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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

Put on Swimsuits, Goggles, and Sunblock–It’s Time for a Swim!

Almost every camper will name the Camp Laurel South Waterfront as one of the best parts of camp.  Camp Laurel South is situated on a crystal-clear, spring-fed lake…measuring 9 miles around.  Yes – 9 miles!!

The Camp Laurel South Waterfront plays a crucial role during the summer, not only as a place for swimming, sailing, kayaking, waterskiing, crew, fishing, bumper-tubing, and snorkeling,  but as a gathering place and perfect backdrop for special event and outdoor evening activities.  Learning to swim at camp is a rite of passage.   Perfecting swim skills provides a great foundation for building camp memories of sunny days spent at the waterfront.

Of course, there are the much acclaimed physical and mental benefits of learning to swim that we all know.  It’s a great low impact exercise suitable for almost everyone, which makes it an ideal part of a regular fitness regime.  It’s also not age-restrictive.  Rather, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.  The fact that muscle strength is also greatly improved as a result of pushing oneself through the water goes without saying.

Swimming also improves coordination and emotional well being.   The relaxing atmosphere of a hard-bottom lake provides the perfect setting for children to let down their guard and enjoy the type of casual conversation that builds and strengthens friendships.  When combined with the sheer fun of the activity, it’s the perfect setting for building memories.

Camp waterfront locations are extremely active and full of almost endless possibilities for camper experiences.  Camp Laurel South has more than 60 boats:  Mastercrafts Pro Start 197 Championship Ski Boats, Hobie Cats, Sunfish, Lasers, Fishing Pontoon Boats, Canoes, Kayaks, and more! The waterfront staff is well-trained with certified lifeguards  who complete an extensive and rigorous training program prior to the start of camp.

Camps also incorporate their waterfront areas into their special event planning.  Water games and pirate-themed treasure hunts are just a couple of ways that water play is used creatively in camp programs.

Swimming at camp takes on a new level of excitement when included in camp activities, such as Spirit Days, that give campers the opportunity to use their swimming skills to rise to a challenge.  Camp Laurel South swimmers also compete in swim meets through inter-camp leagues.   Whether racing against other campers or a time clock, being able to apply their swimming instruction in an engaging way and seeing firsthand how they’ve improved has been a moment of pride for many a camper.

And don’t forget about the famous Maine Lakes Cup – a 14 camp sailing regatta hosted by the winning camp each summer.

So the next time your child regales you with tales of the waterfront at his or her summer camp, remember that it’s not just summer memories that they’re gaining from their swimming experiences, but lifelong skills.

Sparking Creativity Through Campfire

One of the most endearing and sacred parts of summer camp is the campfire.  More than just wood lit with a match, it’s an intimate part of the camping experience that goes far beyond simply sitting around a fire.  Each camp has a set of traditions uniquely connected to the campfire experience and, to campers, each tradition is significant, demanding reverence.  The campfire is the very place where many children recall the moment when their camp transformed from “a camp” to “their camp”, where fellow campers and counselors become family while singing songs, roasting s’mores, and engaging in campfire activities.  So intricate is the campfire to the summer camp experience that even former Disney CEO Michael Eisner has reflected on its importance in making him who he is:

“Simply consider the lessons I was taught by the campfire…every time the rich reward was the same as we simply sat and enjoyed our consuming creation. And, there was one aspect in particular that never failed to intrigue me, and that was the process of seeing the single small flame of the match spread to the kindling and then the twigs and then the smaller branches and finally the larger logs. It didn’t dawn on me until years later, but this was the perfect metaphor for the creative process…Years later, I found myself running a network television division and then a movie studio and now an entire entertainment company. But, much of the success I’ve achieved can be traced to the direct and metaphorical lessons I learned in building those campfires.”

To some, to assign such significance to fire may seem a bit of a stretch.  But to anyone who has attended camp, it’s not only believable but apt.  Beyond Eisner’s metaphor, the campfire is symbolic of camp, and represents the bonding between campers and nature.  Campfires instantly evoke feelings of togetherness and promote an atmosphere of being together in an intimate setting that is unique to the people who are present.  Many camps hold opening and closing campfires to welcome campers and immerse them in the camping experience and to help them say goodbye at the end of the summer.  At the beginning of the summer, the flames represent the birth of a new summer.  Opening campfires often include some sort of ritual that introduces an idea or process that can be re-visited throughout the summer, such as setting goals for the summer or some sort of introduction and bonding activity with camp “siblings”.  The meaning of the flames, however, transforms at the end of the summer. The burning of a closing campfire represents the end of the season.  It’s a way to give the summer a proper and respectful send off.  Campfires held throughout the summer supplement overnight camping trips and special events.

To say that the campfire breeds creativity is not only accurate, but understated.  The various representations and meanings that the actual fire itself takes on helps campers learn to look at the same thing from different angles, a crucial aspect of honing creative thought and learning to think “outside the box”, which is essential to developing good problem solving skills.  When considered from this perspective, it’s not at all difficult to imagine a CEO of one of the world’s largest companies crediting much of his success to his camp experiences, specifically to the campfire.  In fact, it provides insight about the significance of camp and how the lessons learned there can be carried throughout life.

Childhood Obesity Part II: Balancing Nutrition and a Healthy Lifestyle

In the first part of this blog series, we discussed the benefits of physical activity at camp.  There are underlying advantages to this that directly relate to nutritional habits.  Research shows that that the more time children spend doing passive activities such as watching television, sitting at a computer, or playing video games, the more likely they are to overeat.  The reason for this is simple.  A sedentary lifestyle leads to boredom.  Nutritionists assert that lack of activity mars a child’s ability to determine the difference between boredom and hunger.  Unfortunately, according to dietician Jennifer Thomas, the increased amount of free time and lack of structure that often comes with summer break makes children particularly vulnerable to tedium and excessive food consumption.  Says Thomas, “A child can pick up 5 to 10 pounds over the course of a summer, so it’s important to recognize the difference between boredom and hunger.”

Concern about the obesity crisis has sprung to the forefront of the camping industry.  Cedric Bryant, Ph.D. and Chief Scientist for The American Council on Excercise, was a keynote speaker at the 2011 American Camp Association’s (ACA) National Conference, attended by thousands of camp professionals.  In his address, Dr. Bryant discussed the growing issue of obesity and praised the ability of summer camp  to transform poor habits through exercise.  Most traditional summer camps offer children a healthy mix of hobbies and athletics.   Camp staff members encourage campers to participate in everything that’s offered to them, even that which they might not necessarily do or try at home.

There is also something to be said for the fact that many summer camp activities, including dining, are scheduled into a child’s day and carried out in a group setting.  Access to food is limited throughout campus, and eating is typically not permitted in bunks.  Quite simply, obtaining food at camp is not as easy as walking into the pantry or opening the refrigerator on a whim for lack of something better to do.  New research has established many benefits to family meals.  One potentially underrated advantage is that dining as a unit may keep consumption in check by limiting what nutritionists call the “eating area”, the combination of time and space in which eating occurs.  “This strategy can help determine if they [children] are really hungry or just bored,” says Thomas.  Meals at summer camp are held at specific times in a designated place—usually a dining or mess hall—and campers dine together, often with their bunkmates.  Counselors supervise, insuring that everyone receives food and reporting any changes in a camper’s eating patterns.

The four day 2011 ACA conference also featured  seminars that addressed issues such as how to  work together to improve the overall health and nutrition of campers, understanding the relationship between nutrition and wellness and using that knowledge to help campers be high achievers through healthy bodies and minds, and adding healthy options to dining room menus, particularly for those campers who require special diets.

Indeed, though many camps are constantly striving to improve in these areas, the notions  introduced in these seminars are not new.  Meals served by most summer camps are carefully planned and balanced in accordance with USDA recommendations.  Many camps also encourage their campers to make healthy choices at mealtimes by providing several fruit options in the morning and salad bars at lunch and dinner.  Vegetarian alternatives are typically available and, increasingly, more attention is being given to rising nutritional challenges such as diabetic or gluten free diets.
All of this is enough to make summer camp worth considering as a combatant to the type of lackadaisical lifestyle that leads to poor eating habits and, possibly, obesity.

The History of Camp

Bus to CampIn today’s hyper-fast, multi-tasking world, one of the great attractions of camp is tradition. Each camp passes down its own stories and lore. Campers appreciate that they’re enjoying some of the same activities, in the same way, as campers before them have done for generations.

But few people realize just how much history the camp industry embodies.

The Gunnery CampThe first camp – called the Gunnery – was founded in 1861 in Washington, Connecticut. That’s right — camping is as old as the Civil War, and this year celebrates its 150th anniversary. Early campers enjoyed boating, fishing and trapping. It’s pretty impressive that two of those activities survive at camps, a century and a half later.

An 1876 camp was created to take “weakly boys” into the woods. We wouldn’t use those terms today – but camps still serve all kinds of children, in all kinds of ways. And we’re still in the woods.

Dinning Hall - Camp AgawamThe first YMCA camp was Dudley, in 1885. It’s still around – the longest continually operating camp in the United States. Scores of other camps date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

With over 100 camps – some dating back 100 years, welcoming scores of camping “generations” – Maine has long been one of camping’s most popular states.

Boasting crystal-clear lakes, pine forests, mountains and (don’t worry) moose, Maine is (like camping itself), “easy to get to, but very difficult to leave.”

Camping boomed nationally in the 1950s and 60s – along with much of post-war America. In 1948 the American Camping Association adopted Standards – the basis for ACA camp accreditation. There are currently 300 Standards for health, safety and programs. They’re recognized by courts and government regulators – a seal of approval for any camp to which parents entrust their most precious possessions.

Waterfront

The ACA was a pioneer in anti-discrimination resolutions. The first was adopted in 1950. Since then, the industry has continued to emphasize youth development. Camp directors constantly study research in areas like child and adolescent development, and risk prevention. They understand that positive experiences, strong relationships, challenging opportunities and solid personal values are vital to helping young people grow into healthy, caring and responsible adults.

Sailing

Frederick W. Gunn and his wife Abigail might not have used terms like those 150 years ago, when they founded The Gunnery Camp. But they intuitively understood the many benefits that camping provided. All of us in this important industry proudly honor the traditions of the past.

My colleagues and I will not be here 150 years from now to carry them on.

But we’re confident our successors – and our camps – will.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey
Guest Blogger and former Maine camper and counselor

*Historical photos courtesy of the American Camp Association – www.acacamps.org

Summer Camp: Curbing Childhood Obesity

With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that nearly 1 in 5 children between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese, it has become imperative that we, as parents, make as much effort to set our children up for success in establishing proper food habits, just as we would in other areas of their lives.  Three primary causes consistently cited for childhood obesity are lack of physical activity, an unbalanced diet and overeating.  An often overlooked benefit to summer camp is the significant impact it has in curbing childhood obesity by promoting an active lifestyle and healthy eating practices.  In this multi-part series, we will examine the efforts being made by summer camps to battle poor diet and exercise.

Part I.  Physical Activity
Beyond traditional summer camp sports such as soccer, basketball, baseball, roller hockey and gymnastics, many camps are increasingly focusing on the development of extensive programs for such popular fitness activities as spin, running, weights, zumba, yoga and the martial arts.  The instant popularity of these programs suggests that children have a natural interest in exercise and will engage in it of their own accord in the absence of many of the daily distractions that promote a more lethargic lifestyle but are not readily available at summer camp, such as computers, video game systems and television.  The ability to participate in fitness programs as a form of fun also encourages campers to approach such activities with an open mind rather than as something forced on them and that is only done out of necessity.  

Some camps are also experimenting with nutrition programs that marry cooking activities with fitness. Such programs teach campers how to plan healthy meals and snacks and then prepare them.  Cooking programs are among the most popular at summer camp.  To merge them with nutrition is a clever way to demonstrate the importance of using discretion in choosing what we eat and consuming it in moderation.  In the past, the idea of “diet,” as in depriving oneself of necessary nutrients, has been cited as a contributing factor in the growth of eating disorders and yo-yo dieting.

For those who question the lasting effects of fitness and nutritional habits adapted at summer camp, statistics indicate that they won’t be going away anytime soon.  According to the American Camp Association, more than half of children who pursue a new interest at camp will continue pursuing that interest once they return home.

Up next, part II.  An Unbalanced Diet

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