Camp Laurel South Blog

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Summer Camp Helps Children Maintain Routine

Summer camp is a lot of fun.  One need only ask any camper on virtually any summer camp campus to confirm that notion.  Children love the activities and the relatively relaxed environment of sleepaway camp.  However, there is something else that summer camp children crave, although they might not know it:  structure.  Dr. Laura Markham asserts that routine helps children develop self-discipline, cooperation, change tolerance, and responsibility.

To an outsider, summer camps may seem like little more than organized chaos.  However, most summer camps operate around set daily schedules that move children from activity to activity at specific times throughout the day.  Although the daily activities may change, the times and length of the periods do not.  Meals are also held at set times.  The use of bugle calls, bells, music, or announcements assist campers in transitioning from one part of their day to another, which, according to Markham, helps eliminate power struggles by setting parameters and giving children a recognizable sign for knowing when it’s time to bring one activity to a close and move onto another without being told.

A daily routine also helps at night.  Research shows that children who have a structured schedule sleep better at night.  Routine also lessens anxiety and improves behavioral issues.  Children feel less anxiety when they understand what is expected of them and can confidently anticipate what will happen next.  Summer camp is built on traditions that happen from year-to-year.  Many camps are also divided into age groups that serve as steps through the camp experience from the first year of camp to the final.  From their first day at camp, there are certain rites and privileges related to sleepaway camp traditions specific to each age group to which campers can look forward as they get older.  That children can see from the beginning that summer camp is a progressive process also helps them to understand the concept of patience when working toward a goal.

Because of the benefits provided by the structure of summer camp, many parents are increasingly seeing the advantages of time spent at summer camp.  As a result, summer camp is experiencing a revival of sorts as a summer staple.  More than eleven million people attended camp last year, according to the American Camp Association.  If you’re trying to think of a way to add value to your children’s summer, consider sending them to summer camp.

Summer at a Glance: First Year Counselor Thoughts

Orientation
I had no idea what to expect! Old fashion Scout cabins? Canvass tents? Teepees? How rustic is this camp? The cabins are really cool though; they are definitely “campy”… but fun, clean spaces with lots of bunk beds, cubbies, and big open floors to hang out on. Surprisingly, all of my clothes fit in my cubby! Maybe I managed to follow the packing list, or maybe the cubbies are just the right size, but either way, unpacking is a success!

I also didn’t know what to expect with the food. Very happy to report there are tons of options including a full salad bar every day. I’ve made some healthier choices and learned to depend on other things for energy instead of coffee all day long. An apple at mid-morning Fruit Break gives you an extra boost until lunch!

Tomorrow we’ll be getting to know the campers in our cabins; their names, where they’re from, what they like to do, etc. This is getting me super excited to meet them! Although I’m really nervous they won’t like me as much as the returning counselors. Speaking of which, I was a little intimidated by the returning counselors at first… they already had a close group of friends and I didn’t feel like I’d fit in. Now it’s only day 3 and I already have a great group of friends and the returners are awesome. Everyone is really welcoming! It’s very cool how quickly friendships are formed here.

Week 1
When the campers arrived two days ago it was an amazing scene. They were so excited to see each other. I felt a little left out that I didn’t know the kids yet but it’s been awesome getting to know them.
Today one of our activities was waterskiing. The kids were amazing! Some of them got up on their skis for the first time – I couldn’t believe it! I felt like a proud parent watching them. I was screaming and cheering for my kids out on the water. What an awesome day!!

Week 2
Today was a big tennis tournament. We had three other camps visiting as we hosted more than 80 matches. It was great! We also watched the big musical performance last night. I’ve heard the kids practicing for the past two weeks. There are some really talented kids here! I loved watching their friends in the audience cheering them on. Really cool! I can’t wait to see what acts surface at the next Talent Show.
This afternoon was Carnival. It was a great day of rides, games, carnival food and fun. Everyone loved it. A perfect way to break up the week!

Week 3
At the beginning of the week my campers tried something new and awesome – ceramics! Most of them had never worked with clay before but they dove right in – and got pretty messy! They started with a pile of wet mush and by the end they had actual mugs! Some of my campers said they are going to give them to their parents…what thoughtful kids!
Spirit Days has begun! It broke a few days ago and I never could have imagined what this was going to be like! The whole camp is split up in two teams, and we compete in every kind of event imaginable. From baseball, basketball soccer, gaga… even dance, trivia, canoeing, and crazy jello-filled relays.
The campers take the competition very seriously! This has probably been my favorite day at camp!

