Camp Laurel South Blog

Unplugged

IMG_1925If your child is like most children, he or she tweets their way through breakfast, texts at lunch, likes, comments and Snapchats through dinner, post selfies to Instagram before bedtime and wakes up to do it all again the next day. No wonder they stay up late and want to sleep until noon…  They’re busy.

Research shows kids spend up to 7.5 hours A DAY with their eyes glued to a screen and their fingers frantically pecking away at keyboards. Kids growing up in an age of widely accessible and socially acceptable technology can get lost in the sea of text messages and status updates. Social media can be a welcoming environment for bullies, as it’s easy to become detached from empathy and consequences when you’re behind a screen. Kids do and say things they wouldn’t normally do or say when they’re plugged in. When kids only speak their mind anonymously or try to be someone they aren’t to impress others, they’re lacking opportunities to develop self-confidence and character. They may have 1,000 friends or followers on social media, but are slowly losing the ability to walk up to someone and shake their hand or settle conflict in a responsible and socially acceptable way. Social media isn’t bad in itself, it’s a great tool to keep connected and learn about the world.  But, when we let it take the place of our child’s social development, we’re doing them a huge disservice.DSC_0124-2

Which is why, at Laurel South, we’re unplugged. Campers leave their cellphones at home and enjoy a summer without texting, emailing or using social media. At first, campers may consider this unfathomable, but as they dive deep into the activities that Laurel South offers, they will reevaluate their dependence on technology. They will interact with others in a meaningful way. They will improve their written communication skills by writing letters home to loved ones and feel the excitement of receiving a handwritten note from friends and family – a feeling you just don’t get when you check your inbox. Without a phone in their pocket to tempt them, they will be able to really focus and listen to what other campers are saying. In turn, when they’re sharing a story or experience, they won’t be talking to a group of friends preoccupied with their screens.

DSC_0222Campers who arrive shy and a little reserved will leave with new found  confidence based on their accomplishments over the summer. They’ll be able to look back on the summer when they learned to swim, conquered stage fright, made new friends and discovered their love for a new activity. Campers will be able to apply that self-confidence into their lives back home. They’ll no longer need to hide behind a screen in order to communicate with their peers.

As a parent, you can find comfort in the fact that while your child is away, they’ll be learning valuable life skills that don’t involve how many words they can text a minute, or how many likes they can get on their Instagram picture. The skills they learned while they are unplugged will stay with them for a lifetime, and that’s better than being retweeted by a celebrity.

Creativity at Camp

IMG_2398A wise old man named Albert with crazy hair and a mustache once said: “Creativity is contagious; pass it on.”

At Laurel South, we’re focused on following the advice of Mr. Einstein by fostering our campers’ love of and enthusiasm for creativity. By giving campers the opportunity to express themselves through art, music, dance and theatre, we’re uncovering hidden talents and gifts that all campers have – and many have no idea they have it.  In a world where kids are trying so hard to be “cool,” they can quickly lose their sense of wonder and imagination, and their creative side can be stunted. These days, as we know, younger children trade coloring books for iPads, or choose to create an Instagram account over choreographing a dance in the living room. What a plain and boring world we’d live in if the imagination and creativity of our children is not encouraged and embraced!

IMG_3866Laurel South gives campers a wide range of activities and options to explore their inner artist. Campers can try their hand at Studio Art or Arts and Crafts, or even Culinary Arts and Music. For those who have already discovered their creative strengths, experienced staff help campers hone their skills and allow them to spend time doing things they love. For campers who feel that they’ve never been good at a particular art form, camp is a safe place to try without fear of failure or embarrassment. It’s also great for children’s self-esteem to try something new and to succeed. There are many other forms of creative expression, such as Musical Theatre and Hip-Hop, Jazz or Modern Dance. These options combine music, physical movement and artistic expression, and allow campers to conquer stage fright by performing in front of an audience. Class clowns may find a creative outlet by trying improv and comedy, while the more “techy”, behind the scenes kids will enjoy working in lighting, costuming, make-up and stage construction and design. Each of these Inter-Arts activities combines the unique, personal and intimate aspects of creative arts, while also encouraging campers to work together as a team and as a support system for each other.

