Tag Archives: Preparing for camp

Virgin No More

Camp_0354I am no longer a Camp Parent Virgin.

I sent my two boys to overnight camp for the first time this past summer and am now an Experienced Camp Parent. Okay, I’m just slightly more experienced than I was when I sent in the initial deposit.

I’ve changed as a person due to my kids’ camp experience. I’ve learned that you should always have a dozen Sharpies at hand, and that said Sharpies should be carefully stored out of reach-range of your two year old daughter. On a more substantive level, I’ve learned that I actually don’t want to be a helicopter parent, and want my kids to have fun and meaningful experiences independently of me.

But as Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is the name that we give to our mistakes.” So let me run through a few things I would have done differently as a first-time camp parent, in the hope of sparing you some agony:

1. EXPLAIN EVERYTHING TO YOUR CHILD. Before your child goes to camp, it is absolutely essential to explain everything that you have packed for your child to your child. Take it slowly, step by step: bug repellent is to be sprayed on the skin, not ingested. You may think this little tour is unnecessary. You are wrong.

For a not-hypothetical example, you may think that when you send a bottle in your son’s camp bag that clearly (in the child’s native language), reads, “body wash/shampoo/conditioner,” that you do not need to explain that he is to use that bottle’s contents as soap, shampoo and conditioner. On his body, while water is running in the shower. My unfortunate experience says that you would be wrong.

2. DO NOT IMPUTE MEANING TO YOUR CHILD’S PHOTOS FROM CAMP. We’ve addressed this.

3. BEFORE THEY LEAVE, MAKE YOUR CHILDREN ADDRESS AND STAMP ALL ENVELOPES THEMSELVES.

I know many parents address and stamp envelopes and/or postcards home for their children. In my entirely anecdotal, non-statistical experience, the kids for whom that is done feel that they have invested nothing in the writing experience and were therefore less likely to actually use said stationery.

Jewish tradition has it that it is required for parents to teach their children how to swim. Why is swimming so important? Because in the event that they find themselves in a difficult situation in the water, they will be able to save themselves and perhaps someone else. Similarly, if you teach your child how to do their own work – not do it for them – they will learn from the experience and be able to ‘swim’ themselves.

At the suggestion of a friend, I had my boys address and stamp all their own envelopes. I made my expectations for how often I expected to hear from them quite clear. And they complied, much to my delight. No one was writing voluminously or rapturously like Jane Austen, to be sure, but I still got the amusing communiqués that I sought (“Today was Wilderness Day -we learned how to light a fire with a lighter!”).

4. DO NOT SEND ANYTHING NEW TO CAMP. Well, okay, you’re going to have to buy the sleeping bag and all the camp-required gear. That being said, there is no need to invest in new sneakers prior to camp. I say this as the woman who looked at my son’s feet at the end of camp and said, “What happened to the sneakers we bought the day before you left?” before realizing that holy crap, those awful rags on his feet WERE the sneakers we bought the day before he left.

5. WHEN YOUR KID COMES HOME, HAVE THE FOLLOWING SUPPLIES AT THE READY: Athlete’s foot medicine. Nail clipper. Q-tips. AfterBite/Benadryl.

6. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO REMOVE HIS/HER SHOES ON THE CAR RIDE HOME FROM CAMP.

“Honey, is there any chance that there might be a dead animal in your duffel bag?” “What? No.” “Are you sure? Because it smells like a rotting corpse in the backseat…OMG PUT YOUR SHOES BACK ON!”

Like this post? Read more of Jordana’s writing on Kveller.com.

Posted on August 22, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Packing and Labeling

joelI’d like to say that my wife, Cynthia, my son, Jonah, and I are enjoying a wide variety of family activities in the last few days before Jonah heads off to sleep away camp. That we’re having picnics on the beach, visiting museums, and attending performances of Shakespeare in the park. But the truth is we’re spending almost every waking moment packing and labeling. These twin chores seem endless. What to send with Jonah and how to make sure the majority of it returns with him has become an all-consuming job.

