Archive for May, 2014

Counselors, It’s Time to Pack!

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

You’ve scored an amazing summer job at a sleepaway camp and the summer is so close that you can practically taste the s’mores, smell the camp air and hear your campers laughing. But before you can head off for the summer of your life, you have to pack. Packing can be a daunting task for first time camp staff. Even if your camp supplies a packing list, it’s hard to determine what you may be able to leave behind, if packing space is at a premium, and what you absolutely must have. Here is a brief rundown of those items that camp staff traditionally believe are essential.

If you pack these items, you are in good shape….

Sunscreen

You’re working at a summer camp, and “outdoors” is an operative word in your upcoming summer. In fact, you’ll spend the majority of your day outside. Applying sunscreen often and generously insures that you do not find yourself very red and uncomfortable at the end of a sunny day and protects your skin from the potential long term effects of the sun’s rays.

Water bottle

Heat plus a lot of activity equals the need to stay hydrated. Whether or not your camp provides water, it’s a good idea to take a water bottle that can be refilled several times throughout the day. It’s also environmentally friendly by reducing the use of disposable cups.

Several pairs of shoes for all types of weather

Athletic shoes are essential. Multiple pairs, if you have them, are ideal. Most traditional sports oriented camps do not allow staff to wear flip-flops or open toed shoes for activities that are not water related. It’s simply unsafe in an athletic environment. So one or two pairs for water-related activities and days off are sufficient. A pair of rain boots or galoshes is always a good idea.

Bunk/Cabin games (Jacks, puzzle games, etc.)

These activities help facilitate communication with campers, and are so much fun while in the bunk or cabin during resting periods or rainy days. Some items are not allowed in bunks or cabins, however, so be sure you check with your camp to make sure that games and other activity items are permitted.

Bedding

Some camps provide bedding. Other camps require staff members to bring their own bedding.  If your camp requires you to bring bedding, it is a good idea to bring a thick blanket or comforter in addition to a thin one. Yes, it’s summer. But most camps are in rural mountainous regions, and it sometimes gets cool at night, especially at the very beginning and toward the end of the summer.

Lots of socks and under garments

A saying is among camp staff who return year after year, you can never have too many of either!

Comfortable shorts/pants

Athletic type shorts and pants are best for moving through daily activities, but it ultimately comes down to whatever you feel the most comfortable wearing.

A couple of sweatshirts or sweaters

Again, yes it’s summer, but the evenings can get a bit chilly.

Some colorful shirts and shorts (especially in your camp’s colors)

Camps often divide staff and campers into teams for activities by colors. So it’s a good idea to pack a rainbow of colors so that you are prepared to show team spirit when the time comes.

A few plain white t-shirts/tanks that can be dyed or altered for costume purposes…

You just never know at summer camp.

A bag for laundry

Eventually, you’re going to need to do your laundry at camp. It helps to have a laundry bag for easy transport to and from the laundry. (Many camps provide laundry bags-  so check first.)

Sunglasses

A couple of pairs are a good idea. There is a lot of movement at camp, and sunglasses are an item that is commonly lost, forgotten or broken.

Equipment

Ask yourself, what will you be doing at camp? Will you need some type of special equipment that you need to bring. If so, make sure you leave room for it when you are packing.

Toiletries

Most camps are within a reasonable distance to a shop from which these types of items can easily be replenished. So you usually only need enough of these to last the first couple of weeks, if packing space is at a premium.

If you stuff your suitcase or duffle with these items, you’ll be in good shape for your first summer at camp. If you’re concerned that you don’t have room in your luggage for all of these items, call your camp to see if staff members are permitted to ship items to camp.

The Favorite Meals at Camp Weequahic

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Our kitchen team is among the best in the business, with over 40 years of culinary experience between the chefs. They do a great job preparing healthy, fun meals that keep the campers and staff going all day long.

We spend a lot of time each year planning our menus for each summer.  In doing so, we take into account nutrition, variety, and our campers’ past experience and tastes. While all the food is good at Camp Weequahic, there are a few meals that stand out!

It seems like no matter what we do, our campers’ favorite breakfast is our Sticky Icky Bread. It’s a sweet breakfast treat that our campers’ just can’t seem to get enough of.

For lunch, there is less of a clear-cut favorite. Our chicken and cheese quesadillas are always a big hit as are the sliders. We also have a big contingent of campers and staff who love the chicken Caesar salad day, while others take their time building the perfect salad from our freshly prepared salad bars.

As for dinner, the hands down favorite is our cookouts. Whether it’s the hamburgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs or grilled veggies that the kids love, they all can’t wait to get outside, enjoy each other’s company, and have a meal at the end of the day. As for the runner ups for ‘favorite dinner’, taco night or the Hollywood dinner are always big.

