Category: Why Send?

7 Ways to Build Character at Camp

by Karen Meister

Summer camp started in the 1800′s as a way to expose the hard working children to the outdoor environment during the summer months.  What was learned in a classroom could be learned differently in nature.  What was not able to be taught in a classroom could also be taught in the outdoors. So often, I am asked for a summer experience that will teach a child to:

  • be more responsible
  • learn good character
  • be more appreciative for what they have
  • connect with humans vs technology

Our goals for summer are no different than they were way back when.  In 1905, camping advocate,  Dr. Winthrop Tisdale Talbot wrote:

“In cultivating general morality and kindly behavior the camps are helped chiefly through their usefulness in making boys strong vitally, in improving their power of digestion, in increasing their lung capacity, in letting the sunshine pour upon every portion of their bared bodies.   In camp, poor and rich lads stripped to their swimming trunks are on an absolute equality; the best man wins. Courage, generosity, goodwill, honesty are the touchstones of success in camp.

In other words, provide a place for all children to breathe deeply of clean air, disconnect from technology, practice climbing and playing and developing skills, eat healthy foods, compete hard, and live side by side with others from all walks of life to become a better member of this world.  The goals and rewards of camp have not changed since these words have been written. So boil it down to 7 things every child needs to build stronger character at summer camp:

1)    New relationships, not just with peers, but with trusted adults other than their parents.

2)    Confident identity that makes the child feel powerful 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)    A sense of 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)    Equity and fairness , making sure that all children are treated the same. 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, the one from the home with everything or with little, the entitled vs the grounded. 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)    Physical development offers so much to how a child feels about themselves.  Ideally, camp offers 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)    A sense of belonging to that very special cabin and special division and special camp.  All those goofy chants and team songs, the sense of common purpose and attachment to the identity that camps promote go a long way to offering children a sense of being rooted and will be with them the rest of their lives.

7)    And finally, a 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. There is a perfect camp for every family and every child.  And yet, camp is just too good to pass up.  Please make sure that summer camp is a part of your child’s life.


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

Sleepovers and summer camp teach kids important life skills

Reprint from the Washington Post

By Carolyn Butler
Forget empty-nest syndrome: I had a rough enough time recently sending my 6-year-old off to his first sleepover at a friend’s house.He was clearly more ready for this milestone than his father and I were: He’d been begging to go for weeks, and that afternoon, he sat on our steps eagerly waiting to be picked up — sleeping bag, glow-in-the-dark PJs and s’mores fixings in hand — as I worked at holding back tears.

While it can be hard to watch your children head off for sleepovers, sleepaway camp or even Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a few nights, such an event is a healthy and important step, says clinical psychologist Maureen Monaghan of Children’s National Medical Center.

“I think it is a great idea to give kids an experience of being on their own in a structured, supportive, supervised environment,” she says. The time away from parents provides an excellent opportunity for even young children to take initiative, exercise their autonomy and develop leadership, problem-solving and social skills, which often builds self-esteem, she explains. “Even just one night away from parents can be valuable. . . . It definitely challenges kids — it takes them out of their comfort environment — but it’s usually really positive, and we see a lot of growth and maturing.”

To learn more, I spoke with psychologist Michael Thompson, author ofHomesick and Happy: How Time Away From Parents Can Help a Child Grow ,” about letting your kids go away and the associated benefits for the whole family.

Why is it so hard for today’s parents to separate from their children, at any age?

This generation of parents has invested an enormous amount of time in being emotionally close with their children and having very deep attachments. They’ve also invested an enormous amount in protecting their children from trauma. We have doubled the amount of time spent with children in the last 20 years. When you’re all in, it’s hard to step out — it’s just that simple.

Even though it can be difficult to send kids off to a sleepover or a full summer of camp, why is it valuable?

At some point, all children are going to have to be independent, and a safe place to practice that is camp, although we’re also talking about overnight school trips, boarding school, even a week at a relative’s house. A big, developmentally appropriate step for independence is sleeping away from your parents.

