Camp is over and I am choking back the tears. Why am I crying, you may ask or some of you may think, what type of parent am I? Aren’t I excited to see my camper? Of course, I am excited and of course, I missed him all summer. But each summer when camp ends, is one summer less for my children to be just that – children. Each summer that passes, means one less summer for them to smile, laugh, grow and learn in an unplugged world. I know this – how? I have seen children start camp at the young age of 7 or 8. I have seen children grow into preteens and not have to deal with the awkward middle school moments during the summer. I have seen teens be able to feel safe and happy with their camp family and temporarily escape the overwhelming stress and pressure they feel all year. I have also seen my own children mold and shape new campers as their counselors. Don’t think that being a counselor for the summer is the easy way out. Far from it, it’s hard work, but the rewards include maturity, personal relationships, time management, conflict resolution and so much more. If you think there is joy in seeing your happy camper, there is another sense of joy and pride when you see happy campers looking up to your happy counselor. But like everything else in life, all good things come to an end. So why am I crying? Because I don’t want any of this to end and the end of each summer means we are all getting closer to the end of this stage.
What does visiting day mean to you? To me it means family. I look forward to this day so much every year. I love being at the camp that has brought all my children so much joy and growth. I love watching them in an unplugged environment and being witness to all the relationships they have formed with their peers, counselors, group leaders and even the directors.
First time for you? Here are some tips:
- Be organized – pack your things the night before. That includes snacks (please make sure you follow the “no nut” policy and also don’t overdo it). You don’t want your child to be sick after you leave or worse, living with rodents from all the food in the bunk
- Give yourself enough time to get there – you don’t want to stress out if there is a traffic problem.
- Be present – your child has been waiting for this day – sit with them, play with them and listen to them.
- Say “Thanks” – introduce yourself to their counselors and say thank you. A little kindness goes a long way. Don’t focus on the small complaints – this job is harder than you imagine, but it is also a personal one – so show them your appreciation by just saying “thanks”.
- Plan your exit – the end can become emotional. Shower your children with hugs and kisses and most importantly, positive reinforcement. Let them know how proud you are of them. If they are starting to quiver, remind them that it’s ok to miss you but have a good time simultaneously. Remember that shortly after you leave they will once again be engaged.
- Smile – these are good times and you should enjoy them! While you are smiling, take some pictures and send them to us or post them and tag @tipsontripsandcamp
As a summer camp and program advisor, I am constantly being asked whether a specific program will look good on a teen’s resume, or if a specific camp will improve their camper’s athletic or artistic skills. As a parent of 3 teens, I am beginning to realize that these manipulated experiences are only part of the picture. Let’s take a step back and really think about what we want for our children – health, happiness and success. As parents we put so much pressure on ourselves to help our children achieve all these goals. When I think back to my children’s path to happiness and success, I have to admit, I didn’t do it alone. I probably didn’t do most of it – camp did! Camp gives my children the chance to be independent, problem solve, form true personal relationships and all these things create happiness and I hope down the road, success. Don’t believe me? Read this article with quotes from Steve Jobs, head staff at Harvard and MIT, as well as well known authors:https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/05/09/can-sleep-away-camp-give-kids-a-competitive-advantage-in-life/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a44dcc820e69
As I am sure many parents can relate, social media and cell phones are making me crazy. Have you noticed how all the kids (and adults) are constantly scrolling, texting and watching things on their devices? Not only is this bad for their mental development, we are raising the next group of hunchback adults.
As I was strolling thru camps earlier this summer, I started to notice how happy all the campers looked. They were so happy talking to their friends, playing games and just being outside. Imagine that – all of these smiles and no Snapchat or Instagram to capture it. How amazing!! You know what else was amazing? They all made eye contact because their heads weren’t hunched down starting at a screen. Call me old-fashioned, but I truly believe that kids are happier at camp because it is now the only place where they can disconnect from the world, but more importantly, they are making real life connections. Laughing with their friends, making memories and feeling good about themselves.