Jonah’s camp has graciously provided guidelines for what to pack, though they are more helpful in theory than in practice. Twenty pairs of socks, for instance, assumes that your average teenager – Jonah is fourteen – your average human being, for that matter, has ever succeeded in owning twenty pairs of socks that match. Some of the guidelines we are determined to ignore. So while four bathing suits are recommended, we’ll send at least twice that many. Given Jonah’s love of the water, we know he’d sleep in a bathing suit, in the lake, if he could get away with it. Which is to say, who needs to pack all those pajamas? The camp’s list also provides an encouraging glimpse into what Jonah will not get to do (only non-electronic games, i.e. board games); and what he will be expected to do, like regularly attend Friday Shabbat dinners (white tops, modest outfits).

But it’s the requirement to label everything we pack – from toothpaste tubes to flip flops – that is our most time consuming activity these days and also surprisingly expensive. Last year, my wife ordered labels and ended up paying fifty dollars for what turned out to be a rather small and unimpressive packet of personalized stickers. Of course, the cost wouldn’t be so bad if the whole exercise didn’t seem so pointless. Inevitably, Jonah comes home with some other kid’s underwear and a pink My Little Pony tank top.

This summer we have made sure Jonah has a more active role in the packing, in particular. We are wincing but saying nothing whenever he matches striped shirts with checked shorts. We had to speak up, though, when he insisted on taking his iPad. Camp rules, not ours, we informed him. Then we tried, mainly unsuccessfully, to explain to him how to play Monopoly. We are letting him take his old guitar, however. In fact, I have already labeled it. I affixed a small Jonah tag to a place where it is very unlikely to be spotted. With any luck at all, he will not only learn some traditional camp songs, but he will come home with a newer, better guitar.

Posted on August 6, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Sweet n’ Nutty Granola Bars + Tips for Healthy Eating at Camp

rachelMaybe healthy eating has been a struggle between you and your kids this year, or maybe they are happy to chow down on roasted broccoli, whole wheat pasta and grilled chicken.  Either way, once the kids head off to camp you will no longer be able to guide them towards making healthy choices at meal and snack times.  Camp is a time for kids to enjoy and let loose a little, but it’s also a time for them to assume some responsibility and assert some of that beautiful independence that is fighting to be set free.   So, with that in mind, think about sharing these tips for healthy eating at camp with your camper (perhaps while you munch on the fabulous granola bar recipe below).

  1. When able, choose fruits, low fat milk, and whole grain cereals at breakfast.  Try to avoid juice and sugary cereals.
  2. If there is a salad bar, have a green salad with lots of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
  3. If you get canteen on a daily basis or if you have snack food in your cabin, try to limit yourself to 1 item of junk food a day and try to avoid sugary drinks like soda, juices, sports drinks and iced teas.
  4. Try to be aware of how much you are eating and stop when you are full.  If you rate how full you are on a scale of 1-5, and 1 is still hungry and 5 is OVER full, you should stop at a 3.
  5. If chicken has skin on in, remove before eating.
  6. Try to have fruit as a dessert or snack when and if you can.
  7. Try to have some protein with every meal.  Foods high in protein are: Greek yogurt, eggs, tofu, beans, meat, chicken and fish.
  8. When possible, choose whole wheat bread over white bread.
  9. Only drink water at meals.
  10. Eating isn’t a race!  Remember to eat slowly so you can appreciate and digest your food.

Sweet n’ Nutty Granola Bars

Ingredients
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-by-11-inch pan with parchment paper.  Whisk egg, egg white, sugar, oil, cinnamon, ginger salt and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in oats, pistachios, apricots and flour. Spread in prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool; cut into 15 bars with a lightly oiled knife.

Posted on July 24, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

What’s In Your Duffel Bag?