The good news is the kids feel that we always have good, fun, and healthy choices.  There is also always something for everyone, even those campers whose tastes seem to be a bit more of a challenge. How do we know? We ask! Menu items that are not well received are removed from the options and new foods are added. Thanks to the feedback from our campers and staff, we’ve added more options to our salad bars, increased the variety of veggies offered, and come up with fun new desserts.

Top 5 Reasons to Pack According to the Packing List

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Every year, Camps send out packing lists with suggestions of what and how much to pack.  It’s important to stick to the packing list, since the lists are normally catered to your specific camp! Camp Directors have been sending out these lists for years, and make sure to update them according to what they know works for their campers! Here are the Top 5 Reasons to pack according to the packing list!

5.) Space is limited at camp! While your child may have their own room, closet and bathroom at home, at camp they are going to have to share these spaces. Your child will be living in a bunk with several other campers, as well as  several counselors.

4.) Required Items vs. Optional Items! There are going to be some items that are absolutely required, and you don’t want to be leaving those out of your child’s trunks. Uniformed Camp logoed T-shirts for specific events during camp are usually required. Optional items are generally items that are provided by camp, but some campers prefer to bring their own equipment such as lacrosse helmets.

3.) You don’t want to over pack! You know how when you go on vacation, you always seem to have more things to put fit in your suitcase than when you arrived. Well the same thing happens at camp! You want to be sure to leave a little room in those camp trunks for the end of the summer, so all of their projects & souvenirs from trips can make it home safely.

2.) Labels, Labels, Labels! There are A LOT of kids at camp, and a lot kids bring very similar, if not the same items. This is why everything brought to camp MUST be labeled. We know that you don’t want your child to lose anything at camp and this is the best way to prevent that from happening.

1.) Check what items are not permitted in camp! You want to be sure your camper doesn’t bring any items that are not allowed in camp. Along with what to pack, your packing list normally will have a list of prohibited items that should not come to camp with your child.

Camp Friends

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Dictionary.com defines a friend as someone who is a “patron or supporter.” Whether you’re a child or adult, chances are that your friends are a crucial part of your life. Of course, there are different kinds of friends and some are closer than others. They’re all very special. However, there is one type of friend who is the most special — the camp friend. For those who have never experienced summer camp, it’s difficult to grasp the idea of forming a lifelong bond with someone with whom you spend time for weeks each summer. Yet, that is exactly what happens for the millions of campers who attend summer camp each year. There are many reasons why the summer camp environment actually facilitates friendship.

Camp is a 24/7 environment

Children don’t have play dates at camp where they meet someone for a few hours and then return home. Campers play together, eat together and live together. They have constant contact, which psychologists say leads to an open environment, conducive to making friends. The more time campers spend with each other, the more they get to know each other, and the less they feel the need or desire to shield aspects of themselves from each other.

Camp is a common experience

Common experience is another crucial element to friendship bonds, and camp friends are special because they share a very special commonality. The things that happen during those weeks at camp each year are shared by a realtively small circle of campers who attend a respective camp. .

Camp develops shared traditions

By attending summer camp, campers develop shared traditions. Camp traditions bond children to each other. They add a sacred element to friendship. Much like sorority or fraternity membership develops friendships leading to a lifelong network, so to does summer camp.

Camp encourages socialization

Camp encourages interaction. Too often, an inhibitor to those who have trouble making friends is a lack of social maturity. Whether it’s on a sports field or court, sitting at table in arts and crafts, enjoying a meal together, or relaxing in a bunk or cabin, the camp environment is social. Campers are not without adequate time for introspection, but the opportunity for learning how to be with other people is there.

Camp focuses on the positive

Summer camps focus on harnessing moments and making them special and fun, whether or not they are planned. Not only does this teach children to have a great amount of flexibility both individually and with each other, it teaches them to remain positive. Positivity helps children remain in an open and accepting frame of mind.

Camp friends are definitely some of the most special friends.  Friendships made in camp are bound by a commonality of experiences that may very well be cherished for a lifetime.

Camp Trips

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Campers love their camps.  They’re green, picturesque and they often feature facilities for just about any activity a kid can dream up. One thing campers also love, however, are camp trips. Camp trips are a lot like school field trips — only better.  Way better!  They’re a special time away from the daily routine. Campers get to board buses with their friends and go off on an adventure outside of the camp environment. Yes, playing by the camp waterfront with friends is a great way to spend a summer. But taking in a baseball game, visiting a local amusement park, or going bowling with them adds an extra element to the camp experience because it allows campers to do normal “friend things” with some very close friends who they often only get to see during the summer.

Rites of passage are a big part of camp and trips are among those rites. While all campers enjoy some of the same trip destinations throughout the summer, other places are reserved for campers of certain ages. In this respect, trips become a way for campers to mark time in their camp experience. An exclusive trip makes that specific summer unique because it’s the only summer a camper may go to a specific place..

