Camp Laurel South Blog

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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.

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.

Got Communication?

Parents: Camp is near.  You’re packing bags, making last minute preparations, and listening to endless stories with increasing enthusiasm about what happened during the summer of 2010 in eager anticipation for summer of 2011 to begin.  You’re checking and re-checking to make sure all of the paperwork has been submitted and the bag pickups have been scheduled.  So we figure now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of maintaining good communication with your Camp Directors—now and throughout the summer.

Camp is a big deal for your children and for you.  Whether you’ve planned a quiet summer at home or have an awesome vacation planned, we know that your top priority is to know that your children are having an amazing summer.  You can help, simply by being informative.

We’re first and foremost concerned for your child’s safety and well being.  Some of you probably wonder why we ask for photos of your children prior to camp.  It’s so that we can show them to your children’s counselors when we discuss your children’s activity preferences with them so that they can greet campers by name from the moment they step off the bus and have full knowledge of how to make their summer successful.

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of communicating medical issues.  Whether it’s an allergy to certain foods or insects, perhaps a dietary restriction, asthma, a vitamin deficiency, or wetting the bed, your camp directors need to know so that these matters can be handled appropriately as situations relating to them may occur throughout the summer.

We also want to know what your children’s interests are.  If we know your child can’t get enough soccer, for instance, we can make sure that he/she gets maximum exposure to soccer during the summer.  Knowing what your children like only helps us guarantee they have the summer of a lifetime.

Personal family matters are never easy, but if there is something happening at home—a divorce, illness in the family, academic issues, etc. it helps us to know.  Perhaps it’s a positive development.  Your child has landed a new role in a film, has made a particularly competitive athletic team, has earned a special honor at school.  Whatever IS your children’s lives at the moment they come to camp, we want to be able to channel it into an amazing summer for them.  And we’re confident we can.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t ask.  As your child’s “summer family”, we want to know how we can help them be at their best.

If anything comes up between the time you put your child on the bus or plane to come to camp and the time we put them back on the bus or plane to come home that might affect his or her summer, please call us.  We want to know what’s happening.  We want to understand how we can make your child’s stay at our camp effortless and memorable.  Even if it’s minor, if you have any reason for pause, please call us.  We want to be proactive in making your child’s experience memorable.

It’s Almost Here…

Look at the horizon. What do you see? Camp!Sailing

The big day is near. Soon, your child leaves home for a summer of fun, excitement and growth.

Scary, isn’t it?

Sure. New experiences usually are. But we’ve got some ideas to help.

Talk with your child. And we mean “talk honestly.” It’s great to chirp about the wonderful days ahead. But be sure to acknowledge that fears and worries are okay.  They’re normal.. Let your son or daughter know that everyone – even you! – gets nervous before doing something different. Remind your child that directors, campus leaders, counselors and staff members know about nerves – and they’ll be there to talk, day or night.

Campus TimeDon’t say, “And if you get homesick, you can come home!” Though reassuring, it sends the wrong message. It focuses on the negative – and undermines the idea that you’ve selected that camp because you trust the directors and counselors so much. Emphasize instead that while homesickness is normal, it goes away – and everyone at camp will help make it disappear. (It’s also a good idea to not say too much how much you’ll miss your child – or how badly everyone will feel that they’re not at the annual 4th of July fireworks or family reunion.)

Prepare together. Read the packing list with your child. Go shopping with him or her. Your child will pick out items he or she really likes – while at the same time sharing a quiet, unhurried conversation about camp.

ArcheryReinforce camp policies on things like cell phones. You may want to give your child a phone to call home “just in case” — but that’s the wrong “call.” For one thing, it contradicts what you’re saying about the counselors’ and directors’ ability to help. For another, it encourages “bending the rules.” For a third, it shifts your child’s focus from having fun and making new friends, to sneaking off and being alone.

Don’t let your own anxieties affect your child. As a parent, you may feel trepidation too. You’ll miss your child – and fear you’ll miss out on his or her growth. That’s natural. But don’t burden your kid with those thoughts. Tell your spouse and friends instead!

TennisCamp is a time of independence. Of spreading wings. Of making new friends, forming strong bonds and creating vivid memories in a non-family, out-of-school environment. The days leading up to camp may be anxious – for campers and their parents. But the rewards will be well worth a week or two of very normal nerves.

We can’t wait to see your son or daughter at camp!!!

