Camp Laurel South Blog

The Fun Continues…

Yesterday was our first Out-of-Camp “S” Day. We had an amazing time at Canobie Lake! The entire Laurel South family enjoyed the rides, food and camaraderie. We rolled back into camp, ready for a good night’s rest before tomorrow’s “A” Day of Tennis, Riding, Skiing, Basketball, Lacrosse, Crafts, Climbing and more!! Intercamp games and tournaments have been going great. Everyone is gearing up for an unbelievable Fourth of July, including the best fireworks display in the area. It’s been an incredible session so far and we know our best times are still ahead. We’re psyched….

Water, Sports, Activities, Trips and More!

The first week of the 2012 season was packed full of action and fun. Our 8th and 9th Graders will soon be pulling back into camp after awesome adventures at Acadia National Park and White Water Rafting on the Kennebec River. We can’t wait for the entire Laurel South family to be reunited by dinner. Our first “S” Day was a rousing success as Saco/Kineo had a blast at Kahuna Laguna…the Allagash/Baxter campers spent the afternoon bowling, and the 7th graders had a ball at Sea Coast. Of course everyone enjoyed Bumper Tubing in the morning! It’s hard to believe we’re a week into the season, but we’re psyched about what still leis ahead!!

Another Great Day at Laurel South…

We have been at camp for just a few days, but the action is in full swing! Full program began last Friday and we had our first rotation of “A” and “B” Days. We can’t wait for our first in camp “S” Day tomorrow.
Our 8th Graders are heading out to Acadia National Park for an awesome camping trip…our CIT’s are getting ready for their unbelievable White Water Rafting trip…Intercamp games and Tournaments are beginning. Whether the sun is shining or we receive a dose of liquid sunshine, it’s always a beautiful day in the state of Maine! We’re having a blast!

Off and Running…

It’s always a beautiful day in the state of Maine, but Thursday was even more beautiful. As Staff Orientation concluded we excitedly welcomed our incredible First Session campers from all over the United States and around the world. After reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, the entire Laurel South family gathered at Cove as Roger and Dagni officially kicked off the 2012 summer! After a delicious cookout dinner, each campus had their own Evening Program. Friday was Moosestomp Day, as campers have the opportunity to create their schedules for the summer, eat S’mores, bumper tube on beautiful Crescent Lake and get to know each other. We concluded the day with our annual Council Fire. We are all eagerly anticipated Saturday when programming officially begins!!!

First Time Camper…

So you’re a first-time camper.

Congratulations! You’re in for an amazing summer.

Here’s something interesting to think about: Everyone at Laurel South was once a first-time camper. Everyone!

You’re in great company!

You may already know some things about camp. You’ll be met at your bus or plane departure area by Laurel Counselors who will quickly make you feel comfortable. They’ll help you out during the trip to camp. And on the way you’ll get to know the other Laurel South campers your age. Some of them will be first-time campers too.

When you get off the bus at camp, you’ll be met by Roger and Dagni and many counselors from your cabin and group. The counselors will take you right to your cabin.
Then, you’ll meet more counselors and campers in your group and get a tour of camp.

Your bags will be unpacked, your bed made. You’ll be ready to start camp right away.

You’ll adjust so quickly to the Laurel South routine. We’ve got a lot of traditions, from morning Cove to S-Day and the Spirit Days.

As the summer goes on, you’ll try new things. There’s new food (did you know we buy lots of stuff from local farmers?). New activities, like archery, lacrosse, wakeboarding, fitness and radio. Even comedy improv.

You’ll meet campers and counselors from all over the country.

At the end of the summer, your parents will be amazed at all the new things you’ve tried. They’ll love hearing about all the new things you’ve done and friendships formed.

And the summer after next, you’ll be one of the veteran campers showing new campers the ropes.

We cant wait to see you soon!!

Mail Call

If your children have ever attended camp, chances are you’ve walked out to your mailbox at some point in the summer to find a letter that goes something like this:

Hi Mom and Dad,

I passed my swim test.  Yay!  I almost made it all the way to the top of the climbing wall yesterday.  More yay!  I WILL zipline before the end of the summer!  I bounced the ball off the post and actually scored a goal in soccer earlier today.  FIRST GOAL EVER!  The most yay!  Went on a nature hike a few days ago.  We saw a squirrel and named him Sam.  At least we think it was a squirrel.  It could have been a bunny.  Emma said that maybe it was a chupacabra.  Duh!  Chupacabras aren’t real.  But we just said, “Maybe.”  Then we thought it would be funny if we actually told people we saw a chupacabra just to see how many people we could get to believe us.  So now like a lot more people than I ever thought would believe there is a chupacabra running around in the woods, which is kind of bad because now it’s IMPOSSIBLE to sign up for nature because everyone wants to go on hikes in the woods to see the chupacabra.  Long story short, if Max writes home about seeing a chupacabra, it was a squirrel (or a bunny).  And if he finds out it was a squirrel and writes home that I told him it was a chupacabra, it wasn’t a trick I was playing on him specifically—and it wasn’t just me.

So my friend Katie and I made up this new game to see who can make up the goofiest knock knock joke.  Wanna hear the (kinda) funny joke she made up while we were walking?  Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Katie.  Katie who?  Katiepillar.  I made up one at dinner but it’s not as funny.  Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Butter.  Butter who?  Butterfly.  I also learned a new card trick in magic the other day that I can’t wait to show you when I get home.  Gotta go.  Love ya!

