Camp Letter Writing: 101

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What camper doesn’t want to receive a letter or package every day at camp? As parents, we want to send letters filled with exciting news from home but we often run out of things to write about.  Jamie Lake, an author from Kveller, gives us the perfect advice on what types of letters we should and should not send to our camper.  This article is one to “bookmark” this summer.

Read it HERE.

Don’t Freak Out: Get Organized

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It’s that time to get organized, don’t worry we’re here to help. Here are just a few of our favorite Summer packing tips:

  • Be in the know. Get to know any camp regulations regarding bunk items.
  • Include  pre-stamped envelopes or pre-addressed postcards, we promise you’ll get more letters this way.
  • Label all of your items with your child’s name. Triple check everything!
  • Home items, make sure your child packs pictures and fun items that remind them of home.  You want their “camp home” to feel cozy. Especially the bed, order mattress pads or egg crates for the extra comfort.
  • Send a letter to your child at camp before camp begins, tell other family members to do the same.
  • Pack with your kids. Let them see what you are packing so when they get to camp they had an idea of what was in their bag.  Show them you packed specific shoes for certain sports or where the extra batteries are tucked away.  Most camps will unpack the younger campers for them, so when they arrive their area is all set up.  It’s still a good idea for them to know what was packed.
  • Pack Smart. Protect breakable items such as a tennis racket, make sure its protected.  Pack it between bed sheets or towels for extra cushion.  Find out what  bunk cubbies or under the bed storage your camper is allowed to bring.  Make sure they are collapsible and durable, it’s best to utilize them when packing. For example, pack items inside of the bins such as smaller or personal items.   You could also add a packing list inside the duffle, this helps the counselors and your camper to know what was packed.
  • Don’t Forget. Take a deep breath and take a picture of your camper sitting on their duffel.  It’s officially the first photo of the camp season!

 

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

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!

Does Camp Really Help Your Child?

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As we say goodbye to yet another fun filled Summer spent at camp, parents often wonder what lessons their child learned at camp.  When your child attends camp they learn how to work with others, try new things and create bonds with people who come from all different areas of the world. In a recent Huffington Post article, Todd Kestin, a professional teen coach and mentor, shares his own experiences of camp.

A must read!  Find the full article here.

2015 Camp Packing Guide

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School is coming to an end Summer is just around the corner.  If you are a camp parent you are now in frantic mood to gather the right things to ship off to camp.  We are here to help and want to share some helpful hints to make the packing less stressful.

How is your camper’s bunk set up?

This is super helpful in planning out what and how much your camper can bring to camp.  Some camps will have cubbies, some have storage drawers under their beds and some have nothing! Once you have a mental map of how their bed area is set up, it will be a lot easier to plan what and what not to pack.  A perfect example is the shoe bag.  Do you need an over the bed bag or wall bag?

Packing Shortcuts

Whether it’s a counselor or your camper doing the unpacking, an organized pack job is the best pack job!  We have found using gallon sized zip lock bags to pack makes the unpacking a lot easier.  Packing all of the tops in one bag (labeled) and all of your pjs in another bag (labeled) tells the counselor or reminds your camper where the items need to go.

Pack breakable items with in rolled up towels or blankets, it’s also a great space saver. These items can be a tennis racket, toiletries, or their favorite junk trunk box.

Check your camp list 3x!  When you think their is no way you forgot something, check it again.

Label Everything

If your packing it, label it!  You will find some items are best labeled with a good old fashion sharpie and some items need a label.  The labels that you purchase online from the labeldaddy.com are really strong and stick to anything!  They are Camp Lady approved and are super cute!

Get Your Camper Involved

Go over how and where you are packing their things, this way if a counselor is unpacking for them they will know if something is missing (we hope).  They will know to look for the extra batteries in the ziplock bag that was with their toiletries or that their indoor bunk game was packed inside their bunk junk box.

Don’t Forget…

As much planning and packing you do, they still might wear their PJ top with their Friday night shorts together on a Monday! Take a deep breath and remember that your camper is going to have an amazing time at Summer Camp.

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5 Reasons Great Parents Send Their Kids To Camp

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Many “non-camp” parents don’t understand why “camp” parents send their kids to overnight camp for 2, 4, or 7 weeks.  They question the benefits and criticize the distance or time away from home.  Our list of why camp is truly one of the best gifts you can give a child is endless, but we wanted to share 5 amazing reasons why great parents send their kids to camp.

1. Campers Develop Independence

2. Campers Experience Outdoor Fun & Adventure

3. Get Unplugged

4. Kids Become Better At Making  & Keeping Friends

5. Parents Relax and Enjoy Free Time

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Campers share their camp experiences with Sunshine Parenting, it’s a must read!

How Camp Benefits Kids: Our Top 5 Reasons

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Our very own Patti Roberts knows Camp!  She was recently interviewed by Westchester Magazine and shared her top 5 reasons why sleep-away camp benefits our kids.  We couldn’t agree more!

1) Unplugging and getting outdoors

“Most camps don’t allow electronics, except maybe an old-fashioned iPod for music with no screen because it’s the whole point of unplugging. They want them out running around playing games and sports and not on their bunk playing with their fingers like that. Most camps don’t even have cell phone service.”

2) Building independence and self-confidence

“Most of these children who are going to sleep-away for the first time have never left home or been away from their parents. When they go off to camp, they learn how to fend for themselves, get themselves dressed, clean up their area and make their beds. It helps them earn self-confidence and independence.”

3) Expanding horizons

“They may think they don’t like to do certain things, but when they try it at camp, they love it .They do it because everyone does it and everyone tries it, so it’s far more accepting than trying it at home with a bunch of kids who are really good at it.”

4) A chance to reinvent yourself

“In their younger years and even in their teenage years kids get pigeon-holed, especially kids who live in a small town. You grow up—from kindergarten until college—with the same kids. You are a “fat kid”, or a “dumb kid”, whatever it is, when you go to another scenario, you can really reinvent yourself in a different environment with new friends. Having the ability to make new friends, try new activities and learn to be independent are all gifts.”

5) It’s a vacation for the whole family

“There are people that I work with who say they have an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old. And they question if they can send them both away together. My comment always is, not if you don’t have to. Because that 8-year-old has never been an only child. So give that child that one summer without their older sibling around. And then if they want to go, let them go.”

Read the full interview here

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How to deal with Campsickness?

The excitement of seeing your kids at the end of the summer is overwhelming, you can’t wait to hear every last detail of their final days of camp.  After the cheers and stories are shared you start to think “now what”?  You wonder how your child will transition back to the real world of responsibility and independence.  How are they going to sleep without the camp chatter or waking up without a smiling bunk mate in their face?

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Campsickness is real and it does happen, but we promise they will be ok!  We wanted to share some helpful tips we received from camp owners, camp moms, and campers over the past years.

Keep Camp Photos In Their Room

One of our camp moms has always filled their daughter’s room with photos of the Summer, so when her daughter came home they were already in frames.

Make Camp Play Dates for the Winter

Make plans for the winter months with camp friends and let your child know the dates.  They will be super excited and start their own count down.

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Create a Camp Environment

Try making a camp meal they loved or stocking your fridge with a favorite camp snack.  The sounds of home can be overwhelming or too quiet so some parents have told us they create camp sounds for their child’s room.

Chores

Your camper has kept a schedule all Summer long, from activity to activity.  Although they won’t admit it, they liked the structure and having something to do.  Have them make their bed every morning, just like they did at camp.  It’s a win-win situation!

If you have any suggestions or helpful tips on “Campsickness”, we would love to hear them. Please share!

Color War is Here!

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What is Color War?  Color War is when camp divides and brings a new meaning to competition. The cheers, the games and of course the gear. For campers they live “45 for 4”. Four amazing days of sweat and tears for your team. Color War is a camp tradition that goes back decades, Leslie Paris, an associate history professor at the University of British Columbia who spent years investigating the matter while writing “Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp.”  She found: “Red and Gray Week” in 1916 at Schroon Lake Camp, a Jewish boys’ camp in the Adirondacks. By the 1920s, Dr. Paris said, Color Wars composed of a series of small contests, from checkers to swimming races, were a staple of the camp experience. 

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Color War lives on through plaques that are admired for years to come. But in the end, camp unites as one!  To us that is the best part of Color War.

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