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It’s a Camp Thing

If you have children who attend sleepaway camp, work at a sleepaway camp, or know anyone who attends or works at a sleepaway camp, chances are that you’ve heard this at least once in your life: “It’s a camp thing.”  For those of you wondering what that means, here’s an exclusive look inside the world of sleepaway camp and exactly what constitutes “a camp thing”.

We’ll begin with a definition.  “A camp thing” is an experience or tradition that is unique to summer camp.  It’s also actually “camp things” rather than a singular “thing”, since there are a host of experiences exclusive to the summer camp environment.  For instance, have you taken part in a competition, spread over several days, that divides the entire camp into two teams and requires contestants to do such things as cover their heads with shaving cream so that a teammate can attempt to make cheese curls stick to it, dress in team gear that includes crazy garb such as tutus, mismatched socks, and face paint, or passed buckets of water down a line in a race to see who will fill their container first?  Nope?  Do you know why?  It’s “a camp thing”.  Ever sat alongside several hundred other people around a campfire while you watch friends and staff members perform crazy acts, sing songs or participate in games?  Nope?  Yeah…it’s another “camp thing”.

In case it’s not obvious, “camp things” happen every day at camp, from that first moment when you get off the bus and see your camp friends and your new counselors holding your cabin signs for the first time to the last when you’re saying ‘goodbye until next summer.’  Camp things are being part of a league sports team, whether it wins or loses, going on a special trip out of camp to get ice cream, performing rituals and eating s’mores around a campfire, sitting with your friends at cookouts, taking part in the traditions that are unique to each and every summer camp, and understanding the feeling of being part of a camp family.  Camp things are having sleepovers with your cabin or having a venue in which you and your camp friends can pretend to be a rock band, DJs, or magicians.  Camp things are that special inside joke that your friends  share all summer, end-of-the-summer trips out of camp, sing-a-longs when you’re arm-in-arm with your camp friends.  And hugging some of your best friends while singing your camp alma mater and watching candles burn or fireworks explode, knowing that you might not see them again until next summer, is definitely the most precious of “camp things”.  If only everyone could experience “a camp thing”…

Create a Camp Atmosphere All Year Long

Just because your children are no longer at camp doesn’t mean you can’t create a camp atmosphere in your home.  There are several things you can do to keep the camp spirit alive all year long.

This doesn’t have to be a radical flip of the switch that completely eliminates conveniences and luxuries from your lives.  In fact, such an act is probably not very realistic for many families.  But taking small steps to reduce your children’s reliance on things such as television, video games, and cell phones is a great way to remind them that don’t need them as much as they think they do.  Designate a day or two each week in which you won’t turn on the television or play video games.  Have a family game night instead.  Board games and card games are a great, light-hearted way to bring the entire family together for a few hours.  Turn off cell phones during meal times, before a designated time in the morning, and after a designated time in the evening.  Yes, with the invention of smart phones, we’re becoming increasingly reliant on these convenient little gadgets, but you may be surprised at just how much you enjoy the peace and quiet of a few hours without them each day…and, your family will also likely remember just how much they appreciate having a conversation with someone who is not looking at their cell phone or texting the entire time.

Keep supplies for creative bursts.  Arts & Crafts, Eco Science, and Nature don’t have to be activities restricted to the camp setting.  In fact, many of the projects that your children do at camp can quite easily be done at home, and they’re a great way to fill an afternoon or evening on which you’ve decided to have a break from television and video games.  There are books readily available that walk you step-by-step through such popular camp projects as tie-dying, candle making, beading, shrinky dinks, Mentos geysers, goo, and many more.  YouTube also has a host of videos that demonstrate kid friendly home science and nature experiments.  Keeping a closet or a chest of standard supplies for these types of projects will prevent you from having to make a shopping trip every time the kids want to have some summer camp style fun.

Have a “campfire”.  You might not have a backyard big enough (and there may be some local ordinances against this, even if you do), but consider having a backyard fire.  A patio fire pit, if you have one, is actually ideal.  An operable indoor fireplace works, too.  Make s’mores, tell stories, share memories.  This makes for a great evening to invite friends over because, as every camper will tell you, the more the merrier at a campfire.  If you live in an area in which weather permits, actually taking a weekend camping trip is always fun, too.

Start a garden (if you have a yard) or cook with your children once a week.  Gardening and cooking programs are popular at camp. Even if you don’t have the space in your yard, herb gardens are easy to maintain and can be grown indoors.  Besides being enjoyable and fun, cooking is a valuable life skill for children to learn.  Let your children look up healthy recipes, talk about nutrition with them, and, most importantly, let them do the work in the kitchen.

