Camp Laurel South Blog

How to Survive Digital Detox at Camp

Ah camp, with all its beautiful sounds — shining stars on a clear night, the whistle of the wind in the trees, the splashing of campers jumping in the lake — one thing you won’t hear: the gentle “ping” of Instagram notifications. A summer at camp means digital detox!

Depending on how technology-dependent a camper or counselor is, that’s either great news or serious cause for concern. Don’t worry — even if you miss checking Instagram every five seconds, you’re bound to benefit from a little analog “me-time”. After all, countless studies have shown that constant social media and internet exposure can have negative effects on things like concentration, memory and even basic happiness.

So here are a few tips for keeping sane without your phone in your pocket.

Keep a Journal

Journaling is your number-one weapon in the fight against digital withdrawal. People have been using journaling as a way of daily reflection long before Facebook’s “what’s on your mind” prompt or Twitter’s “What’s happening?” Think of it as a Facebook update for your future self.

Write Letters or Postcards

We often seem to forget that email isn’t the only way to keep in touch. Receiving a piece of snail mail in the mailbox brings a smile to anyone’s day. Just doodle a picture and throw in a “miss you!” on a postcard and drop it in the camp mail. Done!

Stay in the Moment

Staying in the moment is easier said than done. Being able to “quickly check Instagram” can turn your phone into a social crutch. Camp offers you a chance to let that bad habit go — and when you can’t look at your phone during down time, you’ll find yourself making real connections with the people around you. Next time you want to share “what’s on your mind,” try sharing your thoughts with a person instead of your Facebook.

Social media can be great and there’s a time and place for it; but you’ll be surprised at how great you feel when you take a little digital detox.

How Camp Teaches You to Always Plan Ahead

Going to camp is more than just an unforgettable time away from home with your friends — it’s also an investment in your skills, character and future. Camp teaches campers critical life skills including organization, leadership and time management.

 

Here are just a few ways that campers learn to plan ahead while enjoying the fun and games at Camp Laurel South!

LS6Navigating Camp Activities

Practicing how to plan time to get around camp between activities, and how to organize and bring the things you need to complete each activity doesn’t just prepare campers for their lacrosse, crafts and sailing periods — it prepares them for the hectic pace of life outside camp; from elementary school all the way through college!

Days at camp tend to be packed with activities and being on time for each activity ensures that you can maximize your fun. Learning to balance so many activities in a busy day is certainly one of camp’s biggest challenges, but with a little bit of practice everyone gets the hang of it.  Of course – your counselors are always there to help!

Planning Campfire and Talent Show Acts

Most campers choose to participate in either a campfire or a talent show at some point during their summer. Usually, the acts are created and practiced during free time and rest periods. Campers have to find a time in their daily schedule to plan their act and practice with other campers.

The incremental process of preparing performances helps campers build experience planning group projects and breaking down large, complex homework assignments into more manageable pieces, so they can complete a little each day. The secret to camp performances is taking it one small step at a time.

Looking to the Future

Camp is filled with experiences that campers look forward to. From Spirit Days break to the MooseBowl, there are plenty of events that campers are excited about. It is this looking to the future that allows campers to develop the ability to anticipate.

While not everything may work out the first time — it’s not a big deal to be late to an activity or to misjudge when the Spirit Days break will be  — you will eventually hone your skills, and be able to apply your experiences to the rest of your life. Campers love to live in the moment, but they always have one eye on the future. With a little bit of planning, every second of camp is a blast!

5 At-Home Activities for When You Miss Camp

It happens to the best of us. Every year.

Summer ends, school begins, and nothing feels quite as fun or exciting as those precious weeks of fun and freedom at Camp Laurel South…you’re campsick!

Luckily, summer is not too far away. Here are a few of our favorite year-round activities to bring that camp feeling home!

