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.  

Protecting Your Kids at Summer Camp

iStock_000000099703XSmall.jpgIf you’re like most parents whose kids are headed to sleepaway or day camp this summer, you are frantically trying to fill out forms, buying packing supplies and counting the days until you wave goodbye to your kids from a department store parking lot.
For those parents whose kids are leaving home for the first time, the entire process can be overwhelming. In fact, filling out all those forms can be downright maddening. The question is – how much should the camp know about your child and when could that information put their identity at risk?
Here are some tips to keep your kids safe and secure at summer camp even when you’re not there to tuck them in at night.
1. It’s okay not to share everything there is to know about your child: These days, camps are sending letters to parents explaining that if they are uncomfortable putting in writing any specific information about their child, they are welcome to omit that information or discuss it with the camp director by phone.
2. Never share your child’s social security number with their summer camp or doctor. While you may be able to trust the camp director or your pediatrician – you never know who might be working in the back office who could potentially steal your child’s identity.
3. Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection service for your family. The more you share, the more you put your entire family at risk. In fact, in the last five years alone, child identity theft has increased over 300% and children’s identities have been stolen at schools, camps and hospitals. Consider enrolling in a service like which monitors your entire family’s credit year round and alerts you if someone has attempted to access your information.
4. Arrange for your child to skype with other campers prior to attending camp. If this is their first time at camp, consider introducing them to their fellow bunkmates via skype. That way, they will feel more comfortable if they know the kids they will be spending the summer with before they even set foot on the bus.
5. Attend sleepaway camp with a friend or sibling. Sometimes the best camp experiences take place when you do it with a friend or have a sibling nearby. You don’t necessarily have to bunk with a close friend, but it’s good to go to sleepaway camp with someone who makes you feel at ease when your parents are several miles away.

Why I Love My Daughter

A few weeks back I wrote about how my daughter received some crushing academic news when she didn’t get into a gifted program in her elementary school. While I stewed over the decision of school administrators (and am still quite ticked off to this day), she has bounced back and never missed a beat. She’s busily crocheting a blanket for my friend who is about to give birth any minute, attending evening birthday parties with her pals who aren’t off at sleepaway camp, and enjoying her first week of day camp with her little brother.
Which leads me to this post. You see, yesterday was “Crazy Hat Day” at camp and both kids decided to wear the Goofy hats we bought them at Disney last year. They’re both silly and were perfect for the special day, except when my 6 year old son arrived with his hat, his fellow kindergarten and first grade campers were not that nice to him. In fact, they didn’t call his hat silly, they called it “stupid.” My son told me the story after I had returned home from a Disney party (strange coincidence) and I just explained that kids could sometimes be mean and he shouldn’t pay them any mind. Of course, I started thinking about other things they could tease him about – like his herniated belly button which we haven’t fixed yet because I’m afraid to put him under anesthesia and all I kept thinking was how I hate when kids get mean.
And then my daughter came home from her evening party where she had dinner with friends and went to see “The Bee” movie at Kensico Dam in Westchester (what a life she has). As I was tucking her into bed, she retold the hat story and how the kids were mean to Dylan and I asked if she heard them say anything to him. Although she replied that she didn’t, she said her brother came over to tell her what happened and she walked over to the kids and warned them that if they teased her brother again they’d be in trouble – and trust me – you don’t want my daughter watching your every move! She then instructed her brother that if he needed her she’d be nearby and said that while her group was playing in the deep end of the pool, she stayed with him until his group moved on to another activity.
And that’s why I love my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I love her more than anything even before I decided to share this story, but to see how compassionate and protective she is of her little brother even when I’m not around, made my eyes well up with tears. People tell me all the time that she is an old soul who looks out for others and frankly, I wholeheartedly agree. I have always sensed a glimpse of my grandma in her – from her masterful crochet work to always being on hand to help those in need, to her love of cooking and incredible sense of humor. At 9 years old, she is well on her way to becoming an incredible young lady and all I can say is I am so proud to be her mom.