Have regular family “out of the house” trips.  At camp, children regularly take “out of camp” trips to places such as local sporting events, the movies, or bowling… They look forward to these trips as a special treat and time to create some very special memories with their camp friends.  Why not make special memories like these as a family?

By making just a few (fun) adjustments, your entire family can enjoy the spirit of camp throughout the year, and it just might make those ten months of waiting a little more bearable for the kids!

After Camp: Keeping the Momentum Going

Sure the kids are home from camp and are settling back into their school routines.  Maybe they’re still a little bit camp sick, but it’s possible to keep the camp momentum going throughout the year.  Here are a few suggestions we thought we’d pass along.

  • Talk about camp with them.  Not only do children love talking about their camp experiences, but doing so helps them process the events of the summer.  In sharing their experiences, they’re able to gain perspective about camp.   If they haven’t already told you by now (and they probably have a hundred times over), ask them to tell you about their camp friends, their favorite activities, and favorite events.
  • Encourage them to keep in touch with their camp friends throughout the year.  Of course, summer camp draws campers from all over the globe, so play dates and get-togethers might not be realistic for everyone.  But in the age of email, Skype, and Facebook (for some older campers), maintaining contact is easier than ever.
  • Encourage children to read camp literature, such as newsletters, and to keep up with the blog on your camp’s website.  Parents should regularly read camp literature and blogs as well.  Not only will they be informed, but they can pass along useful or exciting information, such as news about new camp activities or facilities, to their children.
  • If your children just can’t stop singing those camp songs, encourage them to teach you one or two.  Then you can sing along with them…It’s fun.  Trust us.
  • Encourage your children to share anything exciting that happens to them throughout the year with the camp.  Summer camps love to know what their campers are up to over the winter and are thrilled to share in something special whether it be winning a spot on a traveling sports team, landing a role in the school play, or earning a place on the honor roll.  Many are also happy to pass this information onto other campers and their parents via a special section in their camp newsletter.
  • Make a big deal over any projects they brought home.  Whether it’s a scented candle, a leather purse, a clay vase, or a wooden birdhouse, chances are they put plenty of time and energy into creating something special to bring home to you.  So display it somewhere prominent, even if it does have to be “archived” each year to make room for the next summer’s treasures.
  • Show them that you got their camp letters.  Point out your favorite parts.  Tell them which were your favorites, maybe even keep the letters in an album from year to year.  Children are much more excited about writing home from camp when they really feel that their letters are being read.  Someday, a scrapbook of camp letters might even make a neat gift to give back to them.

With a little bit of help from you, your children can keep the camp momentum going all year long!

The Importance of Being Creative

Arts and Crafts at summer camp is more than just stringing together a few beads to make a bracelet or gluing some spray painted macaroni to a cardboard picture frame.  It’s a program that gives campers the opportunity to explore their creative interests in several different types of art by offering a diverse array of age appropriate projects.  Of course there are the traditional projects that are just plain fun, like paper mache and tie-dying.  However, many summer camps also offer campers the opportunity to try things that are not only artistic but could be useful skills or even careers, such as metal work, jewelry making, calligraphy, cartooning, or soap and candle making.  Just like sports programs at camp, many campers have discovered a passion in their summer camp’s Arts and Crafts programs that they later pursued further.

Another way in which summer camp Arts & Crafts programs benefit campers is by providing a creative outlet for children who are being given fewer chances to explore the arts in their school programs.  Ashfaq Ishaq, PhD, argues that without being given the appropriate opportunity to explore their creative sides, children will not learn how to combine creativity with acquired knowledge to reach their full potential.   Art encourages spontaneity and exploration, two things that allow us, as people, to be innovative and prolific in our thinking.  Creativity also refines problem solving skills by helping us understand how to think “outside the box” when traditional solutions aren’t practical.  All three qualities are considered crucial to success in a child’s education as well as their adulthood careers.  Summer camp Arts & Crafts programs also give campers the opportunity to try some projects that might not be available in traditional school art programs, such as throwing clay on a pottery wheel.

For many campers, summer camp has become a way of maintaining tradition in environments that are ever changing.  Faced with a fast paced, changing world in the winter, children can still depend on summer as a way to fall back on activities and hobbies that may not be greatly valued in conventional schools anymore but are useful and bring satisfaction.  Arts and Crafts may be a dying art within American school systems.  But it’s thriving within American summer camps.

“Sports Camp” Isn’t Just a One Sport Term

It’s no secret that summer camps offer campers the opportunity to sample many different sports, but what may not be evident is why this may be preferable to sending children to a camp at which the focus is exclusively on one sport.  Dr. Jared Wood, a sports psychologist, believes children should be encouraged to try many different sports in order to find their favorites.  He warns that focusing on one sport too early in youth often “unnecessarily limits a child’s interest and skill development.”

