes to sunscreen, but we can all use a little help in warding off those painful burns. Companies are making clothing using fabric that has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF. Similar to the SPF rating system used for topical sunscreen products, UPF measures the ultraviolet protection provided by fabric. For example, a garment with a UPF of 50 allows only 1/50th of the UV radiation falling on the surface of the garment to pass through it. In other words, it blocks 49/50ths or 98 percent of the UV radiation.

“UPF clothing continues to be important since so much sun exposure and burning occurs when kids aren’t in swimwear, but in regular everyday clothes during outdoor play,” says Nicole Yee, children’s editor at the trend-forecasting company Stylesight.

She advises parents to look for UPF clothing made with highly breathable fabric that is moisture-wicking or has quick-dry technology, which should be noted on garment tags.

SAND & SHORE: Coolibar T-shirt, $29.50, and swim shorts, $29 for girls; bucket hat, $25, all featuring UPF 50+ sun protection.

SAND & SHORE: Coolibar T-shirt, $29.50, and swim shorts, $29 for girls; bucket hat, $25, all featuring UPF 50+ sun protection.

Oh, and sunburns aren’t summer’s only hazard — don’t forget about mosquitoes. “There are a ton of cool insect-repelling accessories like bands that kids can wear these around their ankle or wrist to ward off pesky bugs,” Yee adds.

Fill a day pack

“With summer comes day camp and summer camp and outings to the pool, so putting together a tote or backpack with essentials is a great way to make sure they have everything they need,” Stark says. “Monogramming their name means everyone knows which bag is theirs. A hat, sunscreen, bottle of water, extra T-shirt and a towel will cover most occasions.”

Study up on swimsuits

“Kids love to be in the sun, but keeping them protected is paramount,” Podberesky says, so, as with clothing, look for bathing-suit styles with built-in UPF sun protection to shield from harmful UV rays.

When it comes to swimwear, you also want to consider durability and color-fastness, “to stand up to chlorine and washing,” Stark adds. “I am also a big fan of our ‘tugless’ suits for girls” styles that don’t ride up in back.

The number of suits you need per child depends on how often your child is in the water. “A good rule of thumb is at least two — that way one there is always a dry one,” Stark says. “I know, personally, that my son is happy with two, but my fashionista daughter requires more options.”

As for 2013 trends, Stark says girls are going for watercolor stripes and paisleys and that purple and turquoise are outselling pink. Meanwhile, boys are opting for colorblock trunks and rashguards with graphic prints.

Lesley Kennedy is Senior Managing Editor at


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  • comment avatar Rana June 10, 2013

    Lovin those keens…one of my favorite brands. Don’t have a ton of summer essentials but just lot of sunscreen, swim suits and water. Don’t want the wildfires but bring on the heat.

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