1. Make S’mores

Nothing says “camp” quite like campfires, and nothing says “campfires” quite like s’mores. Luckily, making s’mores at home is easy — you can even do it over a stovetop. (Although a backyard campfire is better if you have the chance!)

If you’re making s’mores using a stove, here’s a good recipe:

Ingredients:

Graham Crackers, Milk Chocolate, Marshmallows

Place marshmallows on graham crackers in a baking pan and toast under broiler for a few seconds until golden brown. Remove and finish the s’mores with chocolate pieces and graham cracker; the heat from the marshmallows will melt the chocolate…yum!

2. Go Backyard Camping

Camping is super fun, but sometimes you’re too busy to go hiking into the wilderness to do it. Backyard camping to the rescue! The best part about backyard camping is that the house is close by if anybody needs anything; enjoy your night under the stars…in the comfort of your own backyard.

3. Send Letters to Camp Friends

The best parts about camp are the friends you make. Even if they don’t happen to live near you, keeping in touch by “snail mail” can be a fun way to stay up to date on your friend’s school years. Who doesn’t love to get a letter these days?

So bust out those craft supplies and get creative with letters and postcards…and of course there’s always email and chat for those of us who just can’t wait for the old-fashioned post office.

4. Enjoy a Nature HikeLS3

Another part of camp that many of us miss during the year is the rejuvenating feeling of being in the great outdoors. The wind in the trees, the quiet of the woods — it’s all a part of what makes camp so special.

So if you find yourself missing nature, you don’t have to wait until next summer to enjoy it; just get your family together for a trip out to the nearest park or natural area. All you need is a Sunday afternoon, sturdy hiking shoes and a sense of adventure.

Plus, it’s a great chance to put some of those outdoor skills you learned at camp to good use!

5. Join a New Activity

Last but not least, always remember to challenge yourself. People tend to think of camp as the place for trying new things, and school as being a little boring by comparison…but it doesn’t have to be that way!

One thing camp teaches you is that variety is the spice of life, so when you have the chance to try something new, just go for it. Chances are you can make time for a new sport, dance lessons, band, writing a book, becoming a rock star and whatever else it is that you’re interested in. All you have to do is step up to the challenge and believe in yourself — just like at camp.

So, even though next summer is not too far away…you might as well have a blast while you wait!

8 Ways Everyone Can Tell You Went to Camp

1. You Want to Play Outside No Matter the Weather
The rain-or-shine attitude is something that sets campers apart. Whether you are going rock climbing or waterskiing, you sure aren’t going to miss out on the time of your life because of a little liquid sunshine!!

2. You Always Want to Work as a Team
Summer camp is a crash-course in teamwork and quickly turns even those with “quieter” personalities into leaders and team players. From meals to playtime to campfires, campers do everything together and quickly discover that the more you collaborate, the more fun you can have.

3. You’re Always Singing and Clowning Around
You can take the camper out of camp, but you can never take the camp songs out of the camper. Repeat-after-me melodies are a tradition as old as camp itself that turn goofy rhymes into songs that get stuck in your head forever…for counselors and campers alike.

4. You Don’t Mind Getting a Little Dirty
Summer camp is all about having fun in the great outdoors, and that means running around in the woods, jumping in the lake and getting grass stains on your jeans.  Especially for campers coming from the big city, getting comfortable with mud, bugs and insects means getting out of your comfort zone… and having a blast while doing so.

5. You Get Along with People Who are Different than You
Diversity is strength, and camp is one of the most diverse places around. You never know who’s going to be in your age group, and no matter where everyone comes from, you all have to work together both in and out of activities.

6. You Love to Send “Snail-Mail”IMG_6285
Just like the owl post over breakfast in Harry Potter, mail time at camp is exciting for everyone! Parents love getting updates from camp, and campers love getting a little piece of home. In a world where paper is being used less and less, there’s nothing like getting a post card in the winter from your best camp friend.

7. You Know How to Start a Fire (and Roast a Perfect Marshmallow!)
Not everyone knows how to start a fire in the digital era, but as a camper you know a thing or two about getting that tinder to snap, crackle and pop. Chances are you even have a great campfire story and know a thing or two about crafting the perfect s’more!

8. You Want to Be a Counselor When You “Grow Up”
The number one sign of a lifelong camper is when you’ve been going to camp for so many seasons that you become too old to be a camper — so you become a counselor! Being a camp counselor is one of the best jobs in the world and a chance to share all your years of camp wisdom with the next generation. You’re more than just a camper…you’re a role model!

What I Learned about Friendship from Camp

You know that “first day of school” feeling? I’m sure you do. Some people love it while others find it quite scary. The chance to explore a new place, try new things, and make new friends can be simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying.

How about that “first day of camp” feeling? I’m going to be honest with you, I was a shy kid, and the first day of camp I was worried. So many new faces! So many new activities! You mean we’re staying here for three-and-a-half weeks?!

Making Friends at Camp is EasyLS (2)

Well, it turned out my fears were completely unfounded; I quickly learned that it’s practically
impossible not to make new friends at camp. From the team games to the intimate campfire circles, sticking to yourself isn’t really an option. There are no TV shows or computer games to distract or isolate you!

But camp doesn’t just teach you how to make friends; it teaches you how to keep them.

Learning to Be a Good Friend

Summer camp is a crash course in socializing. Spending weeks together with the same group teaches campers how to interact with each other in ways that you can’t really learn at school. You aren’t just playing games at camp; you’re learning how to live communally. That means sharing, communicating, and understanding different perspectives. In a sense, camp helps teach kids to be a good friend to their peers.

Learning to be a good friend means learning to give as much as you take. Everyone has rough days, and camp is no exception. Cheering up a friend who doesn’t feel like playing games or joining in the campfire can be tough, but every camper does it. Why? Because they know that their camp friends would gladly lend them the same support.

Friends that Last Forever

The camp experience is as intense as it is fleeting. Similar experiences don’t come around often, so it’s no surprise that campers often become life-long friends. When you find yourself missing summer, your camp friends are always there to remind you that you aren’t alone. Only someone who was there with you can truly understand what the nostalgia is all about — it’s an experience that links you forever.

The one sad part about camp friendships is that when camp is over, you have to say goodbye. While goodbyes may be tough, next summer is always right around the corner!

Great Outdoors…Great Skills

I’ve always been surprised by the wide range of lessons that campers take away from the outdoor adventure activities at camp. Some campers benefit most from building a sense of self-reliance and resourcefulness. Others particularly enjoy the non-competitive aspects of the activities, which combine the adrenaline of sports with the positivity of teamwork. Regardless of interests, all campers benefit from outdoor education. Nature, like adventure, is universally meaningful — and universally fun.

Personal DevelopmentLS1

A camper must learn to trust themselves before they learn to trust others, and outdoor skill-building is one of the greatest ways to build self-confidence. Survival skills like fire-starting and shelter-building teach campers that strength comes from within. Not to mention, knowing how to pitch a tent and read a map teaches campers how to problem solve and advocate for themselves.

Teamwork vs. Competition

Teamwork is one of the core values at camp, and adventures in the great outdoors provide challenges that build trust and communication skills. Outdoor adventure requires a high level of teamwork, even though the objective isn’t “beating” another team. There are no winners and losers when the goal is to make a campfire or build a cool shelter, instead campers work together for the benefit of all. Campers learn to work together to conquer a challenge.

LS2Finding our Place in the World

When it comes to outdoor adventure at camp, the “outdoor” side is equally as important as the “adventure” side. Adventure is an important component, but the raw experience of being in nature is what makes seemingly simple activities like hiking and camping so memorable. Particularly for campers coming from the city, a reminder of how small we are in the grand scheme of things can be immeasurably valuable. The great outdoors are important for everyone. After all, the beautiful Maine wilderness and crisp air are a huge part of what makes Camp Laurel such a special place.