What’s happening at camp right now?

How would you describe the essential elements of a summer camp? Do the adventures of spending days with peers, learning new skills, trying new activities, bonfires and skits, great counselors— all the fun of the whole experience— first come to mind? These are definitely important elements of summer camp from a camper’s perspective, but there are a lot of other elements that have to be in place for a camp to be successful year after year. Have you ever wondered what it takes to set the scene and develop communities where good times can take place? I have.

The camp experience is part of the heritage and culture of the United States, and for generations, American families have sent their children to camp—about 10 million children last year alone! As you can guess, each camp has it’s own story and distinct cultural and physical environment, so each camp experience is unique.

The ACA is the professional organization that educates camp owners and directors in the administration of key aspects of camp operation, program quality, and the health and safety of campers and staff. The ACA also establishes guidelines for policies, procedures, and practices when running a camp. Each year, camp professionals gather for a national conference to discuss their work. Last year’s conference title alone, 20/20 Toolbox: Tomorrow’s Camps, Today’s Realities

The staff at Camp Laurel South works all year to make sure that facilities are maintained and prepared for when camp is in session. There are so many details to take care of— from making sure that buildings are cared for, to improving camp facilities, adding or updating equipment and ensuring that health and safety codes are met. Camp owners and managers also have to keep up with changing demographics and expectations from their clientele. So long before campers arrive, camp staff are learning about new practices, meeting up to date regulations, putting current ideas into practice and working towards providing the best of the best.

There are activities and events to plan, qualified counselors to recruit, ideas for even more fun than last year to implement and new campers to meet around the country.  As camper’s needs and tastes change over the years, camp staff are dedicated to making each year as special as the last–and while traditions are an important part of camp life there is lots of room for fresh programs too.

Here’s some of what’s happening at Camp Laurel South. . .and what’s new for 2011. First things first. After the addition of a ten court Tennis Complex in 2010, and new Dining Hall and Kitchen in 2009, all the sports fields have been lighted for 2011 so campers can play games (Soccer, Basketball, Football and more) after the sun goes down. Laurel South has also upgraded its watercraft fleet with two brand new Mastercraft Pro Star 197 Championship Tour Ski Boats and a brand new 16-Person San Pan Fishing Pontoon Boat. Guess what – we also underground irrigated all our lawns and fields so we’ll be Laurel South Green all summer long!

Emma

Thank you for the images Horia Varlan and whereareyousimon.

Pre-Camp Has Arrived …

Just about 15 days until we’re all together again on the shores of Crescent Lake. We’ve been in Maine for about three weeks with 20 counselors who joined us from all over the United States who are part of our Pre Camp Crew. Along with our contractors (builders, roofers, hard court painters, electricians, landscapers, turf and field specialists, boat mechanics and others) these counselors are weed-whacking, cleaning up and getting everything ready for your arrival.

It’s a lot like regular camp now….except there are no campers yet. We get up…have breakfast…then have four hours of activity in the morning (working on the grounds, setting up all the sports equipment, moving picnic and ping pong tables, raking leaves, getting the barns ready, etc.) Then we have lunch…followed by more activity (setting up docks, sorting staff shirts, setting new routes on the Climbing Towers) until it’s time to…eat dinner. After dinner the counselors get a good break, play volleyball, take a swim, work out in the Fitness Center and enjoy Maine.

In a few days, all the pre-season training will begin. Inner Quest from Virginia comes to certify the adventure staff; swim staff update their waterfront certifications; outdoor trippers head all over Maine and New Hampshire to scout our camping trips; equestrian staff will break-in our ponies and horses…and it will all come together.

Dagni and I love being up here at this time of year….but we can’t wait for you to get here. Tonight we have our annual Pre Camp bar-b-que at The Pines to thank these awesome counselors for the hard work.

Get psyched! We’ll see you in Casco before you know it!!

As always,

Roger

Is Your Child Ready for Summer Camp?

You’ve collected the brochures, visited the web sites, maybe you’ve visited a camp or two. You may have even have marked off a few weeks in July on your calendar. But you did it in pencil, because you just can’t get rid of that nagging question – is my child, my baby (sniff) ready for overnight camp?
There is no magic formula or age for camp, and every child is unique; but there are some tried and true signs of readiness. So before you pack the tennis racquets and the swimsuits, start by answering these five questions:

1. Is your child interested in and asking about camp?

Spring has just sprung – if your child is already asking about going away to camp, take that as a good sign. Children who are self-motivated and interested in attending camp have a greater chance of being successful once they arrive. Point your child to this: It’s My Life, a PBS web site for tweens, which has advice specifically for kids headed to camp. The site even encourages kids to talk to their families first. What mom doesn’t love that tidbit?