When you face challenges away from your parents, you know the victory belongs to you alone. If you are, in fact, homesick and you overcome it — which the vast majority of children do — it means that YOU beat it. It was painful, and you beat it. If you were uncomfortable on a canoe trip, a trail ride, a long hike, you know that you got through it: You either sucked it up on your own or got comfort from your friends or counselors, but it’s your achievement.

Okay, so you got stung by a bee: It was scary and painful, but you got over it and you recovered, which means that you can deal with all the bees in the world without your mom — the bees being a metaphor, of course, for all of the challenges in life. How do you know what makes you strong if Mom is always fetching your shoe out of the mud or standing there saying, “Oh, it’s not so bad”?

The problem with parents is that it’s very hard for them to recognize that at times they have a regressive effect on the lives of their children, and sometimes in order for kids to reach their full potential, they have to get away from that regressive pull.

Can that make a difference later in life as well?

I think camp is the best emotional preparation for a successful college experience, because you practice being on your own, keeping track of your clothes; you practice living in a community and getting along with roommates you don’t love — all of the skills you need for true independence. . . . It’s very helpful to start the process of learning to live independently and also in community earlier.

Perhaps the biggest psychological impact of camp is on resilience, on character and on learning to be a member of a community that’s separate from your family, who always cut you some slack and who have preconceived notions about you.

One of the things that troubles me about this generation is that we want our children endlessly challenged academically, but we don’t seem to want their resilience challenged in other ways. You can’t know you’re resilient until your resilience is challenged. And resilience or grit is key because it’s what gets you through the hard times in life. When you are in college, discouraged and overwhelmed, does your mother get you through? No. But the experience of being out in a thunderstorm on a hiking trip and knowing you survived — that just might.

If they like sleepovers and are curious about friends going away to camp, or if they’ve asked to go on a weekend with a friend, that’s a very good indication. In general, I’d say that kids are ready between 6 and 12, depending on temperament and style, but especially if your child has shown some resilience. The kids I worry about are those with anxiety disorders and depression — they are at risk — but plenty of these children do great, and I have even seen some camp experiences cure anxiety disorder. I’ve also seen some [of these children] not be able to finish camp.

How can nervous parents prepare a child for camp, boarding school or any other extended time away?

Start by sending your child to their grandparents’, to an aunt and uncle’s, or to a friend’s house for a sleepover: someplace with an adult they trust but where they get to be away and have to fall asleep without their usual bedtime ritual. The inner feeling for the child will be “Well, my aunt did things totally differently from my mom, but I fell asleep anyway and it was fine.” They now have a bigger range and know they are more resilient than they thought.

You should obviously address any medical needs like medication, a special diet or potential anxiety, and it’s important to sit down and talk about what to expect, all the issues. You should always acknowledge the possibility of homesickness; tell your child if you experienced it and share your own stories.

Homesickness is universal. Research shows that 97 percent of children report homesickness of one kind or another: Of that group, 81 percent is mild, and the kid gets over it in three to four days; 19 percent of kids who go to camp have some significant distress, and it’s a longer process. About a third of the latter — or six out of 100 children — have unremitting homesickness. But they are the heroes of my book, because more than half of them go back to sleepaway camp the next summer. Recently, a woman in Toronto said to me, “Oh my God, I had a terrible first year at camp.” I said, “What happened?” and she said, “I knew I had to go back.” I asked “Why?” and she said, “I just knew I had to go back and beat it.”

Go away for a weekend yourself and enjoy the time off! Oftentimes, parents are much more anxious than their kids, whether we’re talking about a sleepover or sleepaway camp. Children often look to their parents for cues on how to handle stressful situations, so as a parent, the best thing you can do is be positive, enthusiastic and encouraging. In your head, you might be worried about some things, about how it’s all going to go, but the message you want to convey to your child is that this is going to be an enjoyable, fun experience, and you’re excited for them.