Can-do Attitude

Regardless of the aspect of outdoor adventure that captures a camper’s imagination most, they are guaranteed to walk away with a new sense of empowerment. We live in a fast-paced world and the outdoor experiences at camp prepare campers to tackle the world with creativity, determination and humility. Just get outside and try it!

Living in the moment at Camp Laurel South: A Counselors Perspective.

 

It was midway through the third week of summer camp when I suddenly realized I didn’t know what day it was.

…Or what week it was.

You know what the craziest part is? That didn’t make me feel stressed at all! On the contrary, I hadn’t been so happy in months.

After all, who has time to balance a calendar when you’re spending all day and night away from the computer, playing games in the sun and making new friends?IMG_6403

Summer camp has a way of making you “live in the moment” — so much so that losing track of time is totally normal. In fact, it’s pretty much expected by campers and counselors alike.

After a long school year of classes, homework and tests, let me tell you: it’s an incredible feeling to just let it all go.

“Live in the moment” may be a common piece of advice, but truth be told it’s a difficult nugget of wisdom to follow without practice. Back home, the phone was always ringing, the deadlines were always looming, and the stakes always felt high. It wasn’t until I started spending my summers at camp that I started to understand what “living in the moment” really meant.

…It didn’t mean throwing my phone in the lake, or not worrying about grades. It meant simply being okay with my best try — keeping my mind on the task at hand, rather than always worrying about the next one.

Camp is the perfect place to practice living in the moment, because there is simply less to worry about. It’s hard to think about the past or future when the present is packed with activities, sports, campfires, and all the rest.

So you see, losing track of time at summer camp is pretty understandable!

However, this isIMG_0504n’t to say that anybody is disorganized. Far from it; if anything, camp will improve your time management skills and help you get used to staying on schedule. The big difference is that everybody is in it together, and it’s not the end of the world if somebody is late once in awhile. Nothing encourages being on time quite like the activity you’re rushing to that’s so much fun!

There were many days that I spent on my feet running around for 12-15 hours straight, and yet it always felt like there just wasn’t enough time in the day. The saying “time is relative” is definitely accurate at summer camp. If time is crawling during an SAT prep test, then it’s flying when you’re at camp, taking a first shot at wakeboarding!

Honestly, the only date any of us worried about was the end of camp, when we’d all have to pack up our things and embark on our journeys back home. Leaving camp is always bittersweet, but we all left with a profound new outlook on life. We learned what it truly meant to “live in the moment,” and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget. Thank you camp!

Camp Changed My Kid

IMG_9280I was nervous and excited to send my son Connor to camp this year. Connor’s best friend attended camp the summer before and could not stop raving about it. So after plenty of research and discussions, we decided to let Connor spend the summer away. I won’t lie, my “mommy heart” broke a little when he practically jumped out of the car to get on the plane and didn’t look back, but I was pretty sure we were making the right decision. In August, when he got home, I was 100% sure we made the right decision. The happy, smiley kid who jumped into our backseat was…different.

I couldn’t pin point many differences right away, except for the excitement in his eyes and voice when he talked about all of his new friends and cracked himself up remembering inside jokes and hilarious conversations with his new buddies. One of the main things I noticed when we got home was how helpful he had become. Without me asking, he would make his bed, take his plates to the sink, offer to bring in the groceries or even simply ask if he could get us anything from the kitchen since he was going that way. I noticed a new sense of thoughtfulness when he came back. Not that he was heartless before by any means, but I definitely noticed a change in his willingness to help others and think of others before himself. As the days passed, my heart exploded with joy to see him excited to text, chat and FaceTime with his new friends. He went to camp a little reserved, and came back social and confident. I loved seeing him interact with his peers, I loved seeing how he was truly listening to what others had to say, and how he felt confident contributing to the conversation.IMG_9987

Just today, he told me he was going to try out for soccer at school, a sport he had never played before camp. He said he was encouraged to try it at camp and played it almost every day while he was there. As a mom, I am blown away at what positive changes have come from sending my son to camp. I knew he would make friends, try a new activity or two and learn to live both independently and with a group, but I had no idea about the social skills, character development, relational growth and boost in confidence that spending a few weeks away could create.

Camp changed my son for the better, and we are both looking forward to the growth and changes that will happen next summer at camp!

Teachers Love Having Campers as Students

IMG_2455 When we asked a teacher in Florida what his ideal student looks like, he said: “Someone who is respectful, creative and focused.” When we asked a teacher in New Jersey, she said  “Someone who isn’t afraid to ask questions, who wants to learn and who tries their hardest,” And when we asked a teacher from Pennsylvania, she said: “Someone who has great time management skills, is a leader and is responsible.” What we learned from talking to these teachers is that all across the country, teachers enjoy having responsible, respectful and creative students in their classrooms. And what do you know… Camps help students develop all of these skills and so much more. It’s our theory that when teachers ask students what they did over the summer, they’re not just asking because it’s the standard “welcome back to school question,” but because they are secretly trying to decipher which students spent their summer growing, learning and improving. The bottom line: Teachers love students who spend their summers at camp.

Spending the summer at camp turns followers into leaders, shyness into confidence and laziness into responsibility. Camp teaches children how to work well with others, how to think critically and how to solve problems. It allows students to try new things, ask questions and be vulnerable in order to improve themselves. It teaches time management, organization and respect for peers and authority. The list goes on and on. Every day, campers are learning valuable life skills that easily transfer over to their daily lives. They think they’re just playing football with friends, but at the same time they are learning how to communicate with others, how to be a good sport and the importance of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. When they make real connections with people they’d usually never talk to, they are learning to ignore stereotypes and appreciate diversity. Spending the summer at camp is day-after-day of life lessons, disguised as swimming, playing, singing, dancing, biking, hiking and exploring.

IMG_2851Teachers look for leaders in the classroom, someone who can follow instructions and encourage their peers to do the same. It is with these students that teacher form trusting relationships, which can work in the students benefit all year long. These leaders are built at camp, and their skills aren’t just confined to camp or the school campus, they become leaders in every aspect of their life.

Parents can be confident that their child will leave camp a better version of themselves. These students, who enter the new school year with a strong sense of identity, work ethic and high self-esteem, will be an important contributor to their classrooms.

If you were to ask a teacher what they REALLY wanted in an ideal student, most of them would say “Anyone who spent their summer at camp!”

The Blink of An Eye

OU2C0043As kids grow into teens, as teens grow into adults and as adults grow older, a funny thing happens: time goes by faster and faster. In the blink of an eye, you can think about your 10th birthday party, your first day at school, high school, college, graduation, your wedding, having children, even the birth of your grandkids. The circle of life. Camp, perhaps, is one place that mirrors the circle of life with even greater speed. But while the days and nights fly by, the memories linger and last forever.

Who can’t remember stepping off the plane or bus into your camp director’s waiting arms? Meeting your counselor for the first time? Feeling the warmth of security and the familiarity of a hug, high five or a fist-bump. Then you meet your cabinmates, Campus Leaders and more friends in your age group. Your camp circle grows, your friends increase, you branch out and try new things, meet new people, eat new foods. You experiment.

_MG_5687Then there’s the routine we settle into. The A and B Days. The special events and S Day Trips. Overnight Camping Trips, Intercamps and Theatre Shows. Camp Brother and Sister activities. Quest and Spirit Days.

Before you know it, we’re at the Final Ceremony. And just like that, in the blink of an eye — it’s over.  But there’s one thing that never leaves us: our memories.

While camp comes and goes by so fast — we always have the stories, shared experiences and dreams of camp forever. Our memories. They’ll always be with us and we will cherish them forever.

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