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Countdowns and Stuff

For the millions of youth who call summer camp home each summer, excitement begins to grow exponentially just after spring break each year. Not only is the end of another school year just around the corner, but the beginning of another camp season is oh so close that campers can practically smell the campfires. A variety of countdowns help them keep track of just how many sleeps are left until they’re back in their bunks or cabins and reunited with camp friends. Oh, of course there are the literal countdowns of exactly how many days, minutes, and hours are left that are featured on many summer camp apps and websites. But kids tend to be a bit more creative than website designers when it comes to countdowns and pre-camp rituals.

Parents may be a bit mystified, for example, when they’re handed a pillowcase, blanket, towel, etc. that campers have conveniently kept out of the laundry basket for the past several months because it “smells like camp.” For campers, this is just the release of one summer as part of the final preparation stages for the next. For parents, it’s a good reason not to send the good pillowcases to camp.

The amount of times the word camp finds its words into a conversation—and sometimes even a single sentence—steadily starts to rise again.  Maybe there is justsomething about seeing green, or maybe it’s the warmer days. Whatever the motivating factor, after a graduating dipping off during the coldest winter months, with the arrival of spring comes the re-integration of camp lingo into everyday speech. Parents need not become frustrated, children are usually happy to translate until someone gets around to writing that all important Camp Dictionary for Parents Who Want to Know What Their Campers Are Saying.

Some campers measure the time left until camp by the amount of episodes remaining before the season finale of their favorite television shows and then the number of weeknights they have to endure with nothing on television but reruns to watch until camp starts. Still, others prefer the exam approach and countdown their time until camp by the number of tests remaining in the school year. (Note: Some counselors use both of these approaches as well.)

Clever Apple users countdown with SIRI and hold daily conversations with her about camp. Others like to plan ahead even further into the summer by making out their Visiting Day snack lists, just in case they get too busy to do so after they get to camp. Countdowns are rarely a matter of just plain counting down when it comes to camp. Like camp itself, they’re full of ritual and meaning.

5 Things for Camp Parents to begin Thinking about in the Spring

March is here, which means spring is just around the corner. More importantly, summer is only a few months away, which means it’s time to begin checking off that annual camp preparation list. No doubt, the idea that it’s time to begin thinking about summer is a welcome respite for many following a winter that regularly included terms such as “polar vortex.” So whether you’re preparing your children for their first summer at camp, or are still thawing out after a frigid winter, here are five things to think about as the snow begins to melt, temperatures begin to rise and vegetation blooms:

1.)    Order camp clothes. Some camps feature catalogues and websites that cater to supply lists and sell logo merchandise. Although most camps do not require parents to order supplies and clothing from these catalogues, a few items are never a bad idea, particularly for children who intend to be part of sports teams. Also, camps sometimes require children to wear a specific colored logo shirt on certain occasions, such as out of camp trips. These clothing catalogs are the best resources for these items.

2.)    Start talking about camp. For returning campers, chances are that they’ve never completely stopped talking about it. It’s good, however, to begin preparing first time campers a few months ahead of camp so that they are not completely overwhelmed when departure time for camp actually arrives. For all campers – returning or not – it’s good to set some goals for the summer. Some parents find that their children are a step ahead of them when it comes to goal setting, while other campers need a bit of assistance with organizing their thoughts and prioritizing. Either way, it’s good to begin a dialogue now so that you and your children have time to think about expectations for the summer.

3.)    Begin stockpiling. Some parents actually pull out camp duffles and begin packing in the early spring while others just clear off a shelf in a closet and begin picking up basic supplies such as sunscreen, shampoo, and socks whenever they are out shopping. Gradually building a stockpile prevents that last minute scramble that inevitably ends in a phone call either from or to the camp about forgotten items.

4.)    Schedule pre-camp checkups. This is particularly crucial if your child’s pediatrician tends to be one that is perpetually booked and scheduling appointments a month or two into the future. Camps are safety focused, and it’s is very important that they understand each and every camper’s medical needs and limitations. For liability reasons, they also need medical and insurance information prior to being able to permit campers to participate in certain activities, such as out of camp trips. Also, be sure to talk to your child’s doctor about any medications that will be necessary for the summer.

5.)    Complete paperwork. Camps mail or make necessary forms available online to parents around this time of year. The forms may include information about trips, interests, goals, children’s personalities, etc. Although the purpose of the paperwork may not always be clear, camps put a lot of thought and consideration into the information they request parents to provide, and that information is crucial to facilitating a successful summer for campers. Since this task can seem daunting in the midst of those last minute preparations just before camp, it’s a good idea to set aside a block of time early in the spring to complete forms.

