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Camp 101: Don’t Go Shopping, Go Co-Shopping

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Boys and girls who feel part of the decision to attend camp are happy during camp. It’s as simple as that. Their sense of agency or “being in control” is greatest when they get to choose what camp to attend, when in the summer to go and how long to stay. Stated differently, young people who feel forced to go to camp are more likely to feel homesick. Gulp.

Of course, most parents don’t force their children to attend camp, but many parents do overlook the value of including their son or daughter in all of the big and small decisions made after registration is complete. So now that you’re enrolled at camp, here’s a list of ways to include your son or daughter in the pre-arrival process:

Have your child help complete the camp’s health form. They may not know the dates of their immunizations, but they can certainly print their name, address, and phone number at the top of the form. Explain what other information is included on the health form and how the form is used at camp. Review any allergies or illnesses that need attention at camp, especially those in which the child collaborates in care, such as asthma and diabetes.

Have your child assemble your correspondence kit. Pack a zipped freezer bag with pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes, paper, and pens. This activity is even more fun when you pick the addresses of letter recipients together. Have grandparents contributed to camp tuition this year? Be sure to address a couple letters to them as well. Packing stickers to decorate envelopes at camp will increase positive anticipation about this new way to keep in touch.

Call the camp director together and request the names and numbers of a few returning camper families who live close to you. Only a few camps set up formal pen pals or “big sibs” for new campers, but most other camps are happy to informally link new and returning campers. Involving your son or daughter in making that first social connection at camp is a powerful way to promote positive adjustment.

Shop together. This doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, but it should be a shared activity. Many well-intentioned parents have taken the camp’s packing list and completed purchases without the child’s ever knowing. Some moms and dads even pack their child’s trunk for them! This misguided generosity takes away from boys’ and girls’ sense of agency and puts them at greater risk for intense homesickness. Here are my suggestions:

Sit down with your son or daughter and review the camp’s packing list. (What? No packing list? Download it from the camp’s website or request it as an e-mail attachment from the camp. Every high-quality camp publishes a packing or equipment list.)

Together, check the items that you already have. Remember, camp is not the place for monogrammed towels and heirloom sweaters. Everything you decide to pack should be appropriate for a rugged outdoor setting, no matter where the camp is situated.

Highlight the recommended items that you don’t have. Find an online vendor or local store where you can purchase these items and set a date for shopping together. Most packing lists don’t include toiletries, so add things like deodorant, toothpaste, bug repellent lotion (not flammable spray), and (for young ladies) tampons or pads. Intense physical activity and prolonged wearing of damp bathing suits can cause chafing and itching. Therefore, I recommend packing Gold Bond Powder or its generic equivalent.

Shop for all your needed items together. Something as simple as picking out the color of the new toothbrush will give your son or daughter a healthy sense of agency over the camp experience. Enjoy this co-shopping experience and share your positive expectations for camp. (A little nervous about your child being away? That’s normal. But share those feelings with another adult.)

Purchase and pack in the recommended container. There are many choices of footlockers, pop-up soft trunks, duffel bags, and backpacks. This might be your most fun co-shopping experience. Stay within your budget, of course, but let your child choose the color, style, and size of packing container.

Label it all. Together, you’ve gathered everything you need for a great summer at camp. Want to be sure it all comes home? Hit it with a laundry marker or an iron-on name label or a waterproof adhesive label. It’s easy to lose things at camp, but if you want it back, it’s got to have your name on it.

Pack together. I recommend you affix the camp’s packing list-on which you’ve handwritten any other gear you’re packing, to the inside of your son or daughter’s footlocker, trunk, or duffel. (Remember, she’ll be packing on her own on closing day!) Now is the time to provide guidance on what goes where, but let your child make the final choices. A great packing tip my friend Jon taught me: Roll your clothes and stack them like pencils in a can. That way, you can see what you’ve got without moving things around.

Did you remember to pack a laundry bag? Most of this gear is going to get pretty nasty, so it’s good to separate dirty from clean so there’s something fresh to wear on the way home.


Camp 101: What You Need for a Safe and Fun Campfire

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Hey, Fiery Personalities!

Bonfires are a summer camp tradition. They’re perfect for staying warm while you tell ghost stories or for toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Campfires are an important part of the summer camp experience, but having fun should also mean staying safe. Whether you’re a novice camper or a seasoned counselor, it’s important to know what you need to have a safe and fun campfire experience and to plan ahead before you light the logs.

1.) A suitable location.
Fire safety 101 starts with finding a suitable location for your campfire. Look for a spot that’s far enough away from trees, dry grass, and other materials that could easily catch on fire. It should be flat and have plenty of room around it for seating. A store-bought raised fire pit works well, but a ring made out of rocks or bricks will also get the job done. If your campfire location is overgrown with grass or weeds, you may need to do a little clearing before you have your first bonfire.

2.) Plenty of dry wood.
Dry wood catches fire easily and won’t require the use of an accelerant. It is by far the safest fuel source for your campfire and should be your go-to option. Never use gasoline or lighter fluid on a campfire as these can cause sudden and large flames that can be dangerous. You can purchase dry wood or you can split your own from fallen trees. Keep in mind that seasoned wood will burn cleaner and longer than unseasoned wood and will pop much less.

3.) Seating located a safe distance from the fire.
There’s nothing better than sitting around a campfire after the sun goes down in the summer. Of course, that requires seating. When placing chairs or benches, make sure they’re a safe distance from the fire to avoid overheating or burns caused by stray embers. In general, chairs should be no closer than 5 feet to a small campfire. The larger the fire, the farther away the chairs should be.

Having a safe and fun campfire doesn’t have to be a lot of work. Generally, common sense and some good, dry wood is all you need to make sure your campers have the best campfire experience possible. When it comes to campfires, staying safe and having fun should always go hand-in-hand. As always, thanks for reading, Camp Fans!

- John


Camp 101: Transitioning from Camper to Counselor

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Hey, Camp Kids!

Who says that growing up has to be boring? You don’t have to give up your summers at camp just because you’re over eighteen. It’s probably easier than you think to transition from summer camper to camp counselor. You’ve probably already learned many of the skills that you need just by attending camp every summer. You’ll also love the newfound freedom paired with the brand new responsibilities that you’ll have as a counselor. So why give up your annual trip to camp when you can go and continue to grow as a leader and as a person?

The Experience You Already Have
Chances are, if you’re interested in becoming a camp counselor, it’s because you have spent many summers as a summer camper. If this is true, then you’ve probably already learned many of the skills that you’ll need to have as a counselor. Leadership is a skill that is often taught through many of the games that kids play at summer camp. Campers are also encouraged to work together and solve problems as a team, which means that you already have a good foundation in teamwork and problem-solving. Finally, you already have a good idea of how the camp where you’ll be working is run. You’ll be looking at things from a different perspective, of course, but your time as a camper undoubtedly gave you most of the experience you need for a camp counselor job.

A Fun Summer Job
Many jobs and internships that college students take on during the summer can be boring and ultimately unfulfilling. Skip the boring jobs that some of your peers might get and go back to your favorite summer spot. As a camp counselor, you’ll spend your summer playing games and interacting with a new round of young campers while earning some spending cash. Nothing can be better than having a job that requires you to spend hours playing every day. Even though it won’t be all fun and games, as you’ll have more responsibilities as a counselor, you’ll have so much fun and freedom that it won’t feel like work at all. Plus, you’ll be able to add your new leadership experience to your resume.

As always, thanks for reading, Camp Fans!

- John


Camp 101: What Writing Can Do for You

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Hey, Camp Fans!

Days at summer camp are jam-packed full of exciting adventures, experiential learning, fun times with friends, cool personal moments, and so much more. With all that mental stimulation filling those long summer days, it’s likely that we’ll end up forgetting a thing or two or maybe a lot more. After all, the human brain can’t create a lasting memory out of everything that happens throughout your day. A memory stands a much better chance of sticking around, however, if you write it down.

In fact, you stand a better chance at remembering anything that you’ve written down. It’s been proven that taking the time to actually handwrite something creates a strong connection to our memory. When we write things down, we create a physical space that stores those thoughts for us so we can return to them later if we want or need.

There are two chief benefits of bringing a diary or journal along to summer camp:

Preserve Memories
Don’t leave your memories behind! Put them down in your personal logbook. Write about your cabin, fun activities, and friends you’ve made. Some pretty ridiculous things get said throughout a camp stay so it’s smart to write down all those good quotes and immortalize those goofy moments. Or you can chronicle your camp life on a postcard or a letter to send home too! Writing about your summer visit helps you hold onto all those great memories and wonderful learning experiences that you encounter at camp.

Confiding in Personal Matters
Your personal journal gives you an opportunity to write down your thoughts and express your feelings. Writing about your personal perspective can allow you to explore what you’re feeling. Releasing your secret thoughts from your mind can be therapeutic even if you’re not really telling anyone. And whether you’re feeling good or bad, it’s always better to understand what you’re feeling. Your diary is what you make it, but it has the potential to be an entire world for you—your own private spot where you can escape to when you need some quiet time to yourself.

Find a diary for yourself at Everything Summer Camp so you can express yourself uninhibited and record all the great moments you’re going to encounter throughout your camp stay. Take a look at the postcards as well as cool, campy stationery we carry that you can send home—because whether you’re writing home or writing to yourself, it’s definitely a healthy way for your mind to process the summer camp experience! Have fun at camp and make sure you write about it! As always, thanks for reading!

 

- John


Camp 101: Making Friends at Camp is Easier than You Think

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Hey, Camp Fans!

Shyness is a quality found in everybody. Some folks are more shy than others and some people hardly seem shy at all—but even they are sure to turn timid in certain social situations. The point is that it’s only normal to be anxious about meeting new people. We may get overwhelmed or even scared in our anticipation for summer camp. There’s no need to wallow in your worries, though! Just check out these four simple tips that will have you making friends in no time.

Everything Summer Camp to the rescue!

Use Your Eyes
The first step is easy. Just hang back and observe. See what you spot. Can you find any common ground between yourself and anyone else? What are your cabin mates doing? Does someone have the logo of your favorite sports team on their camp trunk? Maybe somebody is wearing the same shirt as you. Finding similarities gives you an immediate and easy introduction.

Introduce Yourself
Next is the hardest part, but most of the pressure has been lifted from the first step. Once you spot someone who appears to have some similar interest as you—being sports, fashion, or what have you—go up and introduce yourself. It may take a little bravery to approach somebody, but you can keep it simple: “Nice shirt. I’m Tommy. I’m from Chicago.” And an accompanying handshake usually helps a little.

Ask Questions
Introductions don’t need to take long. Instead of divulging everything from your pet’s name to your favorite color, try asking your new acquaintance a question about him or her. You can even offer your own answer to a question first—like this: “I’m most excited for archery. How about you?” People love when you show an interest in them, so this kind of approach can lead to some easy connection. And now that you learned this person’s name and something simple about them, you’re well on your way to making a friend.

To truly become friends takes a little more time, but hardly any more effort. After introductions and striking up a little conversation, add some bonding time to the recipe and you’ve got yourself a friend.

Bring a Game
Bonding doesn’t necessarily mean sharing all your deepest secrets—just have a genuine laugh together. You can’t really force it, but what you can do is bring a game to camp. Games are the ultimate ice breaker. In fact, most camps have games at the ready on opening day because of what a great ice breaker they are. But a deck of cards or some other group game of your own never hurts. Just announce it and see if it generates any interest—“I brought cards for Poker!”

It’s pretty easy to have bonding moments at camp since the entire stay is based on having fun. You’re sure to find yourself laughing away and having a blast with your newfound friends in no time, flat! Summer camps have been making it happen for kids since they first started up in 1861 and they’ve only gotten better at it. Put these easy tips to good use when you head off to summer camp and enjoy the friendships you make! And, as always, thanks for reading!

- John