Parents, you know the drill:

“That looks gross!”

“That smells gross!”

“I’m not eating that!”

Being a picky eater is a natural part of childhood; most people outgrow it, but at this moment in your kid’s life, it’s the most important thing in the world. You’ve learned to control it – at home, at school, at a restaurant; but now – it’s the summer, which means one thing: camps are starting.

Summer camps are a blessing, it lets kids be active, and you finally have time to get what you need to get done. But when dealing with a picky eater, you’ve entered a whole other world. During the school months, it’s easier. You’re dealing with a climate controlled atmosphere, and you have more leeway to pack foods that need to withstand the cold. But at a camp, you don’t know what you’re getting. It’s very likely that the only temperature controlled unit your child is getting is the tiny ice pack that you placed in the lunch box.

So here you are,  panicking about what to feed your picky eater in a climate you can’t control.

Here are some tips that will help you and your child have a happy and productive summer:

1) Set up a no-no list:

Sit down with your kid and together, the two of you can plan out lunches that they will enjoy, and that their friends will be envious of.

2) Contact the camp:

By doing this, you’ll be able to find out what foods aren’t allowed due to allergy restrictions, and what the camp does with the lunches (I went to a summer camp that would collect the lunch bags at the beginning of the day, and store them in a giant refrigerator until lunchtime).

3). Try to change it up:

Sure, peanut butter and jelly every day would be super easy. Unfortunately, pallets change, and sometimes eating the same thing for lunch every day can become routine and a chore. Try to come up with a lunch of the week. Each week of the camp there’s something different to eat. This will keep your child’s interest and enthusiasm up, and it won’t add any additional pressure on you to keep buying new lunch ingredients every day.

4) Follow the camp’s policies:

If there’s a no nut rule, stick with it; you don’t want to put the other campers in danger or get your kid in trouble for breaking the rule. If climate control is an issue, try adapting the lunches to stick with it. Pasta salads with oil-based dressings are a great solution, they can easily adapt to any type of temperature. Same with bean salads, hummus, veggies, and some deli meats and cheeses (from Stretcher.com). Always make sure to throw an ice pack inside the bag for extra coldness.

5) Involve your camper:

Have them make the lunches with you! It’s a great bonding activity, it will save time, and it will show your picky eater exactly what is going into their food (from Stretcher.com).

Summer should be a low-stress time in you and your child’s life. Camps are great fun, and a great way to make sure that your kids are being active during the summer. You want your child to have the best time, don’t let their pickiness get in the way of the best summer ever!