10 Reasons Why Your Camp Friends Are Still The Best Friends You’ve Ever Had


We accumulate many friends over the course of all the stages in our lives, but the girls who stick around the longest are, without a doubt, your camp friends.

Unlike the relationships you have with your poorly termed “sorority sisters” or high school BFFs, your camp friendships have been in your life forever.

You don’t grow apart from your camp pals because you’ve been apart most of your lives. And yet, somehow you and your camp friends are closer than the ones you see every day.

They came into your world before the cattiness and girl drama of your teenage years. Before the competition and insecurities of your early twenties. They are the girls who, when they said they’d keep in touch, held true to their word.

There was definitely something in the air during last campfire that made these original bonds of sisterhood everlasting. Here’s why your camp friends are literally your best friends for life.

They appreciate you for the right reasons

Your camp friends have seen you for weeks straight in your most natural state, without makeup or hair products or (to the detriment of everyone around you) sometimes even showering. You became friends based on personality and compatibility — not the clothes you were wearing or the fancy zip code you lived in.

Let’s be fair though, you did befriend the girl who had the best stationary and the one who always had a secret stash of candy. That kind of friendship currency was priceless.

Forever trustworthy

Your camp friends still haven’t shared your 12-year-old secret that you accidentally peed your pants during a social with a boys’ camp. (Oops!) What happens in the Rec Hall stays in the Rec Hall and that’s all we’re going to stay about that.

They know how awkward you are… and love you for it

When you’re a weird 22-year-old with frizzy long hair and funny oafish tendencies, girls go out of their way to avoid you. When you’re a weird 12-year-old with frizzy long hair and funny oafish tendencies, at camp, you are basically the sh*t.

Your camp friends know the full extent of your quirky, borderline invasive personality and while others later on in life may not like it, they are the women who defend you for it. Or, you know, they’ll just play it cool and say things like, “I knew her from camp when she was younger. It’s different.”

Inside jokes still hold true

Every time you hear a camp song on the radio (Elton John, anyone?) you’re reminded of them. Any time you run into your camp crush who took your makeout virginity or that former camper from Bunk 12 who couldn’t finish the remaining two weeks, only your camp friends understand what this all means.

They just get it without you having to explain why comparing your current pedophilic professor to the camp’s Head of Tennis is hilarious.

They were in your life before it got complicated

Before drinking and long-term boyfriends and real life stressors, there were your camp friends, keeping it real and beading you two friendship bracelets that you probably already had plenty of. The biggest arguments you had were over what card game to play and who won the jacks tournament.

Your camp friends were your respite from the pressures of home. You could be whoever you wanted to in front of them, and they would accept it, no questions asked.

They put your needs first

As cheesy as it sounds, camp really taught you how to work well in a group and care about other people. Your camp friends were there when you needed your hair french braided for Team Sing.

They knew how bad you were at swimming, and so they helped you cheat the dreaded Swim Test. Camp friends were the only people there to celebrate your summer birthday and make sure you felt special with a proper sign, song and cake…. even though they were all jealous they weren’t born in July/August.

They know you inside and out, but really

They’ve seen you naked a hundred times (despite learning how to change while sitting in your bunk bed). They know the brand of sandals that you wore for three years straight.

They are familiar with your quirky hidden talents, like being able to whistle with 30 crackers in your mouth. They were right there with you as you both chowed down on delicious dining hall food, and then commiserated about what it’s like to go to a sports camp and gain weight.

You slept in the same room for two months straight for seven-plus years. They know and they’ve seen it all, from the very beginning.

They’ve got your back

Remember when you snuck into the dining hall together to steal brownies from cookout? Your camp friends assisted on all covert operations and never gave up a name.

They were the first girls that you shared your clothes with, often before a social with boys’ camp. Then you accidentally came home with each other’s t-shirts, which you still wear now. They never demanded the clothes back because they genuinely wanted you to have them.

Color war brought you two together

The bonding over your color war team is one that stays with you for life. It’s like the early version of college school spirit. No one back at home understood what it meant to “bleed blue” and for this reason, your school friends kind of lacked in comparison.

You grew up together

Not only did you see all the girly coming of age films together on movie night, but you also lived the real-life version throughout your camp years and beyond. Camp relationships really bring new meaning to having friends for a lifetime.

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Science Explains Why We Love Our Camp Friends So Much

Matt Saccaro's avatar image By Matt Saccaro  

The news: The reason we had such a fondness for our friends from summer camp has more to do with science than you might have thought.

Researchers from the University of Southampton recently discovered that the way we experience nostalgia can have a tremendous impact on how our relationships develop. According to their findings, the shared experiences of youth build much strong relationships than similarities in taste, interest or background.

The science: The researchers asked 313 undergraduates from the University of Southampton to reflect on a nostalgic event.

They found participants who thought of something they had experienced together with a group of people — or, as the researchers put it in the study, “collective nostalgia” — saw the group far more positively and reported stronger feelings of solidarity with group members compared to people who experienced a nostalgic event individually.

Put simply, shared experiences create stronger camaraderie than shared interests alone. Sure, you can develop friendships with people based on nostalgic events — a special summer camp, an incredible concert or a ridiculous sporting event — but those people who actually experienced those things together tend to develop strong bonds that last a lifetime.

Why does this matter? Nostalgia can play a significant role in shaping how we feel about our peers and our coworkers. As the research states, “employees who have worked for an organization for a sufficient period develop collective nostalgia,” and that, over time, creates a group identity.

Furthermore, the study suggested nostalgia can “increase charitable donations, volunteerism and helping” by creating strong group identities. If we have a positive connection to a group because of nostalgic memories involving that group, we’ll be more likely to help it. No wonder your college hits up its alumni for donations so much.

Of all the ties that bind us, nostalgia — and not ’90s listicle nostalgia, but true “what an amazing experience I had with these people” nostalgia — might be the most important one.

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Summer may be officially over (it’s September 22 already?!), but we are here to give you 5 reasons to fall in love with summer and camp all over again…


1. Learned how to make the best-ever s’mores, and can now make them whenever, wherever.

2. Lived in a bunk long enough to miss giant sleepovers, so you now have to plan them every weekend with his/her camp besties.

3. Traded enough clothing at camp to have an entire new wardrobe for school.

4. Played intercamp games, in tournaments, leagues, and participated in Color War/Olympics/ Tribals, so basically they have the best teamwork and leadership skills to kill it on their Fall sports team.

5. Took one million pics (and/or posed for countless pictures available on the camp website)! So now put their arts and crafts skills to good use and make this year’s summer scrapbook!

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This Is Why We Run

So there’s this blog post that’s been making the rounds this week about Visiting Day.

You know the one.

About the “Running of the Jews”?

Gotta say.

Something about it just doesn’t sit right with me.

Are you surprised?

Me too.

Because The Running is totally a thing.

Like, TOTALLY totally.

I know.

It sounds awful.

But until you’ve been there, until you’ve actually run a mile in 4-inch wedges carrying a four-foot Dylan’s Candy Bar tower while simultaneously trying to keep your six-year-old from getting trampled, you think you know… but you really have no idea.

Because what you don’t yet realize — couldn’t yet know — is that the minute your car begins it’s long, slow inch up the winding camp road, all the emotion that’s been building up over the last few weeks will slowly start to bubble to the surface until it smacks you in the face and takes over your entire body.

This is why we run.

We run because Visiting Day is the best day ever and the absolute worst. Because our kids seem at once totally the same and yet completely different. Because the day feels in turns surreal and all too real. Because it drags on forever and goes by in an instant. And then the hug hello is suddenly a kiss goodbye and the next thing you know you are back in your car as if the whole thing never happened.

This is why we run.

We run because the minute the camp comes into view we suddenly find ourselves incapable of singing along to the radio or holding even the simplest conversation.

We run because there are butterflies in our stomachs that unnerve us like high school seniors on prom night.

We run because everything our husbands say is wrong. And they way they are driving is wrong. And now we’ve officially lost cell service.

We run because the adrenaline makes our hands shake as we fumble for our iphones to repeatedly check the time. 10:01… 10:02… 10:04…

We run because the tears burn as they hit the back of our eyes the second we park the car and plant our first foot on camp soil. Tears that we don’t even notice falling freely down our face as we finally envelope our child and breathe in their familiar scent for the first time in a month.

And only when we do will we realize that in all this time, over all these weeks, we haven’t really been breathing at all.

This is why we run.

Not in a race against other parents.

But in a race to see our children.

Not to prove how much we love them.

But BECAUSE of how much we love them.

Is it ridiculous to buy your kid a $100 worth of candy they only have 24 hours to consume?


Is it crazy to stock a cooler with sushi and shrimp shumai and bagels and schmears when the camp is giving away free lunch?


And is it insane to rush the waterfront with a big ass beach blanket in order to secure prime real estate like it’s Christmas vacation at the Boca Beach Club?

Well duh.

Unless it’s Visiting Day.

In which case all of these things are completely excusable and in some cases totally mandatory.

You just might not realize it yet.

Because while you were busy getting the color war swag and the rainbow loom refills and the personalized stamps, you forgot about something way more important.

Something that starts with an “L” and ends with an “E” and no I’m not talking about licorice, athough you should totally bring that too.

I’m talking about love.

The unconditional kind.

And that’s what we are running towards.

We run towards it on shaking legs the minute the rope breaks without even realizing that we’ve started running.

We run towards it with pounding hearts and wet, cloudy eyes that barely register the determined strides of the parents on either side.

We run towards it like Toto… like Forrest… like Rocky and Apollo tearing up the beach.

Eye of the tiger, baby!

And yes we may have carts and coolers and tricked-out candy packages — all of which will be donated to Morry’s Camp for underprivileged children after 48 hours.

But that’s not why we are running.

We are running towards love for the simple reason that we know our kids are anxiously waiting for it on the other side.

Speaking of which.

If we’re being totally honest, we didn’t run on our first Visiting Day.

Because we thought we were too cool to run that’s why. And so we decided to take the high road and arrive fashionably late. By which I mean 45 minutes early.

Only in this case, the high road was already packed with cars about 300 deep. And so when the gates officially opened to signal the start of Visiting Day, we were still miles away from camp. By the time we finally made it to our daughter’s bunk, she had already taken off and was wandering around like a sad, lost puppy as cheerful reunions took place all around her.

How much do we suck?

Needless to say… we now get there early and run our freaking asses off.

I don’t need to be the first chick at the gate in the morning.

But I will never again be the last.

And if this makes me seem hysterical and over-the-top then I will happily own those titles any day of the week.

Because in the profound words of Icona Pop: I don’t care! I love it!

These are our children we are talking about here.

Our spirit animals, our hearts, our home.

So go ahead and run.

Or don’t run.

To each his own.

But please don’t rain on our parade when you haven’t even been to it yet.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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…

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Letting Go…Overnight Camp

Posted on 10. Apr, 2014 by  in Posts

Since many of us will be sending our children off to either day camp or overnight camps in a few months, I thought I would share my own experience of “letting go” when my twin boys embarked on their first 2 week sleep away camp last summer.

Overnight camp is a big deal for many of us (parents and children alike) and letting go is hard to do! It was something I thought about for a couple of years. When should I let them go? How do I know which camp will be a good fit? Will the experience be fun and safe? What if one gets homesick or hurt? These were a few of the many questions that raced through my mind.

I asked the boys from time to time when they thought they would be ready for overnight camp. They weren’t sure but assured me they were always up for an adventure. I thought by the time they were in upper elementary school, it would be the right time. Their love of the outdoors along with the independence and maturity they displayed led us to believe it was time.

My husband and I always knew we wanted them to experience sleep away camp. We never experienced this growing up but were confident we wanted it for our children. The thought of adventure, nature at its finest in our beautiful state of Colorado, meeting new friends from near and far, working with others, and problem solving new situations were experiences that would empower our boys to become leaders, take risks and build self-esteem. Many friends I spoke with who attended summer camps had such vivid memories of these experiences.

When I started researching some of the sleep away camps, I looked for specific activities that my boys were interested in doing. I learned more by reading camp websites and making phone calls inquiring about things that were important to us. I listened to other moms share their thoughts and experiences about the camps their children attended including one of my dearest friends who had been telling me about a camp she and her siblings attended as children. She was so passionate about this camp that her eyes welled up each time she spoke about it. Finally, the decision was made. The deposit was sent. Our family watched a camp video showing the amazing adventures they would have during their two weeks. My husband told the boys he wanted to go with them because it looked like such fun! We spoke about it from time to time so they would anticipate the experience and this particular camp sent something in the mail every month to our boys inspiring them of the adventures to come.

When the day came to drop them off to their venture, the car packed to capacity with equipment, I was sick to my stomach. How could I let them go? I couldn’t help but think of what the day would be like when dropping them off to college. I quickly dismissed that thought reassuring myself I had many years to prepare for that time. As we drove away past the gorgeous acreage of the Colorado landscape, the horses, the tents and yurts, the pool, and the “literally” happy campers, tears welled in my eyes at the idea of letting them go.

When we welcomed them home two weeks later, my boys returned with huge smiles, seemed so relaxed and content, a bit taller and chomping at the bit to share with us their endless stories of adventure. I smiled to myself. Although letting go is difficult to do the experience benefitted not only my children but us in realizing its vital role in teaching our children about life, independence and going out into the world and making it on their own.

Helpful Tips In Choosing An Overnight Camp

  • Be sure your children are ready to be on their own physically and emotionally.
  • Research camp websites.
  • Call the individual camps and ask questions that are important to you.
  • Discuss with friends/acquaintances re: their own experiences with camps their children attended (pros/cons).
  • Ask your child what types of activities they’d wish for in a camp and make sure the camp offers some or most of them.
  • Consider duration of the overnight camp, cost, distance, mission of the camp, staff training, programming, etc.
  • Have your children watch videos or read brochures about the camp.
  • Attend a meeting for the camp (some camps visit the Denver Metro area and hold informational meetings during the year).
  • Schedule overnight camp with a good friend. This may help your child be more confident and knowing that a friend is close by.
  • Trust your gut.

Happy Trails!

– See more at: http://scooptoo.com/posts/letting-goovernight-camp.html#sthash.KwVpEKWR.dpuf

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Summer Camps Make Kids Resilient

Sending children to a residential, or day camp, builds resilience
Published on February 5, 2012 by Michael Ungar, Ph.D. in Nurturing Resilience

I recently spoke to 300 camp directors about how to make children more resilient to life stress. Summer camps, we discovered, are perfect places to help children optimize their psychosocial development.

After all, summer camps are places where children get the experiences they need to bolster their range of coping strategies. There are the simple challenges of learning how to build a fire, going on a hike, or conquering a high ropes course. There are the much more complex challenges of getting along with a new group of peers, learning how to ask for help from others, or taking manageable amount of risks without a parent following after you.

The best camping experiences offer these opportunities for manageable amounts of risk and responsibility, what I term “the risk takers advantage” (see my book Too Safe for Their Own Good for more examples). The worst camps pander to children as if they are entitled little creatures whose parents are paying big sums of money. Children at camp can’t be treated like customers if they are going to get anything out of the experience. They need to be treated like students whose caregivers, the counselors, know what the kids need to grow.