My love for camp is stronger than ever. Can anything really replace face to face fun? How about a time for your child to feel good about themselves and doing things they can truly enjoy, not because they want to post it. Let’s take this a step further. Now I know I may get a lot of backlash from my nearest and dearest but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if camp directors eased up on the camp pictures. I can hear the loud protests. Hear me out – I recently visited a camp that did not post pictures. When I asked the director why not, he said, “kids act differently when they don’t have to be on”. Hmm – that’s true. He then continued, “This is their journey, not their parents”. Even I had to sheepishly admit he was right.
This camp also had the highest percentage of former campers coming back multiple years as counselors. A coincidence? Maybe, but it is something to think about.
Check out tiny houses for sale which you can take on your camping trip to have fun with your family.
VISITING DAY TREATS
Camp visiting day will be here before you know it. What do kids at sleep away camp want? Candy or junk food is always a hit. Sure, lots of stores sell goodies that campers would like, but why not try to make them yourself?
My friends and I have a tradition of getting together before visiting day and making candy sushi. The kids love it and we love making it for them. Here is the recipe so you can join in the fun.
Rice Krispies treats
Fruit roll ups
Swedish Fish, gummy worms, sour patch kids or any similar size candy
Cupcake Icing to make “spicy” sushi
Chopsticks for decoration
Plastic containers from the Dollar Store
California Rolls: Roll or press the Rice Krispies treats to make a flat sheet.
Lay fruit roll up on the Rice Krispies treat sheet and cut it to flattened sushi size. Flip it over and lay gummy worms or licorice strings on one end. Roll the California roll up and cut it into for sushi rolls.
Nigiri Sushi: Cut 1×2 inch rectangles out of the Rice Krispies treat sheet. place a Swedish Fish or gummy on top. Wrap around a strip of fruit roll up, licorice string or other thin candy.
Package in the Dollar Store containers for transport to the big day.
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. In full disclosure, I am and have been 100% guilty of all I am about to tell you not to do. But I have sound support and examples of why you should do as I say, and not as I often do.
So for the past 11 years, I drive to the bus stop – chase my kids for pictures, give them multiple hugs and kisses good bye, wave until my arms hurt, wipe away my tears and then run home to my computer to scan pictures posted by their camp. Is this good? NO!!! First of all it hurts my husband’s feelings. He wants us to enjoy our time together. Don’t get me wrong, I love having this time with him, but how can I be in a good mood if I am worried about my kids. But really, are those camp pictures going to give me that assurance? I know that the answer is no.
Don’t we send our kids to camp to take a break from technology? Are we sending mixed signals? No phones, no computers, enjoy the outdoors, but make sure you get in a lot of pictures, because we, the parents, aren’t taking a technology break. Maybe we should take that break as well.
I have experienced first hand how pictures/videos can be totally deceiving. Let’s go back nine years. It is my middle son’s first year at camp – the same boy who was so excited to go to camp, and the same boy who always has a good time. His division went on an overnight on the other side of camp and one of the staff members decided to take a video of the night. There I was watching so intently that my eyes were almost popping out of my head – there he is!!! One quick glimpse, but wait – he looked miserable. I kept watching knowing that it must be a mistake and there he is again- looking miserable again and all by himself! I did not know what to do. I couldn’t breathe or sleep. I was beside myself. My fun, smiley son looked so upset and was all by himself both times I saw him in the video. My thoughts were, “We made a mistake, he was too young for camp, I have ruined his entire camp experience.” Waiting for our next phone call seemed like an eternity, even though it was the very next week. What to do – bring it up or keep it positive and not focus on his misery. During our conversation, I casually mentioned the overnight. His response was, “The overnight was awesome, it was my favorite night of the summer so far.” Seriously, I had just spent the past week developing an ulcer because I thought he was so unhappy. The take away should have been not to take the pictures or videos too seriously. They don’t capture the whole story. Did I learn my lesson? I would like to say yes, but that would be a lie however I do realize making assumptions could easily spiral to a new level of psychosis. So now, I will only look once a day and not jump to any conclusions. In fact my favorite pictures are not only the ones where they are posed and smiling, but also the ones where my kids are in the background and I’m standing with my husband with a couple of AR-10 rifles (those were the hunting days). They each show different perspectives both are valuable.