2. Can your child manage personal care needs and the tasks of daily living without mom around? On their own?

Overnight camp involves independent living. Does your child get dressed for school without your help? Can he/she fix themselves a snack? Take a shower? Remember to brush their teeth? If they still need help or daily reminders, you don’t have to keep them home (remember, your child will have great camp counselors to care for them), but you may want to encourage more self-reliance, a good quality to have at home, too.

3. How long has your child been away overnight without you? Was it a positive experience?

If your child loves sleepovers and slumber parties (at other people’s houses) transitioning to sleep-away camp may be a breeze. A week at grandma’s isn’t the same as three or four weeks at summer-camp; but if an overnight without you has never worked, do some trial runs before registering your child for camp. My own personal role model, Supernanny, has some great tips for making sleepovers a breeze.

4. Does your child have a healthy respect for adults and listen to instructions?

Life will be much easier for everyone if your child is good at following instructions and is willing to go along with camp rules. Just keep in mind that our kids often reserve their worst behavior for us, their parents, bless them. If your child is well-behaved in school, with coaches and other adults in positions of authority, they should do fine at camp.

5. Is your child willing to try new things?

Life comes at you fast, Ferris Bueller said, and the same is true for summer camp. Each day is filled with new people to meet, new surroundings, and new activities to try. For kids willing to give it a go, there’s no better place to spread their wings than summer camp.

The Bottom Line

No one knows your child like you do – even after you’ve completed all the quizzes and checklists and asked all your friends about their kids’ experiences, the best thing to do is trust your instincts. If you feel it in your gut that your child can handle overnight camp, you’re probably right. Get ready… summer is on its way!

Thanks to stevedepolo and peterblanchard for their pictures!

Olivia

When 4 Weeks is Just Right

Choosing a camp involves much more than just choosing a location or even the camp with the perfect activities and feel for your child. Camps also come in different sizes, so to speak; depending on how long their sessions are. Sleepaway camps range from two-week to two-month sessions, and choosing which one is best for your child depends on several factors.

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at four-week camps . First, some reassurance. Campers don’t “get less” because their camp is shorter. The schedules for the day and the special activities are very similar or exactly the same as longer camps. The programs are just as well rounded and varied, and you’ll be amazed at how much swimming, sport, adventure and creative arts can fit into four weeks – and the kids still get a one-hour rest period after lunch! We should all be so lucky!

Most importantly, the camp counselors and staff are as involved, caring and competent as they are for the longer camps. I know that for my children, their camp experiences are flooded with activities, but it’s the people they keep talking about (and talking to!) months later. Lifelong friendships can be forged and nurtured in the shortest of camp experiences.

So which camp for my child?

Take a look back at my earlier blog post, “Is Your Child Ready for Camp?” If you feel that your child is ready for camp, but you’re still feeling a little trepidation, why not try a shorter camp — for many new campers (and their moms), four weeks is the perfect amount of time.

A four-week camp may also be perfect for your family if:

  • You need to fit in camp among other family plans and vacations
  • Your child is nervous about a longer camp but a shorter one gets him or her excited
  • Your child may be ready for more weeks of separation, but you’re not
  • Your child lives out west, where school schedules can make a late-summer 7-week camp out East difficult (my children get out of school at the end of May and start back in the middle of August!)

Camp Laurel South offers two 4-week sessions in a complete traditional co-ed camping experience. What does this mean? Think of every wonderful image you have of summer camp – great times playing sports, spending time in the lake, learning new arts and crafts (friendship bracelets anyone?), going on new and exciting adventures, and, if your child is up for it, they can take guitar lessons and be the next campfire sensation. And it all happens with your new best friends right beside you. With its beautiful location on Crescent Lake in Casco, Maine, Laurel South is able to offer the same kind of dynamic programming that you can find at longer camp sessions. They even have the added bonus of an equestrian program.

Whatever you want your child to get out of camp: tradition, family, spirit, adventure, time in nature, and lots of fun, all can be found inside this four-week camp. Because shorter doesn’t mean skimpier!

Olivia, Guest Blogger

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