Camp Laurel Blog

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Bringing Tradition To Today: Making Summers Extraordinary

Every day at summer camp is exciting and busy, but every camper looks forward to those special camp events and traditions that are unique to each camp. I still have vivid memories of our camp talent show and the wonderful skit our staff put together using a sheet, a bright flash light and their own shadows. It took place thirty years ago, but it still brings a smile to my face, and that one memory triggers a hundred others.

Every camp has its own special traditions that bring the entire camp together for friendly competition, unique bonding activities, wonderful gourmet treats, and a chance to show off talents and teamwork. Here’s a quick summary of what makes Camp Laurel’s traditions so special.

Quest is a tradition that goes back 60 years. During the first week of summer, campers are divided into 18 different teams and they compete in fun and zany activities all day long. The winners are treated to a gourmet Chinese dinner at the home of directors Jem and Debbie. We usually think of big all-camp activities happening at the end of the summer, but Quest brings campers together within days of their arrival, kicking off a summer of friendship and bonding, gathering force as the camp progresses.

Laurel also hosts College Days and Lobster and Steak Banquet. College Days (which lasts five days!) is Laurel’s answer to the camp color war and includes spirit, fun, games, tug ‘o war, swim meets, track meets, staff competitions, Apache relays, silent meals, treasure hunts, dance competitions and much more. Laurel then finishes camp with a flourish by hosting a meal with lobster direct from the sea. After all, who could come to camp in Maine and not love lobster? The campers finish their summer with speeches, traditional songs and a night sleeping under the stars.

Such special events are the memory-makers of summer camp, and if you decide to send your children to Camp Laurel, the staff, counselors and bunkmates will come together in friendships that will last a lifetime!

Olivia

Off and Running…

What an incredible start to the summer! Our campers are finally here and we’ve jumped right into full activity. Everyone arrived safely on Saturday and met their counselors and cabinmates. Saturday night we had a relaxing and fun opening campfire where members of the Camp Laurel family shared stories and played music. On Sunday, we distributed everyone’s schedules and dove into camp! By Monday, camp was buzzing with activity from waterskiing in the lake to throwing pots in ceramics to playing soccer on the fields. It sure is great to be back!

We Can’t Wait to Welcome Campers!

Wow this week of orientation just flew by! Our staff spent the last week getting to know one another and learning what being a Camp Laurel counselor is all about. What a great time it’s been! The staff campfire showed us what incredible talent we have with us this summer. The ladies of Kennebec took home the trophy in the annual Campus Competes where we played Captain’s Coming, Flashlight Sing and other great camp games. Well done ladies! We spent all day yesterday unpacking camper bags and making the cabins look great so everyone will feel right at home when they arrive. Today, our staff had the day off so they’ll be nice and rested when the campers arrive tomorrow. Only one more day! We can’t wait!

Life, Unplugged

I don’t know about you, but my kids are constantly plugged into something, whether they are texting their friends (does anyone talk anymore?), bopping along to Lady Gaga’s latest, updating their Facebook status, researching a school project online and creating a multi-media presentation, or playing games on my iPhone while I desperately try to finish a conversation at the vet’s office.

Some days I can win a battle or two (no texting at dinner!) but the war is ongoing. And honestly, I’m not the best example. That iPhone I mentioned is never far from reach, and right now I’m surfing online, listening to my own brand of pop music, answering text messages as they come in and writing this blog.

Don’t you wish there was a place where we could all live life unplugged? We adults may not be so lucky; but for our kids, that place is summer camp.

Knowing that someone out there is cultivating a culture of back-to-basics, low-tech life is an irresistible draw for me as a parent. My husband and I love the outdoors and frequently take our kids on short camping trips, but these offer only a short break from the world of “screen time”. Monday morning comes and before the sleeping bags air out, we’re all rushing to see what awaits us in our email inboxes.

As a mom, I worry about the long-term effects of all of these tech ways of communicating. I’m not alone. Several studies have suggested that kids who spend too much time plugged in lose some skills for interpersonal interaction. Let’s fight back.

At camp, social interaction is done the old fashioned way – face-to-face. Campers and counselors alike leave their cell phones at home and get back to a simpler life, when there is an art to conversation. If you were a camper, think back to your best memories. All of mine involve revolve around interpersonal interactions you just can’t get through an email: telling stories around a camp fire; sharing hushed secrets late into the night; telling the worst jokes you ever heard; huddling together to decide the best capture-the-flag strategy.