Many summer camps make letter writing a regular part of campers’ schedule and deliver

letters from parents and relatives to campers each day.  For campers, there is something special about sprawling across their bed at camp and reading what Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, and maybe even pets have been up to.

For parents, seeing a letter in their children’s handwriting makes the communication more personable.  It’s endearing to think one’s son or daughter took the time out of his or day to write home. Some parents even joke about how refreshing it is to receive a message that isn’t so full of abbreviated words that it requires an interpreter, like many text messages. It also lends added significance to those things about which children choose to write.  Parents have reported that it helps them more closely identify their children’s interests.  If a child dedicates two thirds of each letter home to how much fun she is having playing tennis, it’s a good indication that tennis is playing a particularly important role in the success of the camper’s summer.  Some parents  are so highly entertained by their children’s letters from camp that they make scrapbooks of their children’s letters from camp throughout the years as a memoir.  Author Diane Falanga was so inspired by children’s letters from camp that she published a compilation of them.

Sadly, email and text messaging have almost made the art of letter writing—taking pen to paper—extinct. But summer camp is a place where the tradition still survives.  Summer is a time when the joy of receiving an envelope with one’s name on it is rediscovered every summer by thousands of children and parents alike.

Homesick and Happy…..Really?

Ah, summer camp. Sports. Waterfront. Arts and crafts. Campfires. Homesickness
That’s right. The bad news: Kids get homesick at camp.

The good news: That’s fine. It’s natural, part of the experience and not such a bad thing.

Camp is about positive energy, accomplishments, getting up on waterski’s for the first time, learning to trot in Equestrian. But there are times when even the best tennis or guitar lesson gets upstaged by thoughts of what mom and dad and the dog are doing back home.

As parents, hearing a homesick voice isn’t easy. As camp directors, handling homesickness is one of our most perennial – and important – tasks.

Michael Thompson may be one of the world’s foremost authorities on homesickness. He has just published a book on the subject…Homesick and Happy: How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow (Ballantine).

Michael says that while it’s natural for parents to shelter their children from all negative emotions (like homesickness), that actually holds back their personal growth. Feeling homesick is a “major developmental milestone,” he writes. And when kids learn to work through those feelings – with the help of a well trained and very caring staff – they not only grow. They are transformed.

Michael’s book describes how living in camp’s multigenerational community, enjoying daily rituals with new friends, trying new things and testing new limits enables youngsters – even homesick ones – to grow in ways that surprise not only their parents, but even themselves.

Michael knows that children who are away from their parents can be “both homesick and happy, scared and successful, anxious and exuberant.”

His book is filled with practical advice and memorable anecdotes. He writes with warmth, passion and compassion. Its an interesting read for parents – even those whose children have long since lost their homesick blues.

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.

A Network of Lifetime Friends

One of the most touted benefits of working at a summer camp is the network one may build even within the parameters of a single summer.  Unlike many work environments, which tend to draw locals with a telescoped set of talents, summer camp attracts staff from virtually all over the world who possess an array of abilities.  A successful summer at camp requires the expertise of athletes and artists alike.  Because summer camps are 24/7 communities, staff members tend to form very close bonds within the two months that they reside at camp each summer.  Camp breeds a sense of family, which is precisely why, for a good many staff members, goodbye at the end of the summer is seldom goodbye forever.  Thanks to a little help from social media outlets such as Facebook, it’s possible to stay in touch with summer camp friends no matter where on earth they live.  Whether it’s couch surfing while traveling, hunting for a job, needing a little bit of advice or support, or sharing an inside joke, camp friends are there.  Working at summer camp is more than just a summer experience.  It’s a way to form a global network of friends for life.

Re-asserting “Team” in Team Sports

Whether your family lives in a large city or a small town, there is likely not a shortage of organized sports  for children. Increasingly, the emphasis of team sports is less about what it means to be a member of a team and more about being the MVP of a winning team.   As a result, child athletes are often caught between sparring parents on one sideline and anxious, screaming coaches on the other.  Overly zealous parents and coaches seldom stop to consider that children often absorb their parents’ feelings and may project the resulting tension through their play.  The immense pressure to be a star who constantly wins is often why many children become burnt-out in the competitive sports environment and choose to take a break or even quit altogether.  Says Fred Engh, author of Why Johnny Hates Sports, “If all the focus is on winning, kids may be scared to fail and make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process and it’s how one improves.”  One of the most undervalued benefits of team sports at traditional American summer camps is the environment that allows children to make mistakes without fear of backlash from the sidelines and to process those mistakes in a way that they can turn them into learning experiences.

Setting up children for success requires a welcoming environment in which they can feel comfortable being themselves.    Those who tend to be self-conscious are particularly challenged by situations in which tension runs high.  The spirit of camp is one of instruction, fun and safety more than competition.  It’s about making children feel like a valuable part of a unit that utilizes everyone’s talents in a way that is beneficial.  In short, the traditional summer camp environment is a team environment.   At camp, children have the encouragement of their counselors and fellow campers when playing sports.  A child making a layup shot on the basketball court for the first time is cheered just as much as someone scoring a winning three pointer.

Perhaps the relaxed positive reinforcement they receive while learning to play sports at camp is why so many children (as many as 60%) feel compelled to continue being active in an activity they tried for the first time at camp.

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