Week 4
NOO!! I do not want to leave my home! How is it possible that a month ago I had never been here and did not know all of these amazing people?! The friends that I have made here are going to be friends that I have for the rest of my life…and it feels like I have known them for years. The experiences I’ve had are unforgettable. While it was a little scary in the beginning, every little bump in the road was worth it. Most importantly, my campers feel like my family. Every day for the past four weeks we have gone to sports and activities together, cleaned the cabin together, eaten all of our meals together, danced, shot hoops, hugged, fallen asleep next to each other, and had more fun than I could have imagined possible. If that’s not family then I don’t know what it is! I’m already counting down the days until next summer… I can’t wait to see how much they’ve grown in a year!
Jessica
First Year Counselor

Choose Your Own Adventure at Summer Camp

There is a new trend sneaking into summer camps.  An increasing number of sleepaway camps are foregoing the traditional pre-determined summer camp schedule in favor of giving campers complete control over their summer camp experience.  This approach to summer camp has become  a particularly popular approach to the summer camp experience at session camps, which tend to attract a less traditional family of campers than seven week camps.  And the appeal is mutual.

Allowing campers to customize their experience gives them the opportunity to experience a traditional summer camp while enjoying many of the same benefits that they might enjoy by attending a specialized camp.  It’s truly a best of both worlds scenario, and the response has been overwhelming.

There is certainly no shortage of children who want to experience summer camp.  The conflict seems to arise from increasingly busy summer schedules and the pressure placed on children to be great at—well—everything.  Despite our inclination as adults to want them to be everything we are and more, along with everything we are not, children need time and space to be…children.  Enter the session sleepaway camp, an environment catered to letting them be themselves while improving their skills in those activities they love while giving them ample opportunity to try out new ones in shorter, more realistic segments for the busy family.

In addition to having freedom over their activity choices, the independence children gain while at summer camp is also a great way of letting them try out their wings. For many children, camp is their first experience away from their parents.  It’s the first time they’re choosing their own clothes, deciding what to eat, determining which activities to try, and learning how to be part of a social network without the assistance of mom and dad.  For those children not quite ready for the full summer experience, a session camp is the perfect way to give camp a test drive.
So if you’ve hesitated to enroll your children in summer camp because you’re afraid it’s too much structure, or if you’ve been thinking you would like them to learn how to be a little bit more independent, consider a session summer camp.  It just may be the perfect fit.

The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love

From time to time here, we discuss the importance and values of camp for children and teens.
Today, we’ll highlight some of the many benefits for counselors.

Last spring, New York Times’ “Adventures in Parenting” blogger Dan Fleshler wrote about his daughter’s decision to spend another summer working at an overnight camp. She resisted “considerable pressure to join the throngs of anxious fellow collegians…who pad their resumes with summer internships in corporations, charities, law firms and other employers that, according to conventional wisdom, offer better preparation for the brutal economy than a summer camp.”
Dan thought that was true too.
He told her, “anyone can be a camp counselor.” He wanted her to be more than“just anyone.”
But, he admitted, he also agreed with his wife. She said their daughter would have “plenty of time for the so-called real world.”

More convincing was the young woman herself. She argued that fetching coffee in an office pales in comparison to days and nights spent “nurturing, teaching, organizing, comforting and inspiring.”
She described how, the previous summer, she’d helped a camper cope with a myriad of “real life” issues. She’d comforted children whose parents were separating, and aided others who were dealing with anxiety.
She taught waterskiing to campers, instilling confidence they will have the rest of their lives. “What’s more important than that?” she asked her father.
“I had no answer, because I couldn’t come up with anything more important,” he wrote.
Nor could he refute her argument that managing group projects, motivating individuals, setting goals, juggling tight schedules, and being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was “incomparable preparation” for the future.

Dan Fleshler’s daughter was lucky enough to work as a camp counselor. Less fortunate college students had to settle for internships.

Learning the Value of Tradition at Camp

The holidays are around the corner.  During that time of year, the word “tradition” gets thrown around a lot.  But how many people actually understand what tradition is really?  Perhaps it’s the emphasis on forward thinking and constantly in-motion global community that has caused many to confuse “tradition” with “routine.”  They’ve both become something that we do on a regular basis in order to establish or maintain a consistency or pattern in our behavior.  So what really distinguishes “tradition” from “routine”?

First, routine is something that one person does but might not necessarily have in common with others.  Most people brush their teeth at some point in time in the morning.  Few people do it at exactly the same time.  Some shower first.  Others eat breakfast.  Eventually, everyone brushes their teeth but the experience is, for all intents and purposes, individual.  There is no shared significance.

Tradition, on the other hand, is by definition community oriented.  It’s a shared custom, belief, or activity with a common understanding of the reason for its practice.  Many of us eat turkey at Thanksgiving because we symbolically associate it with that first meal between the pilgrims and native Americans.  It’s a tradition.

Second, routine, unlike tradition, is not necessarily multi-generational or even long-term.  It’s something done for a specified length of time.  While we maintain some routines for all or much of our lives, others are short term.  If one gets the flu, for instance, one might temporarily take up a routine of antibiotics.  But once the flu subsides, so does that routine.

On the other hand, tradition is something that is a common bond between multiple generations.  It’s an acknowledgment that an event or action was significant to someone tied to our past, and the observance of traditions our way of paying tribute to that event or action as well demonstrating our understanding of it.

Finally, routine is task oriented.  We take up routine in order to accomplish a goal.  There is an intended result in routine.  Tradition, however, is an observance.  Routine is a way of moving forward, whereas tradition pays tribute to the importance of the past.

By now, you’re surely asking yourself what any of this has to do with summer camp. Simply this: in a culture that places a significant amount of importance on the establishment of routine, the value of tradition is increasingly less understood and appreciated.  Summer camps, however, are grounded in tradition.  They’re  a place where campers and staff members alike get refresher courses in the power of tradition.  Whether it’s at a campfire, a sing along, or an activity specific to the camp, there are literally hundreds of opportunities every summer for those at a summer camp to bond through tradition.  Many former summer campers and staff members actually name “tradition” as one of their highlights of summer camp.  So if tradition has become an element of holidays past, consider giving your children a future opportunity to enjoy tradition at summer camp in 2013.

Camp: A Different Set of Expectations

Okay, admit it.  You’ve found yourself spending a considerable amount of time admiring that candle your daughter gave you on her camp’s Visiting Day or those wooden bookends your son brought home.  Part of you wonders how come you never got to make stuff that cool when you were a kid while another part of you is mystified by how the arts and crafts staff of your child’s summer camp was able to draw out the Picasso in your little ones.    After all, you can barely get them to focus long enough to make a poster for their science projects.  What is it about camp that seems to facilitate children’s creativity?

Sure it’s woodsy and remote, even quaint–the perfect place for children to feel free to be themselves.  They certainly do a lot of things at camp that they don’t get to do at home.  And you did spend the entire summer looking at photos of your daughter posing in a rainbow colored tutu—Did she ever take that thing off?—and of your son covered in face paint knowing full well that neither of them would EVER dress like that at home.  And was that your son dressed as a dog singing on stage?  Singing?  Him?  Really?  And last night he just told you, by the way, that he is trying out for the school play this year because the camp play was really fun.  He would never ever—even if someone had double dog dared him—have auditioned for a play before camp.  What changed?  The Expectations.

There are a lot of reasons children find themselves exploring more creative avenues at summer camp, but one really big one is that the expectations are different.  Children learn to respond to expectations.  Moreover, they learn to respond to the expectations of individuals.  They understand that their parents have expectations as do their teachers, siblings, friends, coaches, so on and so forth.  Whether  we’re comfortable admitting it or not, a lot of the expectations in that ten month world campers know as “winter” in some way promote conformity.  Expectations placed on children at home, in school, etc. emphasize the importance of following rules and established guidelines.  Of course, camp expectations do this, too, but the emphasis at camp is not to find one’s place in that larger whole by blending in but by standing out.  Camp is a place in which children are encouraged to try new things in a quest to find their passion.

Sure you’re thinking of those photos of your daughter holding up her latest tie-dye creation for the camp photographer’s camera—those ones in ewhich she was covered to her elbows in dye—and you’re thinking that’s you wouldn’t really classify tie-dye as a “passion.”  Maybe not.  But it could be the beginning of one, the spark that leads to an interest in art or the arts, or even just the memory of trying something new that turned out to be fun that lends courage to trying other new things.  The expectations in the “world” of camp is that campers will explore it.  Perhaps this is why it’s no surprise that many well known figures attended summer camp and attribute it to being the place where they found long-term direction.  Sure, learning how to plunk out folk songs on a guitar is a long way from the philharmonic and being part of the chorus in the camp play is certainly not Broadway, but the idea is the same and, for many campers, it’s the start of building enough self confidence to stand out.

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