June 18, 2012

Generation Z Needs Overnight Camp

Reprinted from Camp Experts & Teen Summers

Generation Z. Those who have been born in the 90’s have grown up with conveniences that we’re enjoying today. There’s the constant connection to the internet and the world wide web, the smartphone, access to instant communication mediums such as text messaging, and of course, social media networking. Generation Z is Generation Z because of their dependence on 24/7 internet access via mobile phones, tablets and laptops. They are born with an electronic umbilical cord, from which every fiber of their being is fused to technology.

Moreover, their outlook on life is very unique and different from the other generations. They have seen America’s weakening grasp on being a global superpower, handed over to India and China as the new economic powerhouses, felt the effects of climate change on a global scale, witnessed the emergence of terrorism, of numerous school shootings, financial crises and unemployment.

This generation would rather communicate online or through text than talk face to face. They can chat with someone they don’t know on the world wide web; these people would rather stay indoors and spend all their time facing the computer and the cold screens of their phones.

It is of utmost importance that we bring Generation Z back to the roots and values the country has been striving for ever since the beginning of time. And for that, we need summer camp more than ever.

Overnight summer camp has been an honored mainstay throughout the history of the United States. It has stood over 150 years for a good reason, with one being an escape to the unbearable city heat before air conditioners entered the market. Camp provided a welcome outlet for the humid city air, which was considered unhealthy for children.

Surviving the summer heat isn’t the only reason why Generation Z needs to go to overnight summer camp. They should expand their circle of friends and overcome the limitations of only having friends inside their virtual worlds. Camp is a good place to meet new people, with their own peers, positive role models and responsible counselors providing an optimal environment. Attending camp means they can experience new things, try out new hobbies and learn to take risks. They can exercise their bodies through swimming or a challenging trek in the immediate surroundings. Camp can foster creativity via various arts and crafts activities.

The overnight summer camps of today have a lot to offer as compared to the summer camps of yesteryear. There are general camps for all-around purposes; there are sports camps catering specifically to those who would like to learn or improve their game. There are academic summer overnight camps for math and biology; arts-oriented camp for individuals who love music or theater, religious camps, special needs camp, niche camps for cooking enthusiasts and chess aficionados, and adventure-type camps for those who’d love some rock climbing or scuba diving.

Those from the previous generations (Baby Boomers and the Generation X) should take it upon themselves to pass on the overnight summer camp tradition to Generation Z, ensuring they are not completely lost in their own virtual worlds. It is vital that they come out of their houses and play out in the sun, learn the real world instead of living in an electronic one, learn to win by experiencing trial and error, and start getting this country back in shape in economic, social and ethical aspects. Enroll them in summer camp now.

Do you wish to give your children the gift of true friends, an amazing adventure, and last but not the least, fun that will stick with them throughout their life? Overnight Summer Camp isn’t there just to beat the summer heat; it’s a lifetime’s worth of treasured experience when done the right way!

The Camp Experts and Teen Summers is there to provide the perfect experience for your kids. We have over a thousand summer programs and worldwide camps in representation, ensuring your child’s distinct needs are met and they get into summer camps that will prove to be the best fit.

Whether day camps, overnight camps, sleepaway camps or specialty program camps, The Camp Experts and Teen Summers is there to help get you the ideal teen camp program. We have all the answers to your camp questions and needs.

Want your child or teen to have this experience, please click here to get free, professional overnight camp assistance.

Top 5 Discoveries at Camp

by Karen Meister

Spring break is over and the kids are “happily” back in school (wink wink).  Vacation was great but wow….  whirlwind ran through the house and the return to routine is okay.  And now you can take a few moments to realize there are only 9 weeks till the end of school (in South Florida at least).  One grading period, and the kids are home for the summer.  And if you have not yet made plans — vacation, camp, teen programming, older kids in jobs — now now now is the time!!!!

And the delicious summer is the best time for your child to explore and experiment.  Best time to try on new hats (so to speak) to find out what they enjoy doing, without getting a grade….

Going to sleepaway camp WITHOUT the neighborhood friends is the best way for your child to try on new hats without consequence.  They don’t bring the mistakes home.  The failures stay at camp and are forgotten by the following year.  The successes come home through stories and pictures.