Friendship doesn’t need a high-tech interface. Don’t think your kids will get with the program? Check out this Seventeen article where teen girls share their favorite summer camp memories. Not one involves a cell phone, I promise!

Thanks to Pink_Sherbert_Photography and eron_gpsfs for the photos!

Olivia

Is Your Child Ready for Summer Camp?

You’ve collected the brochures, visited the web sites, maybe you’ve visited a camp or two. You may have even have marked off a few weeks in July on your calendar. But you did it in pencil, because you just can’t get rid of that nagging question – is my child, my baby (sniff) ready for overnight camp?
There is no magic formula or age for camp, and every child is unique; but there are some tried and true signs of readiness. So before you pack the tennis racquets and the swimsuits, start by answering these five questions:

1. Is your child interested in and asking about camp?

Spring has just sprung – if your child is already asking about going away to camp, take that as a good sign. Children who are self-motivated and interested in attending camp have a greater chance of being successful once they arrive. Point your child to this: It’s My Life, a PBS web site for tweens, which has advice specifically for kids headed to camp. The site even encourages kids to talk to their families first. What mom doesn’t love that tidbit?

2. Can your child manage personal care needs and the tasks of daily living without mom around? On their own?

Overnight camp involves independent living. Does your child get dressed for school without your help? Can he/she fix themselves a snack? Take a shower? Remember to brush their teeth? If they still need help or daily reminders, you don’t have to keep them home (remember, your child will have great camp counselors to care for them), but you may want to encourage more self-reliance, a good quality to have at home, too.

3. How long has your child been away overnight without you? Was it a positive experience?

If your child loves sleepovers and slumber parties (at other people’s houses) transitioning to sleep-away camp may be a breeze. A week at grandma’s isn’t the same as three or four weeks at summer-camp; but if an overnight without you has never worked, do some trial runs before registering your child for camp. My own personal role model, Supernanny, has some great tips for making sleepovers a breeze.

4. Does your child have a healthy respect for adults and listen to instructions?

Life will be much easier for everyone if your child is good at following instructions and is willing to go along with camp rules. Just keep in mind that our kids often reserve their worst behavior for us, their parents, bless them. If your child is well-behaved in school, with coaches and other adults in positions of authority, they should do fine at camp.

5. Is your child willing to try new things?

Life comes at you fast, Ferris Bueller said, and the same is true for summer camp. Each day is filled with new people to meet, new surroundings, and new activities to try. For kids willing to give it a go, there’s no better place to spread their wings than summer camp.

The Bottom Line

No one knows your child like you do – even after you’ve completed all the quizzes and checklists and asked all your friends about their kids’ experiences, the best thing to do is trust your instincts. If you feel it in your gut that your child can handle overnight camp, you’re probably right. Get ready… summer is on its way!

Thanks to stevedepolo and peterblanchard for their pictures!

Olivia, Guest Blogger

Camp is … just around the corner!

We’re so excited to begin the May countdown to camp. The staff is hired…the fields are green…the new Hockey Arena is just about finished….and we are ready to start moving beds and cubbies getting everything set for arrival day. Believe it or not, our first group of “Pre Camp Staff” heads to Maine this week to work on opening preparations.

Claire has been busy in the Westport office communicating with the 250 plus counselors and staff members who begin their journey soon from all over the country…and the world…to Readfield. We have counselors coming from more than 50 colleges throughout the United States. In early June, the Campus Leaders come to work with myself, Debbie, Peter and Claire for a 6 day “Campus Leader Workshop.” They are followed by the entire Adventure Staff (those are the folks who lead our outdoor tripping, ropes, climbing and mountain biking programs) for their orientation program with Inner Quest and SOLO Wilderness Expeditions (these are two groups from Virginia and New Hampshire which have been leading our adventure Orientation programs for 15 years!). Next to arrive is the smallcrafts staff (sailing and windsurfing) who will jump right into their training with Warren, Holly and Geoff….and then the Department Heads come on June 14 before all counselors hit the scene on June 17.

We’ll check in from time to time to keep you updated with news from camp.

Back in Connecticut, we’re so thrilled to announce the arrival and new addition to our family — Tess Alexandra Sollinger. Tess will, of course, be with us at camp this summer. Tess was born on April 22nd and she and Debbie are doing GREAT! She can’t wait to meet everyone (camper and counselors). Needless to say, Anabel and Madeline are thrilled to have another Sollinger girl in the family and can’t wait to show her Camp Laurel in action come June.

As always, Debbie joins me in sending her warmest and best regards.

Jem

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