As we gear up for camp every year, there is so much work to be done. Schedules to be finalized, outfits to be tagged and folded lovingly into duffel bags, water bottles to be cleaned. I remember how practical it was, writing my initials on all of my white athletic socks, not just for camp laundry, but also because all 6 of my family members wore the exact same style and brand.

Copy of SBBMy camp prep begins in August.  Once the campers leave, I return to my “winter” life – 4 days a week at The Davis Academy, a Reform Day School in Atlanta, and 1 day a week at the URJ Camp Coleman office. At Davis, I labbed prayer programming with middle schoolers and 3rd graders, helped work on exciting study programs, and began construction on an awesome interfaith program.  During my 1 day at Coleman (referred to affectionately as “Yom Coleman”), I learned about year-round operations, met with leadership, traveled to Israel, and structured camp’s programmatic success 2013 (and beyond).

A few weeks before Leadership Week, many of camp’s programmers and unit heads gathered in Tampa, FL, to prepare for the summer. In addition to learning about important Jewish texts and their place in our work, we had the unique opportunity to join one of our congregations for a camp send-off Shabbat. Dressed in our finest Coleman attire, we spoke to the congregation about what we love at camp, with a focus on Shabbat.

Veteran and neophyte staff joined together in talking about values, singing, dancing, smiling, hugging, and, as my teacher taught me to say, “Our very best friend the Torah.” Much of what we spoke about was the intangible stuff that comes home with you from camp.

Our joint speech moved each of us and got us ready for summer.  And we’d like to think that the members of that congregation got excited to fill their own duffels with the perfect physical things when they set out on their journey – and to fill their hearts and minds to prepare them for the long road home, after camp. You can’t put that Shabbat feeling in your duffel bag, but your camp is certainly going to put it in your heart!

Posted on June 24, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The “Nervited” Camp Director

T-minus three days until my camp staff arrive.  Ten days until our teens arrive. Nine months ago I was shrugging in confusion that the summer was over and I had no idea where it went. Now, I’m in complete “denial” that it’s all happening again … or so I thought.

mollyLet me explain. I have previously shared about the 10 months in between the end of a camp season and the start of a new one. Much of what I shared was about the fullness you feel by the amount of work there is to be done. And the satisfaction you feel when it is all over and the message is of success. But now, here I am only days away from my favorite time in my year, more so in my career cycle, and I’m floating in what feels like a state of complete and utter denial.

What is it that I’m in denial of? This is the interesting part. Every day for the past 2 weeks colleagues and friends have asked, “How are you feeling?” “When does camp start?” “Are you ready?” Many of these questions evoke mild feelings of anxiety but more so the response, “I’m good, just in a state of denial.”

Is it really denial? I had to do myself a favor and look up the proper (Wikipedia) definition of denial, because all I kept hearing in my head was… “Whoever denied it supplied it” (thank you, camp, for that one!). Anyway, when I looked up the word “deny” and saw its actual definition; asserting that a statement or allegation is not true, this did not help to clarify the feelings I have been facing. The definition continued; a psychological defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead. This definition is a bit more relatable but not quite. Then I thought about a word my college girls and I used to toss around when describing the end of our Lehigh days and the start of our “real lives.” NERVITED- the feeling of being nervous and excited.

It was as if the fog cleared for me. I’m not in denial about the culmination of a years worth of work coming to its climax, I’m nervited about it. I’m not feeling like I want to reject all the staff and teens that are headed my way in a couple of days; I’m nervited about how they will receive each other, our camp program and me. I’m not too uncomfortable leaving the regularity of my day to day New York City life behind; I’m nervited about the changes this will bring. I am nervous about the unknown. I am excited by the unknown. I am crystal clear that I am not one to deny… but always one to take the challenge head on.