Camps that pull this off and make kids, especially teens, put away the makeup, stash the iPods, get a little dirty and even a little frustrated while having fun and making new friends, are the kinds of camps that offer children the best of what they need. Looking at those experiences from the vantage point of my research on resilience, I know that camps help our children develop great coping strategies when they provide seven things all children need:

1)    New relationships, not just with peers, but with trusted adults other than their parents. Just think about how useful a skill like that is: being able to negotiate on your own with an adult for what you need.

2)    A powerful identity that makes the child feel confident in front of others. Your child may not be the best on the ropes course, the fastest swimmer, or the next teen idol when he sings, but chances are that a good camp counselor is going to help your child find something to be proud of that he can do well.

3)    Camps help children feel in control of their lives, and those experiences of self-efficacy can travel home as easily as a special art project or the pine cone they carry in their backpack. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten.

4)    Camps make sure that all children are treated fairly. The wonderful thing about camps is that every child starts without the baggage they carry from school. They may be a geek or the child with dyslexia. At camp they will both find opportunities to just be kids who are valued for who they are. No camps tolerate bullying (and if they do, you should withdraw your child immediately).

5)    At camp kids get what they need to develop physically. Ideally, fresh air, exercise, a balance between routine and unstructured time, and all the good food their bodies need. Not that smores (marshmallows, chocolate and graham cracker treats) don’t have a place at the campfire, but a good camp is also about helping children find healthy lifestyles.

6)    Perhaps best of all, camps offer kids a chance to feel like they belong. All those goofy chants and team songs, the sense of common purpose andattachment to the identity that camps promote go a long way to offering children a sense of being rooted.

7)    And finally, camps can offer children a better sense of their culture. It might be skit night, or a special camp program that reflects the values of the community that sponsors the camp, or maybe it’s just a chance for children to understand themselves a bit more as they learn about others. Camps give kids both cultural roots and the chance to understand others who have cultures very different than their own.

That’s an impressive list of factors that good camping experiences provide our children. Whether it is a subsidized day camp in a city or a luxurious residential facility up in the mountains, camps can give our kids a spicy combination of experiences that prepare them well for life. Add to that experience the chance for a child’s parents to reinforce at home what the child nurtures at camp, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll find in our communities and schools amazing kids who show the resilience to make good decisions throughout their lives.

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Why Camp Will Help Your Kids Get a Great Job



In this piece, Friedman interviews Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google — the guy in charge of hiring for one of the world’s most successful companies, and a model for companies in the 21st century. Bock states that Google has determined that “G.P.A.’s and test scores are worthless as a criteria for hiring… We found that they don’t predict anything.” He also noted that the“proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time” — now as high as 14 percent on some teams.  This is an interesting proposition, given that I am currently looking at colleges for my daughter, most of which retail at well over $50,000 per year…Bock tells us that for ALL POSITIONS AT GOOGLE, they look for five “hiring attributes” (character traits) which have nothing to do with GPA, SAT scores, or college alma mater: “the No. 1 thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not I.Q. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information.” Thinking quick on your feet, being able to take various pieces of knowledge and put it into a tangible plan. This is stuff that campers and staff learn through experience at summer camp each and every day- especially at Everwood, with our dynamic camp program full of group activities and electives.


The second character trait is one that the Partnership for 21st Century Skills pointed out is the most important life skill which is the most DEFICIENT in new job hires at fortune 500 companies: LEADERSHIP, “in particular emergent leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is, were you president of the chess club? Were you vice president of sales? How quickly did you get there? We don’t care. What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.” 


At Summer Camp, leadership opportunities abound in camper groups/bunks, at activities, and at spirit events like “Everwoodlympics” (our version of Color War).  It’s the basis of our dynamic Teen L.E.A.D. Program, and young, aspiring staff grow from counselors to group leaders to division leaders and administrators at Camp- at each step of the way taking on more and more leaderhip responisibilities. Camp churns out dynamic leaders on a regular basis, like a high functioning workforce development program!


