Life Skills: The Camp Way

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Sending your child off to sleepaway camp could be a hard decision to make. During your decision process, remember how important and healthy this milestone is for you and your child. Psychologists agree, Maureen Monaghan from Children’s National Medical Center, says “giving kids an experience of being on their own in a structured, supportive, supervised environment is a great idea.”

Having your child, and you, overcome fears is a life lesson that affects many more situations to come.  For example, being homesick for a few days and then realizing it goes away or working to climb the top of a rope wall that seemed super scary on the first day of camp.

We know there are so many questions you and your child might have.  Take a breath, read this amazing article from the Washington Post.  We can’t agree more!

Traditional Camp vs Speciality Camp

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Most overnight camps from the Poconos to Maine are what we call “traditional overnight camps”.  They offer an array of activities, old fashion camp traditions, and daily scheduled activities for 7 weeks.  Whether it’s a coed or single sex camp, a traditional bunk consists of 10-12 kids and the bonds of friendships are unbreakable. Most camps today understand the need kids have to practice their “activity” of choice.  For example, they will offer extra private tennis lessons, extra time on the baseball diamond, or more time spent in the gym getting that back tuck perfect.  Some camps will have professional coaching on staff or send the kids off camp to meet with speciality coaches.

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Speciality camps are perfect for the older child in high school who wants to make their high school team. They are also great for that child who really wants to focus on sharpening their skills in his or her sport. Most specialty camps are 2 weeks long and are located on a college campus or off-site location.  Typically there are no bunks, the children sleep in a door room with a roommate or two.

Both options are a fantastic way to spend a summer. Still unsure?  Give us a call, we can tell you about the many different camp options available and help answer any of your questions.

How Camps Give Back

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Camps give kids new experiences, friendships that last forever, and camp fires. But, have you ever thought how camps give back to the community?  We were pleasantly surprised to discover all of the ways they do!

Each August, Camp Manitou hosts the Experience Camps for Grieving Children. The week is for children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.  Camp Manitou gives these kids a wonderful opportunity to just be a kid, bring their smile back, and make new friends.

Even when camp is over, Camp Manitou was still giving back. This past Fall they were involved in Manitou Fall Service Day Weekend. Campers and parents volunteered their time to revitalize gardens and dog play areas, cleaned local beaches, and ran a 5K  to benefit cancer and other research.

Many camps participate in The Camp Champions program which helps to send hundreds of children in need to camp every year!  Campers will participate in special events or races throughout the Summer to raise money to help kids experience camp.

Camps got involved with the social connection too!  Camp Vega created a special hashtag and every time a picture was shared using it they would donate $10 to the Dunk Your Kicks campaign, which helps support pediatric cancer research. This past year campers have volunteered at

Campers at many camps have also volunteered at Camp Sunshine or donated to The Tutu Project.

Camp gives so much more than just s’mores, lake time, and color war cheers.  Camp gives back!

WelcomeBack

Camp Research 101

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Thinking of camp? There are so many things to think about. What are your personal goals on how camp will be best benefit your child? You will have to decide the order of importance. There is no right or wrong, just what works best for you and your family.

I suggest that you do your homework first to narrow it down to two or three camps.  Involve your child in the decision making process with only your top choices. It’s important to make them a part of the process, but it’s smart to give them the places you feel they would excel.

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Camps, like people, have their own personality. For those of you who are starting early, you will have the opportunity to visit a few camps to get “the feel”.  After visiting several camps, I often get a familiar phone call from my clients. “We loved them all. I can’t explain why, but camp C just felt like the right place for us! I didn’t believe you when you said we would feel it, but we did.” For those of you who are looking for this summer, no worries, my partners and I visit every summer and are here to give you “the feel”.

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Co-ed, single sex or brother-sister? The first two are self-explanatory. For those of you who don’t know, brother-sister camps are single sex camps connected in some way. They could be on the same campus, on the other side of the lake or down the road.  Think about your home setting. Is your child an only child? Are all your children the same gender or mixed? Do you want them to go to camp together or separately? Do they attend a co-ed or a single sex school? If they are in a coed or single sex school, do you want camp to be the same? Or change it up a little?