This feeling of nervited-ness is a common one.  It’s one I talk to parents, families, teens and staff about regularly. It’s a changing feeling that flutters through your belly and radiates through your face. To all who prepare to embark on new experiences, engage in new relationships and try something out of the ordinary, the best advice I can give you is don’t deny the nervousness and excitement of it all, embrace it. To be nervited gives you a whole lot to look forward to! Summer of 2013, I’m ready for you … now get here.

Posted on June 21, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

“Don’t Forget!” Preparing Your Kids for Camp … and Beyond

I was nine years old my first summer at camp. When I came home, my mother (who had never been a camper herself) unzipped my duffel bag and was shocked — everything was wet, smelly, covered with sand, and starting to turn a little green. The next summer, as we packed for what I knew would be the best three weeks of the year, she sat me down and told me that I should remember three things while I was away: have fun, don’t do anything stupid, and, most importantly, don’t mix wet with dry. When I went to college, she put a note in my bag telling me how proud she was of me and reminding me of these same three rules. For my family, these have become shorthand for how to take care of yourself.

Copy of 110707.CampJRF.-265Over the past few weeks, there have been blog posts sprouting up about preparing for camp. Certainly there are clothes to buy, envelopes to address, bags to pack. In the midst of all these logistics, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important — preparing your kids for an experience of growth and self-exploration. As a camp director, it’s my job to provide an environment for your kids to thrive and grow; as parents, it’s your job to give them the grounding they need to make this possible. So, here are some things I’ve learned from parents (and campers) along the way that may help you take a break from packing to get your kids really ready for camp…

Don’t forget family traditions! One Friday afternoon, I was running around camp getting ready for Shabbat. I walked through the office and saw a fax coming off the machine for one of our teen campers. I looked over and was perplexed: on the piece of paper were images of two hands. At dinner that night, I handed the paper to the camper and her eyes lit up. “They are my dad’s hands,” she said, as she turned the paper over and put it on her head. “He blesses me every week for Shabbat, and since we’re not together, this is how he can do it.” As the weeks of that summer and many others followed, I always knew that the fax machine would ring just before Shabbat or the FedEx would arrive on Friday morning. And I knew that, even though they were in different places, this father would always bless his daughter for Shabbat.

Kids love being away at camp, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be connected to what’s going on at home. If you bless your child on Friday night, send her the blessing in a note every week. If you read your child a poem every night before he falls asleep, send it on a card for him to post next to his bed. Showing kids that they can be independent but also deeply connected to you is one of the most important parts of sending them away.

Don’t forget to ask for help! A friend sent her oldest child to camp a few years ago with an instruction: when they take your picture for the website, put a thumbs up if you’re doing okay and if something is wrong, leave your hands at your side. This was their way of ensuring that, if something was wrong, the mother would know to call camp to check it out.

On one hand, I love this: a secret code between parent and child that allows them to communicate “in real time” over the summer when we don’t allow phone calls, emails, or texts.  On the other hand, I hope that parents will also tell their children: if you’re having a hard time, make sure you to talk to a friend or a counselor. If that person isn’t able to help you feel better, go talk to a group leader or head counselor. (Think of it kind of like asking to speak with a manager when you don’t get the answer you want from customer service.) And if that doesn’t work — go straight to the top. I know that every camp is set up differently and that camp directors are busy people. But I, for one, want to know if a kid is having a tough time so that we can work together to make things better; as camp professionals, we live for these moments when we can help kids overcome challenges.

It’s good that this mother and son had a way to ensure that both had peace of mind during his first summer away. But it’s also important to teach your kid that sometimes she needs to speak up for herself when she’s unhappy. It’s important for kids to know that there are adults, in addition to their parents, they can trust. Camp is a safe place to try this out.

Don’t forget who you are! Camps are fond of saying that they help children to build character. At Camp JRF, we help campers (and staff) understand that they aren’t building who they are — they just need to be who they already are, being sure to live their values and ideals in all they do. Our staff has heard me tell this story many times: I walked by two 12-year-old boys, one of whom was with us for the first time and had, apparently, just made fun of another camper. The other boy, who was with us for his second summer, looked at him and said: “that’s not how we act here.” This boy took pride in our camp culture, but he also took pride in his role as a friend, an ally, and a member of the community.