Many child development experts recommend that children be given the opportunity to try out a sport before committing to it because it’s important for them to develop their self esteem prior to joining a team and engaging in intense training.  When children enter a sport with confidence, they’re more likely feel that they can do well and, therefore, strive to do well.  Many summer camp sports programs subscribe to this recommended combination of skill instruction and giving children the opportunity to use those new skills on the field or court.  Summer camps also emphasize skill development over winning or losing.  Campers learn sports skills in a supportive atmosphere and are taught by specialists who are proficient in their respective sports  Many summer camp sports programs are headed by college or high school coaches who lead counselors who played at the high school and college level.  This type of approach permits campers to try out various positions and get comfortable with the rules and general flow of a sport without feeling pressured to do well by overly zealous parents and coaches.

Another benefit of summer camp sports programs is that they offer a healthy mix of team and individual sports.  Child experts point out that some children prefer and perform at their best as part of a team while others are happier and better off playing individual sports.  By being able to simultaneously sample tennis and lacrosse, for instance, campers can get a feel for which one leaves them feeling the most motivated to further develop their skills while still being able to have a healthy appreciation for the other.

The variety offered at summer camp also gives campers the opportunity to try sports to which they may never have been exposed or would not otherwise have the opportunity to try.  Many a camper has tried a sport for the first time at summer camp and then gone on to play on a travel team, high school team, or even a college team.  Sports psychologist and author, Richard Ginsburg, Ph.D., suggests that children should be at least “12 or 13” before being encouraged to commit to one sport.  Dr.  Wood agrees, “It’s pretty clear that early specialization is much more likely to lead to burnout than it is to a scholarship or Olympic medal.”

So when you’re determining which type of summer camp is right for your child.  Consider the benefit of a summer camp that offers a diverse array of sports that will permit your child to sample a variety of choices.

Crazy Days and Whacky Nights

Parents, do you ever log onto your computer to check out the camp photos for the day, see your child painted in blue from head to toe or maybe wearing a crazy wig and big nerdy glasses and wonder, ‘What in the world?’  The answer probably has something to do with your summer camp’s special events and evening activities.  For fifty plus nights (and some days) summer camps entertain your children with some of the zaniest games and wackiest contests that they can come up with.  Why?  Because it’s fun to be painted in blue from head to toe…seriously.  Or at least it is when your cabin is performing a dance to the Smurfs theme in front of the entire camp and you’re Papa Smurf—or Smurfette.  And seeing images of your children and their counselors slipping, sliding, and splashing around in what appears to be multi-colored goo…it’s a camp thing…a really fun camp thing.  Eye patches are always fun.  So is spending a day pretending to be pirates and searching for buried treasure.   Becoming a secret agent and collecting clues to decode a message or pretending to be wild animals is also a great way to spend that occasional non-program day.  From trivia contests to talent contests and everything in between, some of the greatest moments of summer camp happen during the crazy days and wacky nights!

Let’s Go on a Trip!

With all of the amazing offerings within camp, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to leave.  But some of the greatest fun children have at summer camp is actually away from camp on one of the many out of camp trips that are arranged throughout the summer.  Some are small, an evening or afternoon, while others are overnight camping or hiking expeditions.  For many campers, the culmination of their camp experience each year is the multi-day trips that take place toward the end of the summer.  Regardless whether it’s one night or many, some of the unforgettable summer camp memories made away from camp include…

Day/Evening Trips
From evenings spent eating hot dogs while cheering on the local pro or semi pro sports team at the ballpark to friendly competition on the bowling lanes, lacing up the skates at a local rink or catching a movie at the cinema, campers enjoy a “night out” a few times during the summer. .  Sometimes instead of nights its days spent relaxing in inner tubes as they float lazily down a river, enjoying the adrenaline rush that comes from riding the water slides at a local waterpark, or braving the roller coasters of an amusement park.  Enjoying some of the most breathtaking scenery in the northeast is always a pleasure on an out of camp hike or nature walk as well.

Overnight Trips
One of the best parts of camp is the overnight camping program….spending a night or two at a campsite in a tent with all of your camp friends!    It’s no secret that campers love to camp!  Tents, campfires, s’mores, hikes, canoes, and a night dedicated exclusively to spending time exclusively with other campers within their own age group are all reasons why overnight camping trips are some of the most eagerly anticipated out of camp trips.

Multi-Day Trips
Campers don’t merely look forward to these trips all summer, they look forward to them from the very first day they step foot into camp as second and third graders.  As campers grow older, the trips get bigger, and each one is a rite of passage that campers anxiously await.  Amusement parks, national parks, and major cities are just some of the places that campers visit on multi-day overnight trips.  Sometimes they travel no further than a few hours from camp.  Older campers venture across the country to places like California or even over international borders into Canada.  Even with such exciting destinations, for many senior campers, it’s the journey with their camp friends and not the place that make multi-day out of camp trips the pinnacle of their camp experiences.

Whether it’s one day or several, some of the most exciting summer camp offerings aren’t in camp at all.  But they’re still very special parts of camp because they’re shared with people who can only be found at camp—camp friends!

Summers and Camp Belong in Maine…And So Do You!

Camp Laurel South is a proud member of the Maine Camp Experience. We think Summers and Camp Belong in Maine…And So Do You! Enter to win a Maine Vacation by visiting the Maine Camp Experience website…just follow this link: www.mainecampexperience.com/visit.

Why Maine…

Lakes…Pine Forests…Even Moose
There’s a reason people talk about Maine in such reverential tones. The state has 2,200 lakes. Warm, inviting, crystal clear bodies of water that make most other lakes look like swimming holes. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of pine forests.

Temperate days and comfortable nights, where you feel you can touch the sky. And more miles of beautiful coastline than California. Even mountains — Mt. Katahdin is one of the highest peaks in New England. It’s the perfect setting for summer, one that can’t be matched anywhere.

Tradition
As Forbes noted, there’s something unique about summer camps in Maine. From our acres of prime waterfront to our unspoiled wilderness, Maine has been the only destination of choice for thousands of camp families, with friendships that stretch from generation to generation.

Our summer camps feature the finest facilities, the most sought-after staff and the most unique range of off-site trips. And with more than 100 Maine camps, there’s something to suit everyone.

Geographical Diversity
The lure of Maine extends way beyond the Northeast. Our campers come from throughout the U.S., some from all over the world. (More than 20,000 campers live in 30 states, and several countries!)

Your children will learn to stretch their boundaries and experience life through the eyes of someone whose life is not a mirror image of their own.

Easy To Get Here…Hard To Leave
Maine is a lot closer than you think. An easy drive or flight from most places in the Northeast– about the same distance as a winter ski trip. A great vacation for the entire family.

Whether you’re looking for the famed seaside resorts of Bar Harbor and Camden or a lodge on one of our pristine lakes, Maine has something for everyone — especially kids! Come and visit our Maine Camps and you’ll never want to leave.

Camp Is Looking Great!

Our hardworking Pre-Camp Staff has continued their great work. Each day, Laurel South looks better and better!! Last night, we all headed to Windham for a well- deserved night out for pizza and a movie. In just a few days, we will welcome our Adventure and Equestrian Staff for their training sessions. As we see camp shaping up, it only heightens our anticipation for the start of the 2011 season, when the entire Laurel South family will be reunited on the beautiful shores of Crescent Lake! We can’t wait to see everyone soon.

The Pine Tree State

Maine Camp Experience - GirlsSummer camps got their start in Maine. A century later, they’re still going strong. The Pine Tree State now boasts 100 premier institutions – including The Laurel Camps (Laurel and Laurel South.)

We’re proud to call Maine home. We’re just as proud to utilize the resources of the entire state and to give hundreds of campers an experience unequaled anywhere else.

At The Laurel Camps there’s more than enough room for an exciting depth and breadth of activities. Sports ranging from baseball, soccer, softball and lacrosse to volleyball, tennis and archery.  Equestrian.  Swimming, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing and waterskiing on crystal-clear lakes.

Maine Camp Experience - BoysSummers in Maine are never too hot. And the nights are cool (and starry) enough for age-old traditions like campfires and s’mores.

But for campers and staff at Laurel and Laurel South, all of Maine is our playground. We hike tall mountains like Katahdin. We head into the pine forests for ropes courses, rappelling and mountain biking. We explore the coast and ocean-side sites like Acadia National Park, Ogunquit and Bar Harbor.

Campers come to Maine from across the country. Whether they’ve been here in the winter to ski, or have never experienced the wonders of the state, they quickly realize it’s an amazing, magnificent place – vast yet intimate, wild yet welcoming.

Parents love it too – particularly if they plan a day or three in the trendy city of Portland, with a side trip to Kennebunkport, Camden or (of course) Freeport to visit L.L. Bean!

It’s all part of the Maine camp experience – discovering new things, no matter what your age. And you never know…you may be lucky enough to spot a Moose.

Roger and Dagni
Camp Laurel South

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