Enjoy the pictures and videos from camp but treat them as a bonus not a survival line. Let your kids tell you all about their adventures without you piecing together what you think happened based on studying and analyzing every photo all day long.
There are so many things I love about Thanksgiving. I love searching for new recipes, I love the cooking and the smells in the kitchen. I love watching my boys play football and watch football with their dad, uncles and cousins.
This year I am experiencing a new tradition. My oldest son is returning from college for his Thanksgiving break. The excitement in the house is at a new level. For any moms out there who have had their home change when a child leaves for school, you know how I feel.
It’s also an exciting time for my work – I help families find summer camps and teen programs. This is the time of the year when all new programs are finalized. New destinations, classes and adventures. So even though it may be cold outside, summer is never too far away.
One of most popular camp activities is cooking – kids of all ages love to go to cooking. Sometimes it is for a reprieve from the sun and sometimes it is just the thought of having a yummy treat in the middle of the day.
So in the spirit of keeping a little summer in your life all year long, here is one of my favorite dessert recipes – it’s easy and delicious. Enjoy it with your kids this holiday.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spread a bag of chocolate chips in the bottom of a glass baking dish.
Arrange 1 bag of large marshmallows on top.
Bake in the preheated oven until chocolate softens and marshmallows are golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Let dip cool, about 5 minutes.
Serve with graham crackers for dipping
We have just celebrated Thanksgiving and now everyone is caught up in the upcoming holidays. So why do I suggest we think about summer now? Well, you know that rushed, stressed feeling you have about the holidays? Do you really want to repeat that feeling when it comes to your child’s summer plans? It is a proven fact that the warmth and sunlight of summer is good for your psyche. So take a deep breath and imagine your teen exploring the world, participating in a community service project, sitting in a college classroom enjoying a class that they selected or putting those foreign language skills to use thru a language immersion program. Imagine your camper swimming in the lake, singing camp cheers or just laughing with their bunkmates. This is the time to have leisurely conversations with the camp director or summer teen program director. This is the time to find out what interests your child wants to pursue – sports, arts, science or outdoor adventure.
Enjoy the warmth of your home during the holidays knowing you will enjoy the upcoming months without the stress of “what is your child doing this summer”.
This is the time of year, that parents are finalizing their teen’s summer tours/trips. We, as parents get so wrapped up in the details, that sometimes we forget about the big picture.
For instance, if your teen is going on a community service trip, it should be more about expanding their horizons, rather than logging in their required hours. Nothing can compare to visiting new places, meeting new people and gaining a better understanding of another culture.
A language immersion program is not only good for enhancing their language skills or prepping for the upcoming school year, but it builds confidence in your teen inherently by being in an atmosphere where they have to learn as they go along.
A precollege program can look good on a teen’s resume, but they also walk away with a new sense of responsibility and maybe even more appreciation for all you do at home.
A teen tour seems like all fun and games, but along the way, they learn how to get along with all types of teens, and can sometimes be put in a position where they need to resolve conflicts and learn the art of compromise.
To summarize, you should expect your teen to have fun, accomplish a goal, but most importantly build character and come home a better version of the teen they were when they left.
Is your Teen too Stressed to learn? – Summer Teen Programs can be your solution
Summer teen programs allow our kids to –visit a new country; enhance their language skills; develop independence; give back. Consider sending your teen to a precollege program in another country. They can have fun, while learning the language and being exposed to the culture without the stress of a school setting. So many schools require community service hours – does your teen just log in a few hours for numerous events. Why not explore a two or three week project where they can be a part of something from start to finish – feel a sense of accomplishment, make new friends and visit a new place. There are so many great summer community service teen programs available domestically and internationally. Are you tired of asking your teen what they want to do with their lives? Let them use the summer to try out different interests, whether it be thru a classroom setting or an internship. I know that I am sick of nagging my teen, I would rather give him the opportunity to spend the summer feeling good about himself and figuring out who he ultimately wants to be – how about you?