1.   In charge of their own destiny:  At camp, your child chooses to be a participant or a spectator, agreeable or defiant.  And it is good.  The experiment will allow them to determine what place makes them happy and how to manage it.

2.  Learn to make new friends:   Without a friend from home, your child must enter a new community and start fresh.  There is no history and the camp persona gets to be developed.  Liberating!!!

3.  Try new things/believe in yourself:  Surrounded by counselors cheering you on for EVERYTHING, your child will most certainly tie dye even if they hate art, swing a baseball bat even if they hate sports, or hop on a horse even if they are terrified.  The 24/7 support from peers and counselors encourages the experiment.  And the result is a newfound ability to believe that you can try new things in all areas.

4.  Develop deep relationships:  When you live with people for weeks at a time, you see their good and bad moments and must still learn to deal with it.  And you must learn HOW to deal with it without getting your feelings hurt or hurt others.  He or she will learn compassion, empathy, when to get involved and when to stand back.

5.  Practice and value teamwork:  Between Color War, intercamp games or canoeing down the river, there are so many opportunities to reinforce dependence on your fellow campers and participation in the team.  Your child will learn to be a leader and a follower, and alas bring those skills home for those pesky group projects that every school demands.

Over the years, sleepaway camp will help your child both develop skills and help them understand where their comfort zone is.  Their understanding and control of their own destiny will be reinforced and it does carry over into the school year.  Help your child develop their future  and find out not only who they are, but who they can become.

There are still many camps that have space for children.  But now is the time to make choices.  47 school days till the summer is here!


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.

7 Skills to Develop – Camp is Great

by Karen Meister

According to the Search Institute, which specializes on research to determine what children need to succeed, young people have  seven developmental needs:

  1.  Physical Activity
  2. Competence and Achievement
  3. Self-Definition
  4. Creative Self-Expression
  5. Positive Social Interactions
  6. Structure and Clear Limits
  7. Meaningful Participation

As parents, we of course want to provide opportunities for our children to tick off each of these important needs to allow our children to grow to be productive members of society.  As always, I so strongly believe in the value of the right summer experience to enhance a child’s development alongside the activities that occur in the home and throughout the school year.  Camp is the perfect partner to dinner at the family table, strong academic support, great after school programming, giving back to the community at large, and the guidelines set by parents and other role models at home.

Why Is It Important To Send Your Child To Camp?

Youth development experts agree that children need a variety of experiences to help them grow into healthy adolescents and adults. In order to develop and internalize these positive behaviors, experiences must produce:

· A sense of industry and competency
Do they develop skills? Do they learn to work for what is important? Are they successful at what they do?

· A feeling of connectedness to others and to society
Do they feel like they “fit”? Do they see a role they can play in their group, family, or community? Do they have friends?

· A belief in their ability to make decisions
Do they learn to make good choices? Do they see the results of their decisions?

· A stable identity
Are they learning what their skills are? Are they receiving positive feedback about themselves?

25% of your child’s life is during the summer.  And in today’s pressure-oriented society, camp provides a non-threatening environment for kids to be active, to develop competence in life skills, to learn about and enhance their own abilities and to benefit from meaningful participation in a community designed just for them.

Camp is for every child, every budget, every family, everywhere.  Invest in your child’s future….


 Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  

Summer of Freedom and Wonder

by Karen Meister

The history of summer camps reflects the desire of parents to get their children outside of the urban areas during the summer….  to refresh, reflect, and often times, to get them out of harms way.  In these days of ongoing anguish over the occurrences in Boston, our natural inclination is to cling to our kids tightly.  And yet, as history has shown, there comes a time when letting go provides the greatest healing for our children.

I found this article written by Chaim Potok:

“During the first two decades of my life, the thirties and forties, poliomyelitis was a frightful scourge made all the more horrifying in that most of the afflicted were children. Summertime the disease would run rampant through urban populations, striking randomly, at times paralyzing the legs and the respiratory system of its victims. Parents sought desperately to send their sons and daughters out of cities–to summer camp.

Those polio epidemics, as we called them, