Magic Tricks of Summer Camp

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Photo credit: Cory Schwartz

By: Jill Wormser, Summer 365 CIT

Follow me down memory lane… back to when you were little and saw your first magic trick. You didn’t really understand it, you couldn’t fully explain it, but you know that it amazed you and exceeded all your expectations of what you thought was going to happen. This is how I try to explain sleepaway camp to those who have never been. For people who have never experienced it, it is hard to understand the obsession that is camp. And those who are part of it can never fully explain it, but they definitely know that it was amazing and that it exceeded all their expectations. This is my answer to the question, “why go to summer camp:” because you too will be part of the group that understands the unexplainable magic.

The camp magician has taught me how to master ten magic tricks.

First Trick: Confidence

The trick of being confident. Schools have tried, parents have tried, friends have tried, but I have never seen anyone do a magic trick on children the way that camp can to bring out a child’s inner confidence. It can sometimes be a hidden gem in a child that camp manages to find and bring out.

Second Trick: Loyalty

The trick of being loyal. It’s the magic of friendship that camp teaches children. Your bunkmates quickly become your family and your loyalty to them is extreme and it is real.

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Third Trick: Responsibility

The trick of learning responsibility. The magic of camp is that children grow up more in those short 7 weeks than they do throughout the whole year. It’s no longer a nagging parent that instructs a kid to do their duties (brush her teeth, clear his plate, make her bed), rather it is the child who takes on responsibilities to take care of him or herself, to take care of his or her belongings, and so much more.

Fourth Trick: Bravery

The trick of being brave. Getting on the bus that first day requires a new level of braveness that children have yet to experience at that age. Once at camp, being in this magical place, kids are able to conquer their own fears of touching the bottom of the lake, going down the zip line, trying out for the soccer team, or even just trying new foods.

Fifth Trick: Teamwork

The trick of teamwork. Camp is a magical community and doesn’t function without the happiness, spirit, and personalities of each camper. Whether it is partnering up with a new friend, working together on a color war team, or just sitting by the lake, the bonds in this community are unlike most others.

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Sixth Trick: Second Family

The trick of creating a second family. Living in a place where you are surrounded by hundreds of people who genuinely want you to be your best self is magical. Camp creates a second family in which children find role models to look up to, people who look after them, and a place where kids learn the great life skills and values from great people.

Seventh Trick: Accepting Others

The trick of accepting others.  Camp is a place where being called “weird” is one of the biggest complements one could accept. Children learn to open up their eyes to people similar and different from them. Camp teaches everyone to find the magic within each other. There is magic within each person, camp just helps people see it.

Eighth Trick: Sportsmanship

The trick of sportsmanship.  It is just as fun to lose as it is to win at camp. Camp teaches the magic of focusing on the positives of every situation. You can ask any coach, teaching sportsmanship is not an easy task, but somehow camp counselors have mastered this. Children actually cheer on the opposite team as much as they cheer on their own. Now that is MAGIC.

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Ninth Trick: Living in the Moment

The trick of learning to live in the moment. In this day and age children are surrounded by technology, electronics, and are always diving into the “next thing.” At camp, life slows down. Each day, children learn the magic of embracing the moment, making the best of each day, and being outdoors and in nature. It is not about doing an activity so you can Instagram it, it is about doing an activity because it is fun. Camp brings back the magic of the world that isn’t based around technology.

Tenth Trick: Happiness

The trick of happiness. My dad always asked my camp director if he put something special in the water at camp that makes every kid so happy. Camp makes
you smile a little wider, makes your adrenaline rush a little harder, makes your nose crinkle a little more from laughing too hard, and truly makes your heart beat a little faster. If that isn’t magic, then I am not sure what is.

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I have yet to learn the magic trick that lets me stay at camp for 12 months of the year… but I am working on it…

To discover how your kids can experience the magic tricks of summer camp, visit Summer 365, a free year round summer camp resource for parents nationwide.  

The Power of Unplugging at Sleepaway Camp

Written by Lauren Kasnett, Co-Founder + Summer 365 Counselor
Give me a U
Give me a N
Give me a P
Give me a L
Give me a U
Give me a G
Yea, you know what we’re talking about. UNPLUG! It’s a simple and beautiful (and perhaps elusive) concept that is becoming a big fixture of conversation for us lately. One of the most commonly asked questions and discussions we engage parents in about sleepaway camp is – what is the electronics policy? And of course it is. In a world where we are totally and pretty much unavoidably immersed in technology, parents want to know what happens during summertime at camp.
In our everyday lives, for both parents and kids alike, there are a whole lotta screens and a whole lotta hours logged in front of them. Between cell phones, computers, TV, video games, and apps we are constantly connected and forever liking / commenting / scrolling / refreshing (and we bet sometimes you even think you feel your phone buzzing even when it’s not… yes this has a name it’s called Phantom Vibration Syndrome). And this is a not an anti-technology PSA. In fact, we love technology (wait for it… here is our plug) and hope you enjoy our website, blog, and social media accounts! However, as wonderful as technology is we know our kids are spending too much time connected to their screens and not enough time connecting to real people in real life. There is an increasing amount of research showing that technology is affecting our biological capacity to connect with other people (Barbara L. Frederickson, a professor of psychology at UNC, wrote a great op/ed piece in the NYT “Your Phone vs Your Heart”).
So this takes us back to that question what is the electronics policy at camp? And we are over-the-moon, elated, jubilant, and ear-to-ear when we tell our clients that by and large the majority of sleepaway camps are electronic free zones. We can almost always hear a smile over the phone in the event that a parent doesn’t give a small cheer or a “that’s awesome!” While every camp has their own specific policy (some do not allow campers to bring anything with screens, others just prohibit wifi enabled devices, some only allow music on an mp3 player, and so on) there is a common ethos and philosophy shared by camp directors and leaders – camp is a time to unplug which provides the opportunity for SO MUCH MORE. It is a time to connect, communicate, collaborate, engage, and be outdoors and have fun! Children will write letters home (yes ones actually sent via snail mail) and sit for a meal without a phone or iPad in hand and have conversations. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?!
So there will be none of this…
and lots of this…
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We wanted to share this absolutely fantastic, insightful, and powerful TED Talk from camp industry leader, Steve Baskin. He so poignantly articulates the conundrum we face with modern technology when it comes to our kids, and he explores the most magical place where kids can unplug and create genuine connections and friendships and learn critical interpersonal skills. It’s a place where both elementary aged kids and teenagers put down their phones, log off the computer, turn off the game system AND thank their parents for it. We bet you can guess where this place is, eh?!!? This is a must watch (especially for any parents who have friends that aren’t so sure about sending their child away to camp or if you have spouse that needs some convincing). Share this video and spread the summer camp love!
Unplugging Our Kids: Steve Baskin at TEDxSanAntonio

Unplugging Our Kids: Steve Baskin at TEDxSanAntonio

Make sure to check out Summer 365‘s website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and for more great camp advice and information!

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

envelope.jpgWhen I was getting my son ready for sleep-away camp this year, I made sure he was aware of some important things – like how to turn on the shower, where to find his socks and how to make his bed. I had heard horror stories of kids who never showered at camp because they weren’t taught how to do it by themselves so I was determined to ensure that my 10 year old wouldn’t be that kid.
I thought I had everything covered. And I did…except for the letters.
A few days after he arrived at camp, we started receiving letters home from him with our address written on the back flap. While the card still found its way to our mailbox, we never told our son where to write our mailing address. Somehow, I must have thought that part would be instinctual – except my son decided that it made the most sense to write all the addresses down on the wrong side. Plus, he also lost the entire page of addresses I had typed and printed out for him before he left, so I had to re-send it via bunk notes so he could write his grandparents. Ironically, they received their letters in the same condition with their mailing address on the back flap.
When I ran into a friend of mine and confided his letter writing faux pas, she revealed that when her son first went to sleep-away camp, he told her he had sent her a ton of letters but she never received them. A few weeks into the case of the missing camp letters, she finally solved the mystery – her son was putting his own mailing address on the front flap so the letters kept going back to him!
And here’s another doozy – we were out to dinner the other night with friends and they told us their son received a letter from one of his best friends who was away at camp. He was so excited to hear from him that he ripped open the envelope only to find a letter that read:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m having a lot of fun at camp and haven’t cried yet….
It turns out, his mom had armed him with pre-addressed envelopes. All he had to do was write a letter and then put it in the right one and voila, mail it to out. Easy, peasy. Except he didn’t read who he was sending his letter to and thought this one was going to his parents.
I guess in this age of technology, parents have taken letter writing skills for granted. But let that be a lesson to all of us. Sending email is easy – but nothing beats receiving a good old fashioned letter from your child – no matter where they write the address — as long as it gets there and we’re able to read through his practically illegible handwriting that he’s having a great time, then all is right with the world.

Project You Summer Edition is Here!

Sure it’s already July and we’re halfway through the summer, but that never stopped us! Project You, the Summer Edition is finally here. We are so proud of our latest issue which is filled with book reviews galore, amazing beauty, entertaining and health tips, funny essays, travel secrets and so much more. Thanks again to all of our amazing contributors!
Take a look, click on the links and enjoy what we’d like to call a labor of love!

Two Weeks to No Kids

Kids House - 155/365

Kids House – 155/365 (Photo credit: morberg)

I can’t believe it but in two more weeks, my husband and I are going to be childless.  Yes, we are part of the population on the east coast who send their kids to sleepaway camp.  I never in a million years expected my son…who I fondly call “The Boomerang” would actually want to go away to camp but surprisingly, he is ready, willing and eager to hit the road.

This weekend, while we were shopping for stationery and were cashing in on a gift certificate he had received for his birthday, I spotted a fan and asked if he’d like one for his bunk.  To which he replied, “Oh no Mommy, they have air conditioning there.”  Sorry buddy, but life as you know it is about to change.  No AC, no thermostatic shower – which means you have to figure out how to get warm water out of a faucet by yourself; nobody changing your bed sheets and no one hounding you to brush your teeth before you go to bed.

It’s definitely going to be tough for my husband and I to adjust to not having our kids around the house.  I mean, we haven’t been alone together for an extended period of time in years.  We can now go to movies and dinners during the week.  We can see Broadway shows.  We can go dancing and bar hopping.  We can play tennis.  And do other things that I will not share on this blog because my mom reads it.  But you get my drift.  In fact, a friend of mine once said that once her kids leave, she’s got to strap on her running shoes because her hubby is constantly chasing her around the house.

I don’t know how we are going to cope but what I do hope is that we take the time to re-connect without the kids.  It’s time to date again and discover why we fell in love in the first place.  Am I up for the challenge?  Absolutely.  Here’s hoping my son enjoys his time away from us and we enjoy the time we have to reflect on how much we truly love and miss our kids.  Time to hop off and sew in some more labels.  

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Countdown to Camp

So we are T minus two weeks until sleepaway camp and today, since we only had one soccer game and a supermarket run – and completely spaced on my son’s daycamp orientation, I spent several hours shopping for more required items for my daughter’s four week getaway.
Meanwhile, my friends who are pros at this have been packed and ready for weeks and their camps are actually picking up their trunks in two days! Thankfully, we get to load my daughter up with her bags when we ship her off on June 28 so that gives me more time to buy a lot more stuff.
Today we loaded up on Soffe shorts – for anyone who doesn’t know about Soffe shorts, they’re mini gym shorts that are all the rage and at $8 a pair, they’re at least one item that doesn’t break the bank.
On the pricier side were the speedo bathing suits I snatched up at two different stores. And even though both locations were running a sale, my daughter had better be fit into those suits for at least two seasons. Hey you never know – that Olympian-approved swimwear should come in handy during color war.
Next, we stocked up on 20 pairs of underwear and socks, and then hit the linen store where we picked out a satiny comforter, sheets with 200 thread count, cheap towels, bath mat, a mattress pad and and a new pillow. By the time we were done, the shopping bags filled my entire trunk and I wondered how we were going to fit everything into her bags.
When we returned, I lugged everything upstairs to my daughter’s room, laid everything out on the bed, grabbed an ink stamp with her name on it and started to go to town labeling everything in sight.
I then shoved everything into both of her trunks – at this rate you’d think she was sailing the Queen Mary for a month – and miraculously, everything fit. We still do have a few more things to pick up, but I have to say, I am pretty relieved that we’re more them halfway packed.
Wait a second. I still have to buy toiletries, shoes, sneakers, sandals, more t-shirts, a few dresses, jeans and pajamas – and there’s only one more weekend left to shop! For all the moms like me busy packing camp trunks, here’s hoping I’m not the only one who is behind the eight ball.

Countdown to Sleepaway Camp

We piled into the car yesterday morning so that we could take my daughter for her new camper orientation at Camp Echo, located a mere 90 minutes from our home and sandwiched between Middletown and Monticello.
The moment we arrived, we were greeted by enthusiastic counselors who immediately whisked my daughter off for a day full of activities. Meanwhile, we spent the morning fighting off swarms of displaced gnats – it seemed the exterminator had paid a visit and now the gnats didn’t have a home – so they decided to spend the day hovering in front of our faces. Everywhere I looked, I thought people were waving at me but all they were really doing was swatting at those pesky bugs.
Anyhoo – back to the camp. My daughter was treated to a perfect day filled with basketball, baseball, arts and crafts, music and lunch. My son meanwhile, joined us on a quest to find something fun to do while my daughter was getting acclimated. Unfortunately for him, the only thing we found were outlet stores and gift shops – pure paradise for me, but not so hot for a seven year old. But we did discover a village called Sugar Loaf where we bought him a leather bracelet at a store I’m convinced is a frequent haunt for bikers with tattoos. At another quaint shop, he set his sights on a wooden dinosaur filled with a mini brontosaurus, a pre-historic rhino, velicoraptors and fauna. After plunking down $40 bucks–this sleepaway camp thing is costing even more than we anticipated–he set out to build a mini dinosaur village as we grabbed lunch at one of the three restaurants in town.
By 3 pm, it was time to pick up our daughter, who had already made two friends and couldn’t wait to officially pack her bags and move in. Other than the “learning how to make your bed lesson,” she pretty much had a stupendous day and I’m sure will be begging me to extend her four week stay (not gonna happen). And after he saw my daughter chowing down on s’mores at pick-up, my son has already decided that he wants to go to sleepaway camp with his sister next year too. I don’t even want to contemplate that one – he’s the one who is supposed to stay with me until it’s time for me to enter an assisted living facility. Okay – maybe just until he gets married. Either way, my kids are growing up before my eyes and while I’m enjoying watching them turn into mini adults, I wish things would slow down a bit. I guess what they say is totally true – childhood goes by in a flash – time to get my head out of my laptop so I don’t miss a minute of it.

My Sleepaway Camp Confession

adventure.jpgI don’t know how and when it happened, but my adorable daughter, who loves to crochet, cook and most recently, deface the walls of her room with posters of the Jonas Brothers, has become a full-fledged tween. She’s only nine, but in six months time, we’re going to be packing up her things and shipping her off to sleepaway camp. Not because we want her to go, but because she’s asked us to send her. She’s ready to spread her wings and be away from home and frankly, that’s a little depressing for me.
For a child who has been away from us for no more than two days at a time, I don’t know how we’re going to get used to it. I know that we’re all going to miss her desperately, but after sitting tonight with the director of Camp Echo, we were literally blown away by all the things our daughter is going to experience this summer. A zip line, trapeze lessons, rock climbing, water sports, horseback riding, a rock band, video production, mountain bikes, and much much more. The photo album from the camp was so impressive that my husband and I admitted that we wanted to enroll in the program too. In fact, summer camp for working parents would be a welcomed diversion.
To see the look on my daughter’s face as she saw what’s in store for her this summer, was both exciting and bittersweet. I still remember the first time she attended day camp (she was 3) and I rode with her on the bus because I wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be afraid riding 10 minutes to camp without me. And now I’m going to have to say goodbye for an entire month!
To make me even more weepy, my six year old just informed me that by the time he turns nine, he’s going to Camp Echo too. So as the clock ticks away, I’m going to treasure the next few months we have together and then, when she walks up the steps of that bus and waves us off, I will try my best to hold back the tears as it hits me hard that my baby girl is growing up right before my eyes.