Camp trips also help campers put their summer camp experience into perspective. Sure, they could do just about anything they do on a camp trip without having gone to camp, but doing them at camp makes them part of camp. And makes them very special.  And very fun! The memory of having done those things at camp makes these excursions even more special, which is likely why there is always a tinge of  excitement in the air on trip day.

Environmentally Friendly Noise

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Whether you’re a new or returning staff member who is preparing to work at camp this summer, the decibel level of those first few days at camp are always a bit above what you anticipate. Of course, we hear noise every day.  But camp noise is different than other noise. A camp staff member once relayed a memory of her first summer at camp. She recalled the shock of the day the campers arrived. ‘It was suddenly very loud,’ she said. ‘They don’t prepare you for that at orientation. Then again, there is probably no way they could.’ She is right. There is no way to describe what several hundred excited children who have been waiting for a moment for ten months sounds like. It’s certainly not noise pollution, though. It much more closely resembles environmentally friendly noise. It’s the noise of excitement, happiness and anticipation.

A strange phenomenon happens with environmentally friendly noise. You not only expect it, but anticipate hearing it every day. You don’t even realize how much you look forward to camp noise until the end of camp. When the buses pull away on the last day of camp, the quietness that settles over the campus is one of the saddest moments of the summer. You realize the kids are gone, and the summer really is over. Even after you return home, you find yourself wishing to hear the sounds that defined your summer–bugle calls to signal daily activities, constant cheering and laughter, mealtimes with hundreds of other people. Everyday noise just seems like noise pollution.

Sunsets at Camp

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Camp provides the perfect backdrop to a sunset. Watching the sun dip below the tree line and catch the reflection of the water before finally disappearing into the horizon as the campus slowly lights up isn’t just a classic picturesque image of camp, it’s symbolic. It signals a shift in the camp day. The daily activities have ended and now it’s time for the evening to begin.

Sunset at camp signifies dinner. Dinner is an important activity at summer camp. It is a time for everyone to come together and tell stories about their day as they share a meal as the daylight slowly transitions into a star filled night.

With the sunset also comes campfires. Each camp has its own unique campfire traditions. But the one thing they hall have in common is that campfires happen after the sun goes down. Whether it’s entertaining each other, singing songs, or eating s’mores, sitting around a campfire at night helps everyone tune into the environment around them and take in the magic of summer camp. The sounds of campus become more amplified. The smells become more distinct.

Campers and staff alike also know when they see the sun begin to set that it’s almost time for evening activities. Evening activities are some of the most action packed and anticipated moments at camp. Sometimes the entire camp participates in evening activities together while at others separate activities are held for different age groups.

It’s so easy to not even notice the sunset during the ten months when one is not at summer camp. But at camp, sunset is something that just can’t be missed. Not only is it an important part of the camp day, it’s nice to take notice of such a beautiful transition and to understand that taking notice of it is a special part of camp.

Evolving Camp Menus

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

If you’ve ever been to camp, then you know what wacky mac is and, chances are, you get a bit of a nostalgic feeling when you pass it in supermarket aisles. You also know that bug juice is not made from bugs, s’mores are best made over a campfire, and that knish is the perfect side dish for a cookout. Campers who jumps out of bed every morning and race to breakfast, hoping that it’s chocolate chip pancakes as well as those who can’t get enough of the pizza, know that camp food is as much a part of the camp experience as the activities. Like many other camp traditions, the menus constantly evolve to meet the current demands of campers.

One major concern that is heavily influencing camp menus is the growing awareness of the importance of developing healthy eating habits early in life. Camps are introducing new menu items as well as opting for healthier versions of current ones. Items such as Greek yogurt, hummus, guacamole, and wraps are finding their way onto camp menus to combine with salad bars, which are longtime camp dining staples, to give campers and staff more nutritional options at meal times. Lite dressings are also appearing alongside regular ones and more fruit and vegetable choices are being offered. But the camp food revolution doesn’t begin and end at the camp salad bar.

Bug juice is now a lot less sugary at many camps, and some have even done away with it altogether. Camps are increasingly using olive oil instead of vegetable oil and are playing around with herb and spice combinations to enhance the taste of the food. This isn’t to say that some traditional camp favorites are disappearing off of menus. Grilled cheese, pasta, and chicken fingers are all still very much camp fare. Camps are just trying to make healthier versions of them by using fresher ingredients and fewer pre-packaged ones.

Campers are very enthusiastic about the recent trends in camp food. Today’s campers have savvy palates, and they like that favorite foods and ingredients that have traditionally not been available at camp are finding their way onto menus and that some of their favorites are getting nutritional makeovers. Meal times are important parts of camp each day. They are times for the camp to come together and dine as a family. They are times for singing, cheering, and catching up.  Perhaps that why camp food is such a key part of camp.