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Countdowns and Stuff

For the millions of youth who call summer camp home each summer, excitement begins to grow exponentially just after spring break each year. Not only is the end of another school year just around the corner, but the beginning of another camp season is oh so close that campers can practically smell the campfires. A variety of countdowns help them keep track of just how many sleeps are left until they’re back in their bunks or cabins and reunited with camp friends. Oh, of course there are the literal countdowns of exactly how many days, minutes, and hours are left that are featured on many summer camp apps and websites. But kids tend to be a bit more creative than website designers when it comes to countdowns and pre-camp rituals.

Parents may be a bit mystified, for example, when they’re handed a pillowcase, blanket, towel, etc. that campers have conveniently kept out of the laundry basket for the past several months because it “smells like camp.” For campers, this is just the release of one summer as part of the final preparation stages for the next. For parents, it’s a good reason not to send the good pillowcases to camp.

The amount of times the word camp finds its words into a conversation—and sometimes even a single sentence—steadily starts to rise again.  Maybe there is just something about seeing green, or maybe it’s the warmer days. Whatever the motivating factor, after a graduating dipping off during the coldest winter months, with the arrival of spring comes the re-integration of camp lingo into everyday speech. Parents need not become frustrated, children are usually happy to translate until someone gets around to writing that all important Camp Dictionary for Parents Who Want to Know What Their Campers Are Saying.

Some campers measure the time left until camp by the amount of episodes remaining before the season finale of their favorite television shows and then the number of weeknights they have to endure with nothing on television but reruns to watch until camp starts. Still, others prefer the exam approach and countdown their time until camp by the number of tests remaining in the school year. (Note: Some counselors use both of these approaches as well.)

Clever Apple users countdown with SIRI and hold daily conversations with her about camp. Others like to plan ahead even further into the summer by making out their Visiting Day snack lists, just in case they get too busy to do so after they get to camp. Countdowns are rarely a matter of just plain counting down when it comes to camp. Like camp itself, they’re full of ritual and meaning.

5 Things for Camp Parents to begin Thinking about in the Spring

March is here, which means spring is just around the corner. More importantly, summer is only a few months away, which means it’s time to begin checking off that annual camp preparation list. No doubt, the idea that it’s time to begin thinking about summer is a welcome respite for many following a winter that regularly included terms such as “polar vortex.” So whether you’re preparing your children for their first summer at camp, or are still thawing out after a frigid winter, here are five things to think about as the snow begins to melt, temperatures begin to rise and vegetation blooms:

1.) Order camp clothes. Some camps feature catalogues and websites that cater to supply lists and sell logo merchandise. Although most camps do not require parents to order supplies and clothing from these catalogues, a few items are never a bad idea, particularly for children who intend to be part of sports teams. Also, camps sometimes require children to wear a specific colored logo shirt on certain occasions, such as out of camp trips. These clothing catalogs are the best resources for these items.

2.) Start talking about camp. For returning campers, chances are that they’ve never completely stopped talking about it. It’s good, however, to begin preparing first time campers a few months ahead of camp so that they are not completely overwhelmed when departure time for camp actually arrives. For all campers – returning or not – it’s good to set some goals for the summer. Some parents find that their children are a step ahead of them when it comes to goal setting, while other campers need a bit of assistance with organizing their thoughts and prioritizing. Either way, it’s good to begin a dialogue now so that you and your children have time to think about expectations for the summer.

3.) Begin stockpiling. Some parents actually pull out camp duffles and begin packing in the early spring while others just clear off a shelf in a closet and begin picking up basic supplies such as sunscreen, shampoo, and socks whenever they are out shopping. Gradually building a stockpile prevents that last minute scramble that inevitably ends in a phone call either from or to the camp about forgotten items.

4.) Schedule pre-camp checkups. This is particularly crucial if your child’s pediatrician tends to be one that is perpetually booked and scheduling appointments a month or two into the future. Camps are safety focused, and it’s is very important that they understand each and every camper’s medical needs and limitations. For liability reasons, they also need medical and insurance information prior to being able to permit campers to participate in certain activities, such as out of camp trips. Also, be sure to talk to your child’s doctor about any medications that will be necessary for the summer.

5.) Complete paperwork. Camps mail or make necessary forms available online to parents around this time of year. The forms may include information about trips, interests, goals, children’s personalities, etc. Although the purpose of the paperwork may not always be clear, camps put a lot of thought and consideration into the information they request parents to provide, and that information is crucial to facilitating a successful summer for campers. Since this task can seem daunting in the midst of those last minute preparations just before camp, it’s a good idea to set aside a block of time early in the spring to complete forms.

New Year, New Summer

There comes a point for everyone involved with camp when we finally stop wishing for it to still be last summer and begin looking forward to this summer. The beginning of the new year is the perfect time for this. The new year is a time of new beginnings for most people and, although that long list of resolutions most of us start out with in January has already been all but forgotten by the time the first spring blooms begin to peep out of the ground, there is always the promise of camp. January starts that final countdown toward summer. We’re finally in the year 2014, and it is only a matter of months before we arrive at the Summer of 2014.  And a fast six months it always is! We spend cold winter evenings watching our camp videos or reading our camp newsletters. We attend camp reunions and follow our camp Facebook pages. By spring we’ve ordered all of our new camp gear and are eagerly awaiting for it to arrive.  We start to set goals for the summer with our camp friends. Then we blink, and it’s May. It’s time to start packing! School ends and the countdown is down to days…days that seem to take longer than all of the months we’ve waited put together. But it comes, the new summer of the new year, faster than we ever thought it would a year ago.

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.

10 Things to Do before Your Children Leave for Summer Camp

10 Things to do before Your Children Leave for

10. Complete all of the camp paperwork.  This provides the camp with valuable details about your child that they can pass onto their health center and counselors.  Knowing your children’s interests before they arrive helps the camp place them into cabins or bunks in which they’ll thrive, provide them with the best program options, and be able to supply them with any medication they may require.

9. Buy stationary, pre-address and stamp envelopes for letters home.  Many camps have specific time set aside in their daily schedules for writing home.  Pre-addressed envelopes help ease the process of sending the letters campers have so lovingly written.  This is particularly the case for younger campers.  Also, familiarize yourself with your children’s camp policy regarding camp packages to avoid disappointment that may result from sending items that are undeliverable to your children.

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