Before they leave for camp, talk with your kids about values. Remind them of their deepest held values. Discuss what it means to stand up for someone else. Let them know how proud you are of them for remembering to be their best selves, even in moments where it’s challenging.

So as you finish those last minute preparations for this summer, take a moment to remind your kids of who they are as individuals and as part of your family. Remind them of the blessings you share with them, let them know that it’s okay (even more than okay!) to ask for help, and give them the power to stand up for others.

Oh yeah — and don’t forget to tell them not to mix wet with dry.

Posted on June 11, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Packing Tips, Tricks, and Things That Aren’t on the List

As you would imagine, the staff at FJC has packed and unpacked a lot of camp trunks – as campers themselves, parents of campers, and of course, as counselors. This is no small task.  Parents, I know that over the next few weeks you’ll be packing up your happy campers so I’ve come to offer some help (unfortunately, only via this blog, not literally).

By now, you have picked out your trunks (they may look big now because they’re empty, but just wait) and ordered your name labels.  I spend weeks thinking about the piles of clothes hoping that if 0457_110811-FJC_x46I wish it hard enough CampMinder or Bunk 1 will figure out a way to pack your bags for you, not just schedule a pick-up. But of course, that never happens.

First and foremost, be organized! If you really knew me, this would make you laugh – really, really hard.  I don’t know how to be organized – except when it comes to packing for camp. So, here is the best of my advice and those from my colleagues, wrapped into a nice care package for my fellow parents out there:

  1. Live the list.  I take the camp packing list and create an excel file, then I add all the “must-haves” my kids come home “needing” year after year. If it is your child’s first summer, talk to other camp parents about their kid’s favorite clothing items, games, bunk decorations, etc. that you may not think of or know about.  Each camp has certain traditions and “nice-to-haves” that aren’t on the official packing list and some items that may be prohibited at one camp are all-important at another. (For example, my girls love their Crazy Creek chairs and other camps don’t allow them).  I also mark down what items I send more of than the list asks for – somehow four bathing suits just doesn’t seem to be enough.
  2. Read carefully.  Make sure you really read the list and the parent handbook before your start packing. Many camps only allow one-piece or tankini bathing suits for girls, or ask for special clothing for Shabbat.  Make a note of your camps technology policy and plan accordingly.
  3. Label! Label! Label!  There are a zillion different options out there – sew-in, iron-on, stick-on.  Figure out what works best for you (confession – I just use a Sharpie– a black for most things and a silver metallic for dark items). Make sure everything including all shoes, sports equipment, and towels have a name on them.  It is shocking that one sneaker can find its way into a Lost & Found bin, or that kids don’t recognize their lacrosse sticks when a camp director holds it up from the front of the dining hall.
  4. Talk to other parents.  Seek out parents and ask about what their kids wear at camp.  Many camps are in the mountains or by a lake, making mornings and evenings cool.  We have seen many kids wear rain boots and Uggs to breakfast with their sweats and PJ bottoms. Some camps have post-Shabbat dancing with crazy costumes. That doesn’t mean run out and buy stuff – look around your house for fun wigs and crazy t-shirts, they always come in handy. Each camp is different so find out what clothes the campers at your child’s camp wouldn’t leave home without.
  5. Pack with your child.  Make sure they know exactly what is going in the trunk and what isn’t.  If there is a favorite item going to camp with them, make sure they know where to find it and drill into their heads that certain things need to come home. Also explain to them what isn’t allowed or if there are rules for certain items (such as electronics) that are going with them.
  6. Make it easy for everyone.  At some camps, the trunks arrive early, counselors unpack for the kids and voila – your kid is ready to go the second they step off the bus.  Others, you do the unpacking when you drop your kids off.  Either way, a little pre-thought goes a long way.  USE ZIPLOCK BAGS.  I pack all the socks in one, shorts in others, t-shirts… This way, whoever is doing the unpacking has a little less work to do and nothing is floating around in the trunk. If your child needs a special outfit (Shabbat, banquet, whatever) pack that in a separate, labeled Ziplock bag so they know where to find it.
  7. Get sock laundry bags.  These could be one of the best camp inventions ever.  Teach your child to put their socks in a smaller laundry bag and put that right in the camp laundry. Then on laundry day, they are not sorting and pairing up socks with 15 other kids. (Perhaps they will use this extra time to actually write you a letter…)
  8. Under bed storage.  Some camps suggest you bring under-the-bed boxes or plastic drawers.  If you send them, pre-pack the boxes how you envision your child using them. I also pre-pack the shower caddy, toiletries, whatever I can.  I show my kids what is where and how I packed the extras like soap, shampoo, shoelaces, and sunscreen (again make sure you are protecting the things in the trunk from leaks by using Ziplock bags).
  9. Batteries.  Don’t forget to pack lots of these essential little items – and show your kids how to change the batteries in their flashlights and fans.
  10. WE WANT COLOR WAR! Pack a shirt in each color of the color war/Maccabiah/Olymics team that the camp has.  This way your child doesn’t have to search around when color war breaks (I never had anything green and always ended up on the green team). I send some face paint, bandanas, and mustaches in different colors as well. Party City has a great section with all sorts of fun stuff by color if you want to send some extras.
  11. Costumes.  You may be told to send your child to camp with a costume for a special event but I always also pack a white t-shirt and a Sharpie – instant costume for any occasion.
  12. Be organized! Organization really starts the day the kids come home from camp.  Make a note of what got used and what didn’t.  If half the sweatshirts are still folded just how you sent them or the socks are still paired up and white, don’t send as many the following summer. I make note of what I need more or less of and leave it in the trunks so I find it each spring (consider it a love note to yourself).

