Parents driving kids to and from practices and games know the importance of a well-stocked gym bag. Unlike school, sports don’t have many vacations or breaks. Young athletes often work year-round to hone their skills. A proper gym bag might mean the difference between a win or a loss. So make sure yours is routinely cleaned and re-stocked. Sometimes this is required a few times a week.

Your kids should have their own. And as the parent, your gym bag should always be taken along – just in case someone forgot something important.

We know this can and will happen.

Choose a backpack or duffel bag that’s easy to carry. Thousands of people wind up in the ER with back injuries because of heavy bags. So be sure to put the bag strap over your shoulder. Or use both arm straps to carry the backpack in the center of your back.

Don’t make any gym bags too heavy. Rule of thumb: They should weigh no more than 20 percent of your body weight. This is true at any age.

Essentials in the parent’s gym bag

Cushions: Those bleachers are never comfortable. Some cushions even come with back supports for more comfort.

Bug spray: Some parents are understandably concerned about chemicals in bug repellents. However, insect-borne diseases can be deadly. Understand the risks and learn more about natural bug sprays, too.

Sunscreen: Protect your little ones with SPF-15 or higher.

Hats/Sunglasses: Even on overcast days, UV rays find your face. Hats and sunglasses provide added protection.

Hair bands: For athletes with long hair, bands to pull it back help keep distractions at a minimum.

Hand sanitizer: This shouldn’t replace good old-fashioned hand washing, with warm water and soap. But it’s an effective alternative when soap and water can’t be found.

Meds, epi-pens or inhalers: This is especially helpful during allergy season.

Anti-itch cream: If the bugs find you or your kids, cream can help minimize discomfort. It also helps them keep their minds on the game.

Wet wipes: These come in handy when cleaning up messes. They happen in the car, on clothes or if someone needs to use the bathroom in an emergency.

Lip balm: With a variety of flavors and colors, the most effective are SPF-15 or above.

Instant cold/gel pack: If your young athlete experiences an injury, immediate icing reduces swelling, pain and bruising. Gels or ice also aid in a quicker recovery.

Sports tape/adhesive bandages: Applied correctly, tape also reduces swelling and pain.

Extra pair of eyeglasses/contacts: These get lost a lot. So many parents have learned to keep a spare in their bags or cars.

Extra socks: Wet feet can be uncomfortable. They can result in fungal infections. It doesn’t have to be the rainy season. A surprise puddle can soak a kids’ feet and result in blisters or athlete’s foot.

Hand/feet warmers: Running around generates some body heat. However, when kids are on the sidelines, warmers keep the shivers at bay.

Inside pouch/wallet: Keep your keys, credit cards and phone inside your gym bag, preferably in a small, separate pouch.

Towels: These help your kids feel more comfortable when wet or sweaty. They can also sit on towels when you’re driving them home.

Must-haves in the kid’s gym bag

Deodorant: As your kids get older, help them understand the importance of good personal hygiene.

Tampons/Pads: Locker room bathrooms rarely have these important supplies. Encourage your girls to always have extras on hand.

Medical ID bracelet: Your child doesn’t need a medical condition to have a medical ID bracelet. If they’re out on a run, or on the field, they don’t often carry wallets or photo IDs. In case of an emergency, bracelets show their name, any conditions, and emergency contact information.

Change of clothes (including underwear): Keep these in a big Ziplock bag that can hold the dirty clothes when they change out of them.

Extra sports equipment: This includes smaller items like golf tees, swim caps, goggles, gloves, etc.

Shower shoes: These also help protect feet from fungal infections while showering in the locker room.

Hats/Sunglasses: Even though you’ll have some extras, encourage your kids to keep their own hats and sunglasses.

Protective eyewear: This includes anything needed for their sport of choice.

Water bottles: Staying hydrated is vital for any athlete. Encourage them to fill up their water bottles regularly.

Mouth guards: For sports like basketball or hockey, mouth guards are easy to lose. But they are required, so keep some extras.

Cash: Concession stands, and vending machines, don’t always accept debit cards. Keep cash in a small inside pocket for emergencies.

Keys: These go in small pockets as well.

Cell phone chargers: Just in case they need their phones charged, so you can contact them if needed.

Emergency Contact Numbers: What if your kids lose their phone and can’t remember your number? Write these down and put them in another of their gym bag’s side pockets.

Other things to keep in the car

First aid kit: Band-Aids, antibiotic gel, etc. 

Chairs: Not every sport has bleachers for parents to sit. Bring chairs so you can watch your kids play without standing the whole time.

Activity books or stories: These keep younger (or older) siblings occupied during long practice games or car rides.

Water and snacks: Keeping a cooler in the car can provide needed water and food between meals.

Rain ponchos and umbrellas: Stick these in the side door pockets for rainy days.

Extra hints

Fill a small spray bottle with water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Stick it in the cooler for a refreshing spray of mist on a hot day.

With skin infections on the rise, young athletes should keep dirty clothes separate from clean ones. Bring along a couple of empty (plastic) bags for just this purpose.

Set aside time each weekend to clean and restock your gym bags. Washable bags are helpful because sweaty clothes tend to smell.


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