Other hiring attributes include Humility and Ownership: “Sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in, to try to solve any problem — and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas.” Campers and staff at Everwood and most other camps have tremendous sense of ownership, MUST work together with their group/bunk, problem solve regularly, defer to their peers, and learn from their failures on an everyday basis.


The least important attribute that Google looks for is actually “expertise.” According to Bock, Google prefers creative out-of-the box thinkers, rather than “experts” who have been spent years in specific areas. Proof that being a well-rounded leader and creative thinker is of utmost importance.


Friedman eloquently ends his piece by stating “for most young people, going to college and doing well is still the best way to master the tools needed for many careers. But Bock is saying something important to them, too: Beware. Your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about — and pays off on — what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it). And in an age when innovation is increasingly a group endeavor, it also cares about a lot of soft skills — Leadership, Humility, Collaboration, Adaptability and Loving to Learn and Re-learn.” These are all life skills which are honed on the fields, waterfronts, stages, blacktop and bunks of our Summer Camp every day each summer.


So to summarize, summer camp provides a unique, experiential environment in which our children learn and practice the character traits and hiring attributes which the best companies in the world are seeking- all for far less than the $50,000+ per year that many parents are willing to pay, or put their children into years of debt for. Sounds like a great idea, huh!

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The Coolest Things About Summer Camp What’s so awesome about summer camp? Check out our top reasons to give your child the experience of a lifetime!

by Jess Michaels

Camp can provide children with an amazing summertime, making it difficult to narrow down the reasons why it is just so great. Here’s our list of stand-out qualities about summer camp. Your child will likely be able to come up with dozens of more ways that their camp experience rocks!

Learn New Activities: Whether your child goes to day or sleepaway camp, he or she will participate in a variety of activities including swimming, waterskiing, tennis, boating, ropes course and so much more. Your child will try new activities that he or she may never have had a chance to attempt before.

Gain Life Skills: The skills needed to be a successful leader in the 21st century include communication, creativity, leadership, responsibility and collaboration. At camp, children develop these skills needed to become secure, contributing, and successful adults.

Build Self-Esteem: Self-esteem-building happens easily at camp. Children acquire new skills at camp, and they watch themselves improve each day throughout the summer. Furthermore, the summer camp community is supportive and encouraging.

Unplug From Technology: According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of young people, children spend seven-and-a-half hours a day engaged in electronic media, including cell phones, computers, TV, and video games. Instead of engaging in human interactions, children are staring at screens throughout the year. “Today’s children are growing up in a technological world,” says Ben Esposito, director of Camp Alvernia, a coed day camp in Suffolk County, Long Island. “Now, more than ever, children need the face-to-face social interactions that camp provides. Camp focuses on participation and relationships, rather than passive entertainment.” The majority of summer camps have a no-technology rule, which will allow your child to take a much-needed break from media and focus on building relationships and participating in activities.

Cultivate Self-Reliance: Today’s children are in constant contact with their parents through texting and cell phone calls. Camp gives children a healthy separation from their parents, fostering independence. Michael Baer, owner and director of Camp Chipinaw and Silver Lake Camp, both coed resident camps in the Catskill Mountains, says: “Becoming more independent is the cornerstone of life at camp. Without mom and dad at their side, campers are forced to take on a more independent role at camp. We are constantly reminding our campers to speak up for themselves and once they are met with a positive response, they quickly take to this newfound power.”

Celebrate Traditions: Many camps celebrate special traditions and rituals each summer. Children partake in these rituals, such as color war, candles on the lake, and singing songs. These activities connect children to the generation of campers who came before them and to the history of the camp.

Inspire Reinvention: At home, children have gone to school with the same children for years, and children may be labeled as the shy or the athletic child. At camp, your child can reinvent himself. Camp is an accepting community, and a child can be themselves at camp.

Have Fun: At camp, children are allowed to play in a safe and nurturing environment and are allowed to just be kids. Play is a powerful form of learning that contributes mightily to a child’s healthy physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development. According to an American Academy of Pediatrics report, creative play protects a child’s emotional development and reduces a child’s risk of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Live Communally: Sleepaway camps give children a chance to live communally. “Most of our campers have never had to share a room before,” Baer says. “Suddenly at camp they are in a bunk with up to ten others and learning to navigate and work as a team.”

Meet New People: Camp fosters deep friendships and allows children to meet children from different communities, as well as from around the world. Children also have the opportunity to relate to people of all ages at camp.

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7 Reasons Why Your Middle Schooler Needs Camp

Guest blog by Anne Archer Yetsko

When I Googled the phrase “middle school,” two of the top hits were “Middle school survival” and “Middle school: the worst years of my life.” I found that to be a pretty good depiction of how most people feel about this slightly (or not so slightly) traumatizing and awkward period of life. There are a few key aspects of the camp experience that are really beneficial for this age group.

Camp gives your middle schooler:

1. An Identity: Kids need an identity. Middle schoolers are defined by their looks, material stuff (cool shoes, backpack, gaming devices), parents, grades, and their athleticism. Camp allows kids to be known for being a great archer, team player, cannonball jumper, friend, kayaker, s’more maker, table setter, frog catcher, and much more. This list is endless. When a kid walks onto a camp property they get to choose their identity. WOW! Where else in life does that happen? A few years ago we had a girl come to camp who decided she wanted to go by “Phyllis” at camp. She had always liked the name and she wanted people to call her Phyllis. Camp even allows you to change your name if you want to!

2. An Emotionally Safe Environment: Our middle schoolers need a supportive environment where they can mess up and it’s ok. They need somewhere they can miss the bulls-eye and no one laughs. Instead, their friends give them pointers on how to do better next time. Camp provides this.

3. A Chance to Be a Kid: We live in a world that forces children to grow up entirely too fast. Our kids need a chance to be kids. They need to make s’mores, ride horses, shoot a bow and arrow, dress silly, eat candy, paint pictures, play games, and go on adventures.

4. An Opportunity to Be Outside: Our kids live in a world where they never have to go outside, and that world scares me. Our kids need to get dirty, make forts, swim in lakes, and catch fireflies. There are hundreds of articles and books out there about “the nature deficit” in children. To grow emotionally, physically, and mentally, kids need time outside. As our addiction to phones, computers, tablets, and video games grows, it has never been more important for kids to have substantial time away from these things.

5. True Friends: There is something about people living together, working together, playing together, and overcoming challenges together that creates friendships that are intense and long lasting. They are also different from school friendships that can often end on a whim and are just as often filled with drama. Knowing they have a safety net of “camp friends” makes the emotional rollercoaster of middle school more bearable.

6. Mentors: Kids need people other than their parents to invest in them. They need positive role models to look up to. Camp provides children with amazing, college-age students who truly care about them and want them to be the best version of themselves. Kids need people to teach them how to make friends, how to handle conflict, and how to be a good sport. They also need to know that there are other people out there who struggled through middle school who are now thriving. When their counselor tells them that seventh grade was also a really hard year for them, it gives them hope that life will not always be as difficult as it is in seventh grade.

7. A Bigger Picture: Our preteens need to know that the world is bigger than their middle school, hometown, or even state. They need to know that when it feels like their world is crumbing around them in the halls of their school that their life is not limited to that place. They have friends in Florida and Louisiana, and counselors in Georgia and New York, and a camp in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I believe that kids today need camp more than ever, especially middle school kids. These preteens and newly-teens need to learn who they are and what they are great at in an emotionally safe and supportive environment that pushes them to play outside and grows their sense of adventure.

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