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Location, location, location. Some of you want a camp close to home, others want the prestige of Maine, and the rest of you just want the best camp for your child! Of course, our goal is that you can have it all.

The camps personality. Each camp has its own philosophy, type of scheduling and program emphasis.  What are your child’s interests?  Does the camp focus on sports? Arts?  Does your child do better with structure or choice?  Often, a traditional camp will introduce the younger campers to each activity. As the campers get older, they are able to choose and focus more on the things they like. You’d be surprised, not all sports kids want to play sports all day at camp. They may find it rewarding and relaxing to go to ceramics!

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Camp owners/directors. Make sure you meet with the owner/director of the camp. If you are looking for a camp this summer, most are happy to come meet with you at your home. Just like you, they want to make sure your child is the right fit for their camp.  Watch how your child reacts to them. I remember one of my parents telling me, “I can’t believe it, my child started out sitting across the room from the director at our home visit. Before I knew it, he was snuggling right next to her listening to all the exciting camp stories!” Need I say more?

I’m sure you’ve heard people say, my kids go to the best camp! Just remember, what’s best for them may not be what’s best for you. In the end, after your child attends camp, yours WILL BE THE BEST CAMP too!

-Sue Ellen Greenberg

Wanted: Camp Gifts!

Camp gifts seem to trend 12 months a year, it’s always a perfect time to give a camp gift.  Whether it’s for a first year camper getting the nervous and excited bug or the 10 year camper that still lives for it, we have our favorite camp gifts they will love.

Anything Emoji Goes

Emoji-pillows-2It was definitely the year for the emoji! Anything and everything emoji is camper approved.   These pillows can be found at our favorite camp stores like Lesters or Denny’s Childrens Wear.

Polaroid Camara

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It’s back and so much cooler! Your camper will love taking selfies with the original insta-photo.  The perfect accessory to decorate their room and bunks with, we love different kind of film available in bright colors and designs.

The Onesie

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It doesn’t have to be Halloween for your camper to dress up.  The fuzzier, the better! Campers love them for themed evening activities or staying warm by the camp fire.  Either way, it’s a gift they love to stock up on throughout the year.  Shop them at Party City stores or Wallmart.com.

It’s a Sock Thing

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We love this trend and it keeps getting better.  Campers love to collect different themed socks all year round.  Living royal has so many silly and colorful socks, it’s hard to pick the perfect pair.  Available in boy and girl styles.  Shop it here.

Meeting The Camp Owners-What You Need To Know

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It’s that time of year when camp directors are busy traveling from town to town, meeting prospective campers and their families. This is such an important part of finding a camp because it works two-fold: parents see it as a time to find out more information about a camp (especially if they haven’t visited) and meet the owners, and camp directors get to know families to make sure they’re a good fit.

As one camper directly recently told me, “The most important part of a home visit is for the parents to get a feeling of comfort from the camp directors.  Not only to give information about their child, but also to find out about the people taking care of their child.”

Another camp director noted, “As camp directors we have very little one on one time with parents– visiting day is a ‘hi and bye’.  So the only opportunity we have to cultivate a relationship is on a home visit. A camper’s success at camp is dependent upon parents and directors having open communication and feeling comfortable with one another.”

The top 10 (ok, maybe more) questions to ask a camp owner on a home visit:

  • What is a typical day at camp like?
  • Tell me about your food choices – dietary restrictions/allergies
  • Communication with camp – how many phone calls? What happens if my child needs something?
  • How do you bunk campers?
  • Where is the staff from?
  • Where do the campers come from?
  • How is laundry handled?
  • What out of camp trips do you take?
  • What happens if my child is homesick?
  • How often will my child see his or her siblings?
  • How much choice will they have in their day?
  • Who handles bunk issues?

Some more good questions for camp owners:

Do you have children of your own? Do they attend your camp?

(If not an owner, but a representative):  How many years are you hoping/planning to continue working at this camp? What is your relationship with the owner? (Are you related by family? A prior camper? Did you go to this camp as a child?) Have you worked at other camps, and if so which ones?

What do you do when you have a challenging inter personal situation among campers? What resources do you tap into for advice and handling the tricky situations that can occur in day to day camp life?

What are examples of situations where you have had to call parents? How sick does a camper need to be for me to be notified?

What are the most important characteristics when you are hiring staff? Where do you hire your counselors from?

Are you OK with giving your cell phone number to parents to have “just in case” or for peace of mind?

How do you handle homesickness from the smaller children?

Remember, this is your time to find out everything you need in order to feel comfortable with the family taking care of your child. As we were all taught in school- the only stupid question is the one not asked! So ASK, ASK, ASK!

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Coping with a Nervous Camper

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Camp Lady Confession:  I was a nervous camper.  And, I have a lot of clients with nervous first-timers this year. More than usual.  As parents we can see the value of camp, but for  kids that tend to be more anxious in general, it can be scary and exciting at the same time.  Which makes those kids  even more amazing for wanting to give camp a try.  They won’t regret it.  There are ways to help your new camper through their nervousness to make the months and days leading up to camp easier for them (and you).

Be willing to talk honestly- of course focus on the fun things about camp but don’t ignore the fact that they will be homesick in the beginning.  It’s better if they are prepared for it and know that it’s normal and expected.  Their counselors are trained and ready to help them get over the hump and start having a great time.  Maybe you have your own camp experience to draw from and you can share how you handled feelings of homesickness.  The best advice I’ve heard  from a camp director is that you can miss home AND have fun.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.  Let your child know that almost all of the new campers are in the same boat- they feel nervous when they arrive at camp, even if they don’t show it on the outside.

Take advantage of your camp’s events during the winter- most camps offer get togethers and new camper events throughout the year so  campers can get to know each other.  Everyone has such busy schedules but make time and go.  Your child doesn’t have to make a best friend right away, but even having a familiar face for the bus ride can really help.  Your camp owners and directors are your best resource for finding local families with new or existing campers to connect with and they are more than happy to give you some names.  If you have a child that loves to form close relationships with adults, give your camp owner a call and they’ll come to your house.  They can chat, hang out, get to know your family better, show pictures and tell camp stories.  This is what they do best so let them do the work!

About Jennifer Rosenstein

Jennifer is a lifelong camper who spent many years at both day camp and overnight camp as a camper, CIT and counselor. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons and still maintains many of the friendships that she developed in her years as a summer camper. Jennifer is passionate about the value of camp in a child’s life–building self esteem, confidence, independence, social skills and most importantly friendships. She works with parents to make sure that children and young adults of all ages can find the summer camp that is best for them.

Celebrate National Dessert Day

Of course, our favorite dessert is everything and anything s’mores!  We’re sharing our favorite s’more recipe. Easy and fast, perfect for your favorite camper.

Ingredients:

23 large marshmallows, cut in half
92 twist pretzels
4 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Candy Bars (1.55oz)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly space 23 pretzels on the baking sheet. Top each pretzel with a marshmallow and one square of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. Place in the oven under the broiler and heat until marshmallows are just beginning to brown and the chocolate is softened. Remove from oven and top each with a pretzel to form a sandwich. Chill in refrigerator until chocolate is set.
Melt the chocolate chips in a metal bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth, and remove from heat. Dip each pretzel bite halfway into the melted chocolate and place on the prepared baking sheet. Chill in refrigerator until chocolate is set.

Enjoy!

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Just Let Go & Send Them To Camp

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As parents, we only want the best for our kids and sometimes letting go can be the hardest thing to do.  We loved the latest post from Main Camp Experience highlighting Jessica Lahey’s book The Gift of Failure.

She says, “As a parent, it’s so hard to let go. It’s hard to say goodbye, and it’s hard to watch our kids struggle. But if we want to see the excitement and pride of accomplishment on their own terms, we have to learn to let go.”

Check out the full article here.