Well now that I’ve shared some packing wisdom with you, I think it is time to get off my tush and take this advice.  Anyone want to come help?

Posted on June 4, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

S.W.A.K.

Copy of 110707.CampJRF.-353My first summer at Camp Nah-Jee-Wah, when I was going into 4th grade, my mother promised me Capri Sun Juice pouches in my lunch every day the following year if I wrote every other day.  Seemed like a great incentive before I left, but once I got to camp and realized rest hour was for playing jacks and cootie catchers, I didn’t really care about the silver pouch of fruit punch. I had lanyards to make and bunk-mates hair to braid (and let me tell you, both of those skills have made me a really cool mom!). I wrote about four letters that summer.

Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and now I struggle with getting letters from my own kids while they’re at camp.  My nine-year-old is a great letter writer, but my older one – not so much. She sends me the names of her counselors weeks after I met them on visiting day and borrows check-off stationery from her friends. So how do we get our kids to write? Here are my suggestions…

  1. Create your own fill-ins.  I send 2-3 Mad Lib-style letters for my kids to write home with the first few days of camp.  This way, I get the info that I need to picture them having fun at camp. Who is in their bunk?  Are they on a top bunk bed?  Who sleeps on the bunk above, below, next to them?  Where are their counselors from?  What activities are new at camp this year? Did they check on each other? You get the gist. (I save the templates from year to year and just print a new batch for that summer.)
  2. Send pre-addressed envelopes. This year my little one asked me to take a stack of stationery, address the envelopes and put stickies on them so she knows how many letters she should write to each of her grandparents, aunts/uncles/cousins, and a few friends.  Hmm, why didn’t I think of that!?
  3. Print pre-addressed labels. I create address labels for them to use so they not only have an idea of who they need to write to, but it’s easy for them to do so.  I give them the amount of labels for how many letters each person is expecting.
  4. Make sample envelopes.  Since letter writing is becoming a lost art, I put a sample envelope in with their stationery so they remember to include (and where to put) their return address and a stamp.
  5. Choose your stationery wisely. I’ve never met a stationery store I didn’t like, but the cutesy stationery isn’t always best. My nine-year-old has big loopy handwriting so standard fill-ins and postcards aren’t always the best. This year, we made personalized pads on VistaPrint.  We have a few fun fold-overs from years past, but this way she gets something fun and the room she needs to tell her stories.
  6. Keep it together.  I try and send my kids’ stationery organized in a plastic sleeve from Staples.  One goes with a lapdesk, my other with a big storage clipboard. I also include some fun pens – sparkly, smelly, twisty – as incentive to write.  It all comes home as a big mess but at least that shows they’ve been rifling through!

I am going into this summer with low expectations about what and when they’ll write.  But that won’t stop me from hunting down the mailman and sending pictures of their letters to their bunk-mates’ parents to fill them in.

Posted on May 31, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Top 10 Ways to Get Ready for Camp

1. Get Outside and Get Moving. Make sure your camper increases their physical activity prior to camp so that they feel ready to be active all day long. If your child is going to be participating in trip camps this summer, be sure to start wearing new hiking boots whenever possible to break them in and avoid blisters on the trail. For those campers who love Maccabiah (Color War) and Capture the Flag, getting in shape now will pay off during friendly camp competitions as well.

0320_120808-FJC_x_x2. Read the Parent Manual. Getting ready for camp should be a family affair, so be sure to include campers when reviewing the camp Parent Manual. This is a great resource to help mentally prepare yourself and your child for what’s in store at camp, including how you will be communicating with one another and what a typical day at camp will look like.

3. Get Psyched, Set Goals. Help your child think about the activities they are most excited to try, try again, and/or learn more about. This discussion will help your camper anticipate all the fun that they will be having at camp and also help them establish some goals that they have for themselves this summer.

4. Keep an Open Mind. Be sure to prepare yourself and your child for the best summer possible by managing expectations and keeping an open mind about the new experiences your camper will have in nature, trying new activities, eating new foods, making new friends, and experiencing Judaism in new ways.

5. Brisket and Babka. Shabbat is a special time of week at camp. Pack a nice outfit for Friday evening and get excited for a beautiful community experience involving fun services, an amazing dinner, dancing and song sessions.

6. Packing Party. Pull out your child’s duffle bag or trunk, clean out their closet, and start picking out clothes to take to camp. Make sure not to bring anything that you or your child would be upset about losing or damaging. Don’t forget to pack different color shirts for Maccabiah (Color War), a white item to tie dye, pre-addressed envelopes to home or other family members, a couple of water bottles, lots of sunscreen, and a flashlight!

7. Plan Pre-Camp Overnights. This is especially important for younger children! Have your kids do pre-camp sleepovers with grandparents and friends to help get them used to sleeping in different settings. Lots of positive encouragement and follow-up praise is helpful in building confidence leading up to camp.

8. Practice Life Skills. Start to encourage your child to make their own bed, fold their own laundry, and just do more in general for themselves. At camp, staff are always there to lend a helping hand but campers are expected to know how to and actually perform many life skills on their own. Now is the perfect time to help your child establish a certain level of independence before departing for camp.

9. Backyard Campout. As a way to get excited for life in the great outdoors and also to help your camper feel comfortable with a possible campout during their camping session, pitch a tent in your backyard on a warm night and have your very own backyard campout! It will make everyone appreciate your comfy bed inside a bit more and is also a fun family bonding experience.

10. Camp Connection. Have questions, concerns, or feedback about camp? Be sure to be in touch with the camp administration staff so that they can help you feel prepared and heard. We are here to serve our families, so make sure to provide us with all the information you can about your camper and their needs by way of forms, phone calls, and emails so that we can prepare to provide your camper with the best summer possible.

Posted on May 30, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy