Who Loves the Zoo?!

Hey, Animal Lovers!

Do you belong in the zoo? Well, let me rephrase that—I don’t mean living there. Do you love your zoo visits? Seeing the animals of the world in their imitated natural habitats all in the same setting is always such a thrill for us to absorb and appreciate. It’s certainly fun to take in the majestic, humorous, and adorable charm of the animals as you tour a zoo.

Today is Zoo Lovers Day! For those who can’t get enough of this place, perhaps you should consider a Zoo Camp if you have a local zoo that offers such an experience. Some Day Camps take place at the zoo in order to show kids a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on there.Brian loved his time at Zoo Camp. Check it out for yourself!

Fortunately, it just so happens that our very own Operations Manager here at Everything Summer Camp attended a Day Camp at the zoo when he was a kid. So I talked with Brian about his experience.

Bri attended Zoo Camp back in the days when he was just eleven years old. The days would last from 8:00am till 2:00pm, but Bri remembered hanging out for longer afterwards. “We were already at the zoo,” he said so of course they would stick around once his family arrived to pick him up.

For one whole week, Brian was given a backstage pass to see the zoo from a zookeeper’s perspective. He was treated to walks inside some of the cages and seeing behind the exhibits. He saw animals that were either babies or newcomers to the zoo who weren’t ready for the public eye just yet.

He fed baby animals. He saw the gigantic cuts of meat that were fed to the carnivorous creatures. And, yes, he even saw people cleaning up poop…a lot of poop. “It was relatively hands-on for 10-year-olds,” he noted.

Extremely educational, Bri described the experience as sort of a cross between being at camp and being at school—like, your favorite school field trip. It was very structured and you were taught a lot. It made for a valuable experience to Brian who, at the time, aspired to be a marine biologist.

You can imagine his favorite part was the aquariums. He recalled walking the walkways from above and peering down into the huge tanks. “I’d seen the aquariums countless times through the windows,” he said, “but seeing them from such a different view—that was something that always stuck with me.”

Bri also had the traditional overnight camp experience when he was young, so I asked him how the experiences measured up. “I recommend both,” he answered. “Zoo Camp was very structured, with an educational, curriculum; there wasn’t any downtime to form lasting friendships,” he said, highlighting one of the best parts of overnight camp.

Happy Zoo Lovers Day, Everybody! Get out to your local zoo today and pay all your favorite animals a visit! See if you can find the opportunity for a Zoo Camp experience like Brian had and, as always, thanks for reading!

- John

Wise Guys of the ‘Wiser Cracks’ Webinar Series

 Hey, Camp Families!

We’re more than just camping gear here at Everything Summer Camp. Our goal is to provide you with everything your camper needs in order to get the most out of the summer camp experience. That means providing you with more than just camping gear. After all, we can’t sell you a healthy relationship with your kid or an immunization to homesickness.
The Wiser Cracks webinar is a wealth of excellent tips and advice about the relationship between parents and their children and how to develop that relationship in the most effective ways.But what we can do is give you tips and advice about how to achieve these desired intangibles.

We’ve teamed up with Dr. Chris Thurber, child psychologist and summer camp expert, to help us weiDr. Chris Thurber talks about staying in touch with friends online after camp is over.gh in on ways to help your child feel comfortable about camp. Dr. Thurber—a father (and former summer camper/cabin leader) himself—imparts brilliant parenting tips to reinforce a genuine understanding between you and your child.

Alongside Mark Sieglaff, friend to Chris and Vice President of Everything Summer Camp, the two of them hostMark Sieglaff---co-host of the 'Wiser Cracks' webinar series. the ‘Wiser Cracks’ webinar series which is co-produced by Everything Summer Camp as well as Expert Online Training, a company co-founded by Chris that imparts an excellent education to youth leaders.

Tune in on scheduled evenings for these engaging 30-minute discussions of realistic practical parenting tactics. These webinars teach you to read between the lines and see what your kid is really saying when they’re speaking the code. You’ll also learn valuable responses that soothe upset feelings and strengthen your connection.

Glean positive and practical advice on how to communicate with your kid when you check out all the previous installments for this smart series. Click on any of the links right here to watch older sessions of the ‘Wiser Cracks’ series like How to Talk to Kids About Tough Topics, Rules were made to be positive, Cracking Kids Secret Code, Better Ways to Deal With Bullies, and Top 10 Camp Prep Tips.

Be sure to register and attend upcoming ‘Wiser Cracks’ webinars like, ‘More Camp Prep Tips’, ‘Conducting Family Meetings’, and ‘Helping Awkward Kids Fit In’ and you could win some awesome prizes from Everything Summer Camp! Enjoy developing a better communication with your child and, as always, thanks for reading!

- John

Find a Camp Now, in the Fall!

Hey, Parents!

Are you planning on sending your kid off to their rookie year at overnight camp next summer? Or maybe you’re just looking to change things up for your experienced camper. Either way, you’ve got to select a summer camp. And, believe or not, whether you want it to be or not, there’s no better time than the present.

Starting your summer camp search in the middle of autumn may seem a little too far in advance, but this is certainly the ideal season to start researching camps and narrowing Look into summer camps now with your soon-to-be-camper.your choices. After all, most summer camps fill up their available spots several months before they open.

There’s also a lot to do on your end before camp starts like scheduling a physical exam, obtaining everything on your camp’s packing list, preparing your camper and yourself against home/childsickness. Not to mention, how busy you are with the rest of your life, the fall season is the best time to find a camp of the finest quality.

If you wait until June to sign your kid up, the remaining spots available are sure to be at summer camps of second rate quality. You want the best you can manage for your kid, no doubt. So don’t procrastinate. It’s pretty much never too early in the year to start thinking about which camp to send your camper to.

Speed up your search by looking for camps whose directors have a long tenure, whose staff is comprised of mostly former campers, and whose camper return rate is above 75%. Still, while speeding up the process, be sure to appreciate the time you spend with your kid—including them in the process every step of the way.

For more great tips and words of advice about when, where, why, and how to send your kid off to camp, check out ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’, written by summer camp experts, Dr. Chris Thurber and Dr. Jon Malinowski—available right here on our summer camp for all your camping gear needs. Enjoy getting your head start on the search for your summer camp and, as always, thanks for reading.

- John
Look into grabbing 'The Summer Camp Handbook' for yourself right here!


Always be Closing…

Hey, Camp Parents!A wealth of knowledge lies within the pages of this excellent guidebook.

Today’s post concludes our July Tips and Advice series about Opening Day, Visiting Day, and Closing Day at summer camp. Using the endlessly helpful wisdom that Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski put down in ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’, today I’m sharing tips on achieving a successful Closing Day. Check out these four great tips about things to do on the last day of camp:

First and foremost, know when Closing Day is! Unfortunately, there have been parents who have gotten confused about which day is Closing Day. Mark the date and mark it well. Also, punctuality is a big deal. It’s best not to give a single specific time that you’ll be there, but more of a window (from 9:30 – 10:30). You don’t want to be much later and have your kid worry, nor do you want to arrive too early and not be able to find your kid because they’re off running around, finishing some last-minute job.

Plan to spend a little time at camp on Closing Day. You’ll have administrative chores like closing accounts, signing out, talking with the cabin leader, possibly checking with the medical staff, and combing through the lost-and-found. Most important, many kids want to share their positive experiences, give their parents a tour of camp, and introduce new friends. Yet, some kids just want to get in the car and go (even though they had a great time).

What to expect
Kids’ reactions to being reunited with their parents are tough to predict. All kids are different but most fall into categories of four typical reactions: 1) Most kids want to tell you anything and everything that happened at camp. 2.) Some kids are quiet, feeling a little sad to leave camp and want to leave quickly to get it over with. 3.) Still, other kids tear up at the close of camp and prefer to linger a while. 4.) And our last category likes to pick out the most dramatic thing that happened at camp and maybe exaggerate stories a tad. The main point is that you should be ready to play the day by ear since you won’t know what to expect.

Regardless of how your child acts on Closing Day, it’s always good to get an experienced adult perspective. The cabin leader is the best place to startGet your money's worth and really dig deep to find out how your kid's camp experience was!. These conversations can be insightful, but you may have to probe to get the information you want. Most cabin leaders tend to smile a lot and tell parents that the session went well. Part of their job is to have a positive attitude. Nevertheless, all cabin leaders mentally evaluate the kids with whom they work. How could they not have some opinions based on a week or more of living with your child? Ask some questions like these to get the answers you want:

•    What did you enjoy most about the session?
•    What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
•    How did my child interact with the other kids? What kind of strengths and weaknesses did you pick up on?
•    Which activities did my child like best?
•    Were there any discipline problems with my child? How were they handled?
•    Was my child polite?
•    Is there anything to work on with my child before next year at camp?

Make Closing Day a warm, relaxed reunion and continue getting the most of your child’s summer camp experience right down to the very end. Have fun bringing your kid back home and, as always, thanks for reading.

- John

Get your own copy of The Summer Camp Handbook for a wealth of information about sending your kid to camp the right way!

Just Visiting

Hey, Visitors!

Welcome back to our Tips and Advice series in July for drop-offs, visits, and pick-ups. Borrowing from Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski—authors of ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’—today’s post offers invaluable wisdom about visiting your kid at camp. All Fun---right this way at summer camp on Visiting Day!camps are different. Some have Visiting Days and others don’t. Your kid’s camp stay may only last a week in which case there’s likely no Visiting Day between the drop-off and pick-up.

If there is a Visiting Day, you should make every effort to go. If you simply can’t, try to work out another arrangement. Although it’s not as fun as seeing one’s own parents, kids do enjoy going out with their friends and their friends’ family on a Visiting Day. Set it up by phone, email, or fax to give permission for someone else to take your kid out of camp. You’ll want to make arrangements in advance so your camper is well-aware and comfortable with the plan.

But assuming that you can attend Visiting Day, here are some good things to keep in mind on Visiting Day:

Only Visit on Visiting Day
More so than phone calls, in-person visits are an immediate form of contact that can provoke homesickness in your child and spark envy among new friends. Unscheduled visits are disruptive to campers’ developing sense of independence. If you have any doubts about the appropriateness of your visit, be sure to call the camp first and speak with the director.

Be on Time
Stick to what you promised on opening day. Your son or daughter will be counting on it.
Be sure to visit during a designated visit time with camp permission, for sure!
Take a Tour
Your child would love to show you around camp. Keep any critical comments to yourself—this is your child’s time to shine, not defend the fun time they’re having.

Keep an Open Mind
You’ll wonder about certain aspects of camp. Ask gently for an explanation before passing judgment. Offer genuine praise for all of your child’s accomplishments.

Prepare for Strong Feelings
Visiting Day can be a wonderfully emotional time, but it’s often hard for kids to say goodbye. Resist the temptation to offer your child a ride home. Instead, be understanding and encouraging. You’ll see them again soon.

Share Sad News Early and in Person
Telling your child about the death of a pet or sharing any other bad news is best done in person, not in a letter or a phone call (when you’re not there to provide comfort). Break any bad news to your child early on Visiting Day to give you both time to talk about it.

To get even more great information about these six elements of Visiting Day, pick up your own copy of ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’. Have fun come Visiting Day and make sure you tune in next Monday for tips about Closing Day at summer camp. And, as always, thanks for reading!

- John

Get your own copy of The Summer Camp Handbook for a wealth of information about sending your kid to camp the right way!

Make Opening Day A-Okay!

Hey, Camp Parents!

The camp season is upon us and Opening Day is a BIG day for campers, parents, and staff alike. This post is the first of three throughout July that will focus on the important parts of navigating opening day, visiting day, and closing day at camp. Summer camp experts Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski break down the six most important elements of a successful Opening Day in their comprehensive guidebook, ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’:

Make a Travel Plan
You’ll want to add an additional hour or two to your travel time when headed to camp. You might need to stop along the way for a toothbrush, pillow, or any other items that you suddenly realize were left at home. Plan a relaxed trip. Stop for lunch if camp opens in the afternoon. If camp registration starts in the morning and you live far from camp, it might be wisest to make the trip the day before and spend the night nearby. A positive attitude is key on this trip as it sets the tone for your kid’s entire camp experience!

Complete Registration
Registration is a way for the camp to ensure that everyone who is scheduled to arrive has made it to camp. Punctuality is important for camp registration; early arrivals inevitably interfere with the last-minute touches the staff is making. Be ready to meet directors, check in, get assigned a cabin, see the medical staff if you need to, unpack your kid’s Put your shoes on and get ready for summer camp!gear, and meet the staff. If you won’t be able to be with your kid at registration, you’ll need to complete some basic pieces of Opening Day by phone or mail.

Meet Your Child’s Leader
There are likely to be more than just one cabin leader who will be working closely with your kid this summer, but you’ll want to be sure to meet at least one of them. Open up to them about any physical, behavioral, emotional, and medical issues they should know about with your kid. It’s smart to ask the cabin leader questions about themselves too to give yourself a better idea of whose hands you’re leaving your child in. Ask questions about their own experience at camp, where they go to school, where they live. It’ll make you feel better.

Address Medical, Behavioral, and Emotional Concerns
Be sure to talk with the camp director and a representative of the medical staff about any concerns you have—especially medical conditions such as asthma, allergies, recent injuries, illnesses, physical disabilities, or any others. The decision about whether to share information is up to you, of course. However, it is hardly ever beneficial to leave the camp in the dark about significant issues. Had staff been informed about a problem or concern, they could have helped out right away instead of guessing at what a problem is.

Allocate Spending Money
Most camps do not allow campers to keep cash with them. Therefore, the camp may ask you to allocate spending money for your child to purchase items at the camp store, buy projects at the arts and crafts shop, pay for out-of-camp trips, and so on. Some camps include spending money in the registration fees; others ask you to make a deposit when you register. If the camp does not publish a suggested amount in their information packet, ask the director how much spending money is adequate. You’ll get back whatever is leftover at the end of the session.

Say Goodbye
It’s smart to ask your camper ahead of time how long they want to hang out together at camp before parents head home. Some kids want their parents to stick around, others are ready to push you out the door. How will you say good-bye? A short walk? A hug and a kiss? Just a hug? A high-five? Talking it over now will make your good-bye go more smoothly. Also, once you’ve said goodbye, you should make your resolved departure. Lingering or unexpectedly returning can increase your kid’s anxiety.

To get even more great information about these six elements of Opening Day, pick up your own copy of ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’. Enjoy Opening Day as best you can and tune in next Monday for tips about Visiting Days at camp. As always, thanks for reading!

- John
Get your own copy of The Summer Camp Handbook for a wealth of information about sending your kid to camp the right way!

Why don’t you call me

Hey, Camp Parents!

Last week I posted about sending emails to your camper—when it’s appropriate and how to write a good one to your camper. Today’s post, the final installment in our camp correspondence series, concentrates on the two least-used forms of communication during your kid’s summer camp stay: phone calls and care packages. Let’s talk about the telephone first.

Phone Calls
Call yo mama at summer camp.As discussed in last week’s post on email, the same is true for phone calls; all camps are different with differing views on allowing their campers to talk to their parents over the phone.

Some camps allow phone calls once a week, believing talks with parents to be helpful and supportive. But most camps discourage contact by phone and ask that calls are saved for rare emergencies. The popular philosophy is that the sound of a parents’ voice can stir a deep longing for home which is often detrimental to the chief goal of camp—independence!

Neither philosophy is wrong, but talking on the phone—an immediate means of communication—hinders independence while other means of communication (i.e. letter-writing) take whole days to be sent back and forth and, thus, foster independence—Call Mom. She knows.and support too! If your child’s camp does allow phone calls, try to keep it to a minimum so your camper gets the most out camp.

CampMinder.com or Bunk1.com are great online services that help parents schedule time to talk with their campers by way of phone. You can learn more about these services in our post from last week.

Care Packages
Campers have been known to get boxes of goodies like fun toys, cool clothes, favorite magazines, and other gifts from their parents. Care packages certainly make a kid feel great, but no parent should ever feel obligated to send one to their camper. As camp experts Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski say in ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’, “Camp is a huge gift in itself.”

Should you decide, however, to send a care package to your camper, it’s important to follow the camp’s policy on what items campers can have. Keep in mind that your camper is part of a group. Here are some things to think about when you send a care package.

Don’t send anything too big. A ridiculously big care package may be funny to other campers and embarrassing to yours. Remember, the point is not to spoil your child, it’s simply to put a smile on their face and remind them that you’re thinking of them.
Don't send your kid any perishable food while they're at camp.
Send only what the camp allows. Some camps allow campers to receive food, candy, and gum. Others do not. Food can be problematic as it attracts animals and bugs. Without proper storage, food rots and becomes a health hazard. Don’t put your kid in an awkward situation.

These are great care package items—especially things that your child can share with his fellow campers like board games, Frisbees, playing cards, and fun reading material like MadLibs, Choose Your Own Adventure books, and comics. Other good items that your camper won’t have to share are a shirt, family photo, a novel, or a small stuffed animal.

So that’s all for our June series on camp correspondence. I hope these posts have been helpful for your camper’s upcoming summer camp experience. As always, thanks for reading.

- John

Mr. Postman, do you have an email for me?

Hey, Camp Parents!

Last week I posted tips for writing letters to your camper—the best option for communicating with your kid during their time away at camp. Today’s post focuses in on email. Lots of camps out there offer a one-way email service to provide a speedier way to communicaA wealth of knowledge lies within the pages of this excellent guidebook.te with your camper. Speedier messaging methods may be handy, but they also sacrifice the personal touch that a handwritten letter delivers.

As camp experts Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski put it in their helpful guidebook, ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’, “Sending your child an e-mail may make her feel more like a business colleague than your own flesh and blood. There is no substitute for a handwritten letter.”

Is it ever okay to email?
Sometimes it might be your best option. If you have an urgent message or you don’t have time to write a letter, email may be the way to go. It’s smart to confirm the camp’s policy when it comes to email. All camps are different. Some allow kids to receive emails but not to send them. Some camps will send parents a PDF image of their child’s handwritten reply.

If you find yourself in a situation where email is the best route, keep in mind that it should represent a letter as much as possible. That means including a salutation, proper punctuation, paragraph breaks, and a warm closing. Mr. Postmaster, do you have an email for me?You’re sending your kid word from home, not typing out a careless office memo.

Check out CampMinder.com, a service parents can use to communicate with their camper. Parents log into their account, type out an email, and CampMinder sends your word to your kid’s camp where it’s then printed out and delivered to your child along with stationery and a pre-addressed, stamped envelope to reply.

Another similar place to visit is Bunk1.com, offering the same service as well as a fun photo platform so that parents can sneak a peek into the camp life and maybe even see the permanent smile that their kid is wearing. These sites take privacy very seriously and have taken measures to solidify the security of their sites.Check out the easy steps of how Bunk1's camp correspondence service works.

Your kid is likely out playing, having fun, and making the most of every day! They aren’t sitting in front of a computer, so don’t expect an immediate response to an email. In fact, some camps have their computers whole miles away from the cabins and, consequentially, emails are checked just once a day. In that case, email isn’t necessarily any faster form of communication than a mailed letter.

Tune in again next Monday to get a closer look at making phone calls and sending care packages to your camper. And, as always, thanks for reading!

- JohnGet a sneak peek at camp life with CampMinder.com.

Write—don’t Type!

Hey, Camp Parents!

Last Monday began our four-part series to share tips and advice on correspondence with your camper during their camp stay. To review, I broke down the four different options of communication, the first—and best—of the options being a handwritten letter, followed by email, phone calls, and care packages.

Borrowing great tips from Chris Thurber and Jon Malinowski’s ‘The Summer Camp Handbook’, today’s post focuses in on the first option: a handwritten letter.
Writing to your kid should have a personal touch to it!
Keep your letters newsy, upbeat, and encouraging. Try to save mildly bad news until you can talk to your child in person (we’ll cover how to break major bad news to your child in a couple weeks for our post on phone calls). Of course, you can tell your kid that you miss them, but don’t make it sound like life at home is so depressing without them around—that would be mildly bad news.

Bringing up mildly bad news is just introducing things that your kid can’t do anything about. No matter how big or how small, bad news makes campers feel helpless. And helplessness is a road that leads to darker places like homesickness, anxiety, and depression.

Write about positive news from home like the family dog having a fun trip to the dog park or how you’re catching up on your reading. Mention when you’ll write again and include lots of questions to invite a response—though you’re likely not to get one because too much fun is being had.

It’s always nice to include other bits of interest to your kid. I remember my parents sending me the comics page from the newspaper my first time at camp. You could also send photos, drawings, or anything else you can fit in an envelope that your camper will appreciate.

Your kid might write you a bad letter, but try not to let it worry you too much, things are most likely already better by the time you're reading it.What if your kid DOES write you from camp and the letter is a concentrated mess of homesick words and pleas for you to go get them. Don’t overreact—things are most likely fine and the letter was simply written in a bad mindset. A lot is sure to happen at camp in between the letter being written and you reading it.

The right move is to call the camp and talk to a counselor who can update you on how your kid is doing. Chances are that the homesick feelings are gone.

In very extreme and rare cases, your camper might require more attention, one-on-one supervision, or potentially even an early pick-up. Keep in mind that it almost never gets to that point. Calling the camp is a good move, but you should certainly address your campers homesickness in another letter that you write back. Write back as soon as you can.

Make it from the heart, but, once again, be newsy, upbeat, and encouraging. Convey that you understand how they feel in your letter. Typically, the moment your child knows that you truly understand how upset they are is typically when they start to feel better. YouWith any luck you'll be able to get a response from your kid! can check out an old Blog post from Chris Thurber himself about writing to your kid during their summer camp stay!

Tune in next Monday to learn about communicating with your camper by email and, as always, thanks for reading.

- John

Advice for Best Friends on Best Friends Day

Hey, Besties!

Happy Best Friend Day! Today is a day to hang out and have fun with the friend you treasure most. Best friends do everything together from hanging out to going on family vacations with one another. So how come summer camp has to separate the inseparable? It may not be easy to tell your friend about your summer plans to head off to overnight camp, but today’s post is here to help you break the news to your friend without breaking their heart. It's National Best Friends Day! Go have some FUN with your best friends!Friends are likely to feel a little dejected when you tell them that you’re leaving for a week, two weeks, a whole month, or even longer. The idea that they’ll be minus a friend for the summer can hit hard. They might make some attempt at trying to attend camp with you which may or may not be in your best interests. Take a look at an old Blog post written by camp expert, Dr. Chris Thurber about the pros and cons of attending camp along with a friend.

But even more than just being minus a friend throughout fun summer days, your friend may be concerned that you’re heading off to camp where you’re sure to make lots and lots of new camp friends. After all—a big part of summer camp fun is making newPersonal growth at summer camp. friends. It’s not, however, the only part—nor is it the part that kids love most about camp.

What kids love most about summer camp is the chance to be themselves.

Summer camp gives kids the opportunity to shed their reputation from neighborhood friends, school, and even home life. When your reputation is nonexistent, kids get the clearest picture of who they are and discover their most “authentic personality” as Dr. Thurber puts it. What kids get most out of summer camp is a sense of self identity and personal growth.

The company of an established friend at camp could make for lots of fun, but it can also hinder personal growth. If you’re headed off to camp without your best friend, fill them in on your summer plans directly—don’t be worried about their reaction. For all you know, your friend is just as worried to break the news of their summer plans to you as you are about breaking your news to them.

Maybe not, though.

Maybe they’ll be sad to learn that you won’t be around to hang out with. Reassure them of the strength of your friendship and highlight all the fun opportunities that camp offers—like activities and personal growth as opposed to making new friends. You can promise to write them while you’re away. What will help the most, though, is helping your friend to move past the sadness by enjoying as much time together as you can. Have fun!

Celebrate Best Friend Day with your best friend and, as always, thanks for reading!Best friends are friends forever

- John