New Year, New Summer

There comes a point for everyone involved with camp when we finally stop wishing for it to still be last summer and begin looking forward to this summer. The beginning of the new year is the perfect time for this. The new year is a time of new beginnings for most people and, although that long list of resolutions most of us start out with in January has already been all but forgotten by the time the first spring blooms begin to peep out of the ground, there is always the promise of camp. January starts that final countdown toward summer. We’re finally in the year 2014, and it is only a matter of months before we arrive at the Summer of 2014.  And a fast six months it always is! We spend cold winter evenings watching our camp videos or reading our camp newsletters. We attend camp reunions and follow our camp Facebook pages. By spring we’ve ordered all of our new camp gear and are eagerly awaiting for it to arrive.  We start to set goals for the summer with our camp friends. Then we blink, and it’s May. It’s time to start packing! School ends and the countdown is down to days…days that seem to take longer than all of the months we’ve waited put together. But it comes, the new summer of the new year, faster than we ever thought it would a year ago.

Eagerly Awaiting the Arrival of Campers!

In just a few short days, campers will arrive at each of America’s Finest Summer Camps in droves. But summer camp campuses all over the country have already been populated by someone else for the past several days: staff. Working with children 24/7 requires more preparation than simply showing up ready to work and being given a brief tour of the “office.” When your “office” is a summer camp campus, there is quite a lot of preparation to do before the campers arrive. That’s why summer camp staff participate in orientation sessions that last for a full week. During this time, staff are trained in everything from inclusive techniques and ice breakers to emergency procedures.

Some of the staff members, like many of their campers will later this week, stepped off of a bus and into summer camp for the first time. They were nervous, as is expected of everyone showing up for their first day on the job. Having carefully been selected by year round camp staff over the course of the past year, many of them are working toward degrees that will lead to careers working with children and have some idea of what to expect…but not completely. Over the past several days they’ve learnt a lot about camp, a lot about themselves, a lot about each other, and a lot about the campers they will meet in a few days.

If you ask any of them, they’ll tell you it has been an intense few days, but beneficial ones. They’ll tell you that not all of it has been fun, but a lot of it has. They’ll tell you that they’ve already made some new friends they know they’ll have for life. But, perhaps most telling about the type of people who choose to embark on an adventure as seemingly crazy as working round the clock for seven straight days in an unfamiliar place for two straight months, is that they’ll tell you that they can’t wait to meet their campers!

What’s the Weather Like?

The popularity of summer camp has spread in recent years, now regularly attracting children from all regions of the United States and abroad.  For many of these campers, it’s their first trip to the Northeastern United States.  So, naturally, one of the most common questions we get at Camp Laurel is about the weather.  We’re not just saying this because we’re camp people: There couldn’t be a more perfect place to spend a summer than in the Northeast!

The coastal breezes keep the air pure at our Maine camps. Many of our campers and staff members frequently comment on how nice it is to be free of the smog of the big cities in which many of them live.  During the day, the temperatures are typical of summer weather.   Because Camp Laurel gets a coastal breeze, the temperatures tend to be a few degrees cooler than inland.  However, the summer sun still shines very brightly on the vast majority of the days, and it can get a bit warm.  We encourage campers to stay well hydrated, though, and wearing sunscreen is a must!  Shorts and tank tops or t-shirts are usually the most appropriate daytime attire.

We think that perhaps the best part of getting to spend our summers at camp, however, are the evenings. Temperatures cool down just enough to make most nights perfect for campfires and outdoor activities.  Most campers take a sweatshirt to their evening activities. They may not always need one, but it’s a nice thing to have around just in case.  Our favorite thing about nights at camp, though, is the sky.  Because our camps are in rural areas, there is very little light pollution, so you can actually see the stars!

While most of the country struggles with being not too hot or not too cold during the summer months, the weather at summer camp in the Northeast is just right!

It’s Time to Start Thinking About Packing…

May means a lot of things to a lot of people.  To some it’s Memorial Day and the official beginning of summer.  For others, it marks the end of another school year.  For summer camp parents, it means it’s time to start thinking about packing.  For first time parents, the task can seem absolutely overwhelming.   How much sunscreen and shampoo do I pack?  Do they really need shinguards?  How many t-shirts are enough?  For seasoned camp parents, packing is a science based on experience.  The art is in packing just enough but not too much or too little…and knowing which items the children have sneaked into their bags to take out and which ones to let go.  Packing properly takes time…and patience.

Camps provide rather comprehensive packing lists.  These should not be disregarded.  They’re compiled by professionals with years of camping experience who have excellent knowledge of what children’s bags need to contain in order for them to arrive prepared for a successful summer at camp.  Also keep in mind when packing that living space is somewhat limited at camp.  Your child will not have his or her own room at summer camp.  He or she will live together with several other campers as well as a couple of counselors. This means that there is not a whole lot of room for “extras” and labeling clothes is important as mix-ups are otherwise bound to happen.  If laundry is your primary concern, rest assured that camp laundry is done at least once per week.  Your child’s counselors and other camp staff will see to it that your child has clean clothes.

Summer camp values also often downplay appearance.  The emphasis of summer camp is on fun, friendship, and safety.  Before the end of the summer, your child will likely get wet, slimed, painted, generally messy, and a host of other cool things that tend to make children laugh and adults cringe.  So keep the really good stuff at home and send clothes that neither you nor they will miss too much if they have to be “retired” at the end of the summer.

It’s important for both new and seasoned camp parents to pay as much attention to the items your child’s camp asks not to bring as those items it asks to bring.  There is a reason your camp requests that certain items not be brought onto campus, whether it’s to help facilitate a specific environment, protect those with allergies, or to avoid other issues not conducive to the spirit of summer camp.  Packing “do not bring” items risks them being lost or confiscated until the end of the summer.  This ultimately causes undo stress on your children.  Alleviating stress that results from the idea of having to leave a beloved item such as a cell phone or notepad at home is typically accomplished by reiterating to children about what they will have at camp as opposed to what they won’t.

By following your camp’s advice and being proactive rather than reactive, packing for camp can be a fun countdown to camp rather than a reactive chore.

We Can’t Wait For Campers to Arrive!

Camp is only hours away!!!  Our staff spent the last couple of days unpacking, setting up cabins, making work wheels and nametags and getting each cabin and bed set just right so when campers arrive, they’ll feel right at home.  Laurel Today is up and running so make sure you check out photos of Staff Orientation right on the Camp Laurel website.  Everyone here is so excited for the Laurel Family to reunite once again!  Safe travels to everyone this weekend.   We can’t wait for you to get here!!

Got Communication?

Parents: Camp is near. You’re packing bags, making last minute preparations, and listening to endless stories with increasing enthusiasm about what happened during the summer of 2010 in eager anticipation for summer of 2011 to begin. You’re checking and re-checking to make sure all of the paperwork has been submitted and the bag pickups have been scheduled. So we figure now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of maintaining good communication with your Camp Directors—now and throughout the summer.

Camp is a big deal for your children and for you. Whether you’ve planned a quiet summer at home or have an awesome vacation planned, we know that your top priority is to know that your children are having an amazing summer. You can help, simply by being informative.

We’re first and foremost concerned for your child’s safety and well being. Some of you probably wonder why we ask for photos of your children prior to camp. It’s so that we can show them to your children’s counselors when we discuss your children’s activity preferences with them so that they can greet campers by name from the moment they step off the bus and have full knowledge of how to make their summer successful.

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of communicating medical issues. Whether it’s an allergy to certain foods or insects, perhaps a dietary restriction, asthma, a vitamin deficiency, or wetting the bed, your camp directors need to know so that these matters can be handled appropriately as situations relating to them may occur throughout the summer.

We also want to know what your children’s interests are. If we know your child can’t get enough soccer, for instance, we can make sure that he/she gets maximum exposure to soccer during the summer. Knowing what your children like only helps us guarantee they have the summer of a lifetime.

Personal family matters are never easy, but if there is something happening at home—a divorce, illness in the family, academic issues, etc. it helps us to know. Perhaps it’s a positive development. Your child has landed a new role in a film, has made a particularly competitive athletic team, has earned a special honor at school. Whatever IS your children’s lives at the moment they come to camp, we want to be able to channel it into an amazing summer for them. And we’re confident we can. Otherwise, we wouldn’t ask. As your child’s “summer family”, we want to know how we can help them be at their best.

If anything comes up between the time you put your child on the bus or plane to come to camp and the time we put them back on the bus or plane to come home that might affect his or her summer, please call us. We want to know what’s happening. We want to understand how we can make your child’s stay at our camp effortless and memorable. Even if it’s minor, if you have any reason for pause, please call us. We want to be proactive in making your child’s experience memorable.

10 Things to Do before Your Children Leave for Summer Camp

10 Things to Do before Your Children Leave for

10. Complete all of the camp paperwork.  This provides the camp with valuable details about your child that they can pass onto their health center and counselors.  Knowing your children’s interests before they arrive helps the camp place them into cabins or bunks in which they’ll thrive, provide them with the best program options, and be able to supply them with any medication they may require.

9. Buy stationary, pre-address and stamp envelopes for letters home.  Many camps have specific time set aside in their daily schedules for writing home.  Pre-addressed envelopes help ease the process of sending the letters campers have so lovingly written.  This is particularly the case for younger campers.  Also, familiarize yourself with your children’s camp policy regarding camp packages to avoid disappointment that may result from sending items that are undeliverable to your children.

8. Review the camp’s packing list and make sure you have everything.  Don’t overlook things like extra socks and underwear as well as rain gear and warm clothing.

7. Review your camp’s handbook with your children.  Camp handbooks contain valuable information regarding the expectations of campers.  Emphasize that camps put such guidelines in place for the safety and well being of their campers so that they can insure everyone has the most fun possible.

6. Make your Visiting Day plans and book lodging.  Yes, it’s true that your children haven’t even left for camp yet.  But many hotels within the immediate vicinity of a camp often book months in advance.  If you’re unsure of the lodging options near your children’s camp, contact the camp office.

5. Make sure your children’s camper accounts are in order.  Some camps maintain “spending accounts” for campers.  These accounts provide additional funds for campers to take along on out of camp trips to purchase souvenirs or treats.  If you’re unclear at all, call the camp office. Keep in mind that these are often separate accounts from those that cover in-camp expenses such as canteen and laundry services.

4. Ensure you have all adequate sports and musical equipment in order:  the wheels on the roller blades are oiled, the shin pads are the proper fit, and the guitar strings have been tightened.  Just as if they are going off to rehearsal, your children’s sports equipment will receive as much of a workout at camp as it will at home.  Sending your campers with properly maintained and fitting equipment can have a tremendous affect on the success of their summer.

3. Pack.  It sounds so simple.  Yet, for camp, it’s quite the production.  Most camps strongly advise against packing any clothing that can’t withstand commercial laundry services.  It’s also wise to remember that camps often downplay the importance of physical appearance, which means leaving the “dry clean only” and “one of kind” items at home is typically a good idea.  Once you have your children’s bags packed, don’t forget to arrange for them to be delivered to camp by the designated date.

2. Review the bus pickup location and procedures.  It’s particularly important to understand what your children can take on the plane or bus and what they can’t.  Carefully review whether lunch will be provided for your children either on the trip or when they get to camp, or if you should provide packed lunches for them.  Understand the carry-on limitations, particularly in regard to sports equipment.  Finally, be on time to the departure point.  Of course, people inevitably get stuck in traffic or lost (as is particularly the case for new pickup locations), but try to get a sense of where you’re going ahead of time and leave a bit early if necessary.

1. Wish your children an unbelievable,  happy summer.  They’re going to have one!  But knowing you’re supporting them 100% just makes it that much better— particularly for first time campers.  Remind them of all the fun they’re going to have.  Let them know that you can’t wait to hear about it in their letters, and that you’ll be monitoring the camp’s website daily for blogs and photographs in addition to sending them letters and email.

So You’ve Got a Golden Ticket…Ready, Set, Go Part 3

Finally, we close our trilogy of camp counselor tips with one last blog dedicated to you, future camp counselors…

Get ready to build your resume!  Working as a camp counselor at a summer camp will provide you with some invaluable experience that will serve you well far beyond this summer.  Many HR Managers in lots of different fields find summer camp experience very impressive because of the level of dedication and commitment required.  Summer Camp also demonstrates that you can adapt well to new cultures, which is essential for success in many corporate environments.  In fact, many corporate executives were once campers and/or camp counselors themselves.  If you’re an education major, it goes without saying that experience working directly with children is a huge plus on a new teacher’s resume.

One final warning: As a summer camp counselor, you will act goofy, dress funny, and find yourself doing all sorts of crazy things you’d probably never ordinarily do…and you’ll have a blast while doing them.  It’s what summer camp is all about.  But what other job can you get where being an expert in painting faces, making signs, inventing outrageous costumes, and acting silly are all just part of your typical workday?

So there you have it!  A few suggestions for preparing yourself for a great and successful summer.  Have fun!

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