IMG_1900Regardless of how each camper expresses his or her self, there is a creative outlet at camp where campers may flourish.

When a camper makes something from nothing, whether it’s a ceramic mug, a work of art or a new dance, they gain self-confidence and feel a sense of empowerment that’s hard to find anywhere else. It’s possible that the strengths and gifts they discover within themselves at camp can launch them into a hobby or even a profession they might enjoy the rest of their lives. They also learn how to appreciate the unique creativity in other people, which results in more accepting, well-rounded and open minded individuals

Discovering, understanding and expressing creativity does wonders for the growing character and sense of self in a young camper. When campers realize that it’s cool to be creative and expressive, a whole world of opportunities is open to them. We can only hope that once campers tap into their own creative side, they pass it along to their friends and peers in the outside world, causing a chain reaction of imagination, artistic expression and creativity: just as good ol’ Albert suggested.

Healthy Habits at Camp

DSC_0172When you combine the ease and affordability of fast food and the ability to record TV to be watched at anytime – the result is kids who are spending a lot of time eating junk and watching junk. Children are spending more time in front of a screen than they are playing outside. Sometimes the only body part getting a workout is their thumbs from playing video games or their index finger from pointing and clicking for hours at a time. Lack of exercise and accessibility to unhealthy foods is what has caused childhood obesity to skyrocket in the last 30 years.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of kids and teenagers were overweight in 2012. The physical risks of childhood obesity are endless: joint problems, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. All of this leaves children vulnerable to various types of cancers as they get older. Not only can early obesity lead to a lifetime of bad habits that are very hard to break, but the effects on a child’s already very fragile self-esteem and body image can be devastating. Children who are overweight and self-conscious are less likely to participate in team events or sports, try out for a new sport or activity, or be proactive in making new friends. Being overweight can be a lonely and scary time for kids and teens, and it is absolutely preventable.

DSC_0155 2At Laurel South, we take the health of each camper very seriously. We have been known to sneak exercise into the daily lives of campers by giving it a new name: FUN. We’ve also found a top secret, patented way to keep campers from eating unhealthy foods all the time: We don’t give them access to calorie filled foods throughout the day. It’s novel concept, we’re very aware.

The menu at Laurel South varies every day. There is always fruit available, and the salad bar is always an option at lunch and dinner. Homemade soups and plenty of healthy options are always available. Whether your child needs a menu that is gluten, dairy, soy, nut or shellfish free, or they have other specific food allergies, a menu of delicious options can be created for them so they can enjoy everything camp has to offer.

IMG_9886Even if campers do splurge on mac and cheese, chicken sandwiches or get creative at the pasta bar, they will easily work off all of those calories in the endless physical activities that camp has to offer. A game of flag football, an afternoon of kayaking (talk about an arm work out!), an early morning climb up the climbing wall, an impromptu basketball game vs. the neighboring cabin or an hour dancing away in Dance are just a few ways campers can keep their heart rates up while having fun with new friends. Exercise disguised as fun means campers stay active all the time! When campers are so busy running from activity to activity, they don’t have time to mindlessly munch on snacks. Plenty of water keeps campers hydrated as they tackle another day of go, go, go!

Laurel South wants the best for every camper on every level, including their physical health, which is why we are focused on instilling a positive attitude toward healthy decisions. A mindset focused on healthy food choices and staying active is an excellent value to instill in children. By encouraging children to eat right and exercise daily, they are creating habits that will benefit them as they grow, and allow them to live long and healthy lives.

Camp Jobs: Better Than an Internship

IMG_1281There are an estimated 1.2 million summer camp staff in the United States, and the numbers continue to grow steadily. Now, you might think, “Why should I pursue a camp job over an internship?” Well, working at a camp gives you the opportunity to earn more than just cash. Internships are all about gaining skills and that’s exactly what working at a camp provides. The question is, how is working at a camp better than an internship?

The biggest reason: Working at a camp helps you develop skills that will not only build your resume, but will last you a long time to come. You have an opportunity to lead from the front and solve problems, in addition to fulfilling your responsibilities with utmost sincerity. Working at camp offers real-life experiences that cannot be learned behind an office desk.

DSC_0070-2There are many benefits you can gain by working at camp:

  • You develop a better self-understanding
  • You enhance personal growth
  • You master problem-solving skills
  • You have a positive and significant influence on the lives of children
  • You expand/develop a network of peer relations.

How is Working at Camp Better than an Internship?

It Builds Character along with Your Resume

If you do not have character, your resume is pretty much useless. If you make a comparison, you will notice that most interns count the minutes until they are finally done with work. On the other hand, camp counselors and camp staff dedicate their summers. Why do they do it? They enjoy what they do! When you work at a camp, you learn to dedicate your time for things besides yourself, as you have the opportunity to deal with adults, kids and other counselors.

It’s Not Only about the Money

When you work at a camp, you not only show up every morning because you are earning and saving good money, you show up because your job involves spreading smiles and happiness. You are not confined to an undersized desk, relentlessly waiting for payday. Instead, the beautiful scenery of Maine is your office and putting smiles on campers’ faces outweighs the thought of the next paycheck.

You Make Kids Smile Instead of Customers

It’s not uncommon to come across interns pretending to be extra nice so they can make a sale. A camp job, however, revolves around campers and making them happy. Getting an authentic laugh or smile out of a camper is much more enjoyable than selling a particular product to a random customer.

IMG_1803You Learn to Be Selfless Not Selfish

While interns spend most of their time pretending to be busy or surfing the web, every minute you spend at camp is devoted to the campers. Each minute of your time is spent for others, not just for yourself. After all, have you ever seen an intern worrying about the progress of their company they work for, as much as they do for themselves?

So, if you have been considering a job at camp, why not go for it? You will have the experience of a lifetime, meet staff and campers from around the world, and gain experience that will be beneficial for years to come.

 

Outside Play at Summer Camp

A recent phenomenon child psychologists have been focusing on is environmental recreation. What is environmental recreation? It’s as simple as getting children into the great outdoors! Playing outside improves vision, promotes social skills, increases attention span, produces vitamin D, prevents future bone damage and reduces the chance of heart related diseases, diabetes and stress. Playing outside not only improves a child’s physical abilities, but improves their mind and spirit as well.

DSC_0126It’s no secret that today’s kids don’t spend nearly as much time playing outside as their parents did growing up. There are fewer kickball games with the neighborhood kids and more video games. There are fewer kids racing home when the streetlights come on, sweaty and dirty from hours running and playing outside. As we all know, many kids today are glued to a TV or computer screen until bedtime. The benefits for kids who play outside are endless, and when your child spends their summer at camp, they will develop a love and appreciation for the great outdoors.

When campers are participating in adventure activities, they are stepping out of their comfort zone AND surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature. When they are waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing or swimming, they are keeping their minds and bodies active and breathing in fresh air. When they are playing team sports like soccer, basketball, football and tennis, they are working up a sweat, becoming fit, and improving their vision. Studies show that kids who play outdoors have better distance vision than kids who spend a lot of time inside. With such great vision, maybe they should try archery!

IMG_3830When kids are playing outside, they are interacting with other kids, which is a great way to develop social skills. Taking turns, sharing, being part of a team and other important rules learned on a playground (or in this case, on a field, on a boat, or flying through the ropes course) are vital for developing children’s social skills, and will transfer over into how they interact with people in the outside world. Kids who play alone and inside all the time don’t get a chance to learn these important skills.

Spending time outside may also improve the time your child spends inside. By spending time outside and releasing all of that energy, kids are able to focus when it is time to come inside for structured time. Being outside also brings out the curious and investigative side of children, as they are naturally compelled to look, learn, touch and try new things they discover outside.

Kids these days are busy, and can find themselves stressed out and pulled in many different directions before they even hit high school. With the pressure of grades, sports, friends and other responsibilities, a little time outside can really help reduce stress. Time spent swinging, sliding, running, jumping, swimming, competing and discovering outside is fun and even therapeutic for kids who have a lot on their plate.

IMG_2634Research shows many kids these days are vitamin D deficient. You could run to the drugstore and pick up some vitamins, or you could encourage your kids to play outside and get it for free: from the sun! Getting enough vitamin D has been proven to prevent bone problems, diabetes and heart problems.

Because of these (and hundreds of other) reasons, summer camps have countless outdoor activities for kids to try. And, camps cater to all types of kids: a child focused on drama or dance will have just as many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fresh air as a camper who is focused on athletics or watersports. This is the beauty of summer camp: campers growing appreciation for nature and the health benefits that go along with playing outdoors. Camp is good – actually, great – for all types of kids. The benefits are limitless!

9 Things Which Are Quintessentially Summer Camp

Summer camp is a fun and exciting experience where time simply flies by. There are – quite literally – hundreds of things to do at camp, which makes it impossible not to miss them when you are not at your summer home. Here are just a few things that will always remind you of camp on those cold winter evenings:

DSC_00881.   Sports
From intercamps to leagues and under-the-light football games, there is no better place to maximize your athletic prowess than at camp. The list of sports at the Laurel Camps is endless: Soccer, Basketball, Lacrosse, Tennis, Hockey, Fitness, Football, Golf, Gymnastics – the list goes on and on. Not to mention the outstanding fields and courts. A summer spent at camp is sure to be action-packed in any sport you desire.

2.  Beautiful Waterfronts
Seeing a Mastercraft ski boat or a Hobie Cat is sure to remind you of your unforgettable summers at camp. From waterskiing to sailing to bumper tubing and wake-surfing, camp has plenty of water-sports to fill your day. Echo Lake at Camp Laurel and Crescent Lake at Laurel South are two of the most magnificent lakes in the northeast. Crystal-clear, sparkling and waiting for you!

3. Arts & Crafts
According to the American Camp Association (ACA), arts and crafts is among the five most popular activities at summer camp, and why wouldn’t it be? Kids simply love spending a part of their day in a place filled with glitter, paint, scissors, beads, and other craft items. With arts and crafts, the possibilities are endless.

4. Campfires
A campfire is a mainstay at every camp. The activities, songs and traditions differ from camp to camp. However, one thing that remains consistent is the sacred relevance the campfire holds. The fire symbolizes camp life, and the burning wood serves as a reminder of picturesque settings in the Maine woods.

5.  Camp Songs
What better place to sing, cheer and shout than camp. We love singing at camp! Whether in the cabin, on the stage or around a campfire, camp songs are a big part of summer life. The slightest reminder of a camp lyric or tune will surely have you reminiscing about your summers spent in Maine.

DSC_0013-26.    S’mores
A summer isn’t complete without s’mores. And besides, it’s hard to resist the pleasure of melted marshmallows and chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers. Just one bite is enough to bring instant memories of camp.

7.    Cabins
You might think: ”What’s so special about a cabin?’” Well, they are much more than places where counselors and campers sleep. It’s where everyone becomes a family, memories are made and friendships are nurtured.

8.    Bells
Bells guide campers through their day at camp. Wake up, activity change, meals and evening programs – we’d know that sound anywhere! No annoying PA system announcements here. It’s back to nature and the call of the wild… Just listen to the loons on the lake, there’s nothing better!

9.    Crazy Wardrobe Preferences
Camp is perhaps the only place where you will get complemented for wearing bright colors, body paint, hats, wigs and other funny clothing. Funny isn’t it? But, it’s an experience that will always bring back good memories.

Unique Experiences at Camp Laurel South

_U2C2290When your child heads back to school after a summer at Camp Laurel South, they will hear a lot of their classmates talking about what they did over the summer:

“I went swimming in my pool. Every day.”

“I played baseball with my friends.”

“I visited my Grandma in Oklahoma.”

But when your child stands up to share his or her experience, it might sound something like:

“I don’t even know where to start! I tried archery and gymnastics, I learned to bake INCREDIBLE French pastries, I swam a lot, but I also went water skiing and sailing! I went camping and learned important outdoor skills. I was in a musical. I rode my first horse. I even went down a zipline!”

IMG_5395The great thing about Camp Laurel South is that it’s not a place to send your kids where they’ll do the same ol’ thing they’ve always done. Once they step foot onto camp, they’ll be surrounded by new activities. A camper may discover their love for archery or sailing, but would have never had the opportunity to try it back home.

At camp, your child has a hands-on opportunity to learn outdoor skills such as navigating a hiking trail, learning to make a fire, cruising through an outdoor fitness trail and getting pro-level instruction in tennis, lacrosse or basketball. These are things they would rarely have the chance to learn outside of a summer spent at camp. These skills prepare campers with a sense of confidence and self–sufficiency that can be carried over into many other aspects of their lives.

The lessons campers learn while trying out new activities at camp are invaluable. Learning to work together as a team, whether in flag football or during a mountaineering adventure, is an essential character trait built upon at summer camp. Campers learn to trust themselves and step out of their comfort zone, while also learning to trust their peers and building lifelong friendships in the process.

DSC_0154Campers can explore their creative side, and try new artistic outlets not found in their typical English class or art elective. Cartooning, technical lighting, ceramics, music production, jazz dance and cooking are just a few activities geared toward right-brained campers. When was the last time your child had the opportunity to really get their hands dirty and create a piece of ceramic art? Or learn first-hand what beautiful art can be created out of a piece of scrap metal? At summer camp, giving each camper a once in a lifetime experience is our goal, and we strive to make sure there are unique opportunities for everyone to take part in.

Your child could go back to school with thrilling adventures of playing Bingo with grandma in Oklahoma or delight the class with play-by-plays of their neighborhood baseball games. Or they could teach their class a thing or two about archery, French pastries, sailing, outdoor skills, jazz dance, flag football, ceramics and what is involved in training for a triathlon, just to summarize their first couple weeks at camp.

Give your child the gift of brand new experiences by sending them to a camp where they can do it all. It’ll be a life changing experience for the both of you.

 

Summer Camp: Instilling Life Skills All Year Long

DSC_0120As parents, you want to teach your child the importance of hard work, patience and help them achieve the priceless feeling of accomplishment after a job well done. You want to raise your children to work hard so they can play hard. What better way to start this concept than by rewarding your hard working and dedicated child with a summer camp experience of their dreams?

By having a goal in sight, your child will have something to think about, focus on and strive for throughout the school year. Kids who are passionate about athletics can look forward to fine-tuning their skills through intercamps, skill clinics and recreational programs. Future movie stars will be itching at the chance to shine in various acting classes and musicals. Whether your child is a music aficionado or adventure seeker, animal lover or athlete, the Laurel Camps have specific activities and programs geared toward your children’s favorite activities. Whatever it is that gets your kids excited, they can focus on those activities while at camp. When kids have something to look forward to, they are more likely to stay on track, complete their responsibilities and make good choices. When they are working toward something, they truly appreciate the end result.

If you’ve been thinking about giving your child the gift of an unforgettable camping experience, a great time to start talking about it with your child is at the end of summer vacation. As your child starts to get excited about the upcoming school year, take some time to talk about your expectations for them. Let them contribute to the conversation by listing what goals they have and what expectations they have of themselves. Introduce the idea of summer camp, and there is no doubt your child will be through the roof with excitement at the prospect of unlimited athletics, water sports, camping, hiking, and the vast activities summer camp has to offer. Together, come up with an agreement based on what is expected of your child that will enable them to experience camp. Write down the expectations and keep them somewhere for you and your child to look back on throughout the year.

_U2C1362When the excitement of the new school year dies down and your child falls into the routine of school, a simple reminder of the thrilling ropes course or the opportunity to sail, wakeboard and fish on the beautiful lake can be just the boost they need to stay focused and meet their goals. A countdown on the refrigerator is a great visual reminder to keep kids excited about how close they are to a summer they’ll never forget.

By letting your child be a part of the goal setting process, they learn that hard work pays off, and by putting in the time and effort now, they will reap the rewards in the future. This is an excellent skill for children to have, especially in a world of “I want it right now.” Prolonged satisfaction makes for hardworking, patient and determined individuals, qualities that every parent wants to instill in their child.

If you are ready to help your child experience the priceless feeling of working hard and earning something on their own, get them involved in goal setting and give them something to look forward to. Their reward is not just a summer away at camp; their reward is new friends, new experiences, and learning things about themselves that they will use for the rest of their lives. And as a parent, THAT is something to look forward to.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Camp and Screen Time

“Screen time” is a common buzzword. It describes the time that we spend looking at and using electronic screens – phones, tablets, computers, televisions, etc. With the steady rise in screen time usage, there has been extensive research on how this is affecting our children.

IMG_3564A recent study published by UCLA, “In our Digital World, are Children Losing the Ability to Read Emotions?” outlines how our kids are falling behind in their social skills due to extended screen time. The study used two groups of middle school students and tested their ability to read other boys’ and girls’ emotions. One group remained in their typical habitat, engaging in screen time as desired, while the other group went to a summer camp where electronics were not allowed. The difference in results were significant, with those at camp being able to read others’ emotions almost 33% more effectively after only five days away from screens. UCLA professor Yalda Uhls says the results are clear: “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills. We are social creatures. We need device-free time.”

Significant results were achieved in a five-day period; imagine the boost in social skills children achieve through weeks at summer camp with hundreds of their peers!

Facebook Post 7A child’s time at camp allows them to grow in so many ways, but one way that’s increasingly important is disconnecting and engaging in social settings. Campers have face-to-face interaction with their peers around-the-clock for weeks at a time.

When campers return home from the summer, parents know their children will rave about their experience, but one thing they may not expect is how much more engaging they are. Camp teaches children how to successfully navigate social interactions.

Of course, a summer in Maine  is memorable, but what may be even more impactful is a camper’s increased social growth without electronic devices by their side.

What Did You Do This Past Summer?

i-5RZLrrf-SThat’s always the question when everyone starts school: What did you do this summer? And it’s always hard to answer with a simple: “I went to camp,” because camp means so many things to so many people.

Lots of kids go to camp. In fact, more than 10 million children across the country go to some kind of camp during the summer. It could be scout camp for a week; day camp for two weeks; baseball camp for a month; or even chess camp at the local elementary school. We think spending the summer at camp is the very best way to spend the summer for any child. It teaches children how to spread their wings, navigate differences, make good choices and grow into healthy and independent young adults.i-vVDwDfc-X2

So, when campers are asked what did you do this past summer, they really can say: “Everything.”

They made friends and made their bed. They swam in a lake and swam in a kiddie pool of jello (If they were in Chaos!) They got up on waterskis and sang songs. They learned how to live in a cabin with five, eight or even 12 other campers…and they learned to share.

They hung out around a campfire and made s’mores. They probably played in some kind of intercamp, tournament or performed on stage in front of the camp. They cheered and ran their hearts out during Spirit Days. And they even found time to write a letter — with an actual pen and paper — to their parents, grandparents or friends at home.i-WPwrGhX-M

As we fall back into soccer practice, dance class, music lessons, fantasy football, the World Series and the fall holiday season… campers always have much to say about what they did last summer: Camp. It’s a constant. It happens every year. You can almost touch, smell and feel the great memories.

We always tell our campers to hold tight to the memories of camp in Maine. It’s truly the best place in the world to go to camp. And to never forget the clear blue skies during the day, the loons at dusk and the crisp, starry nights.

We can’t wait to see everyone again in 10 short months on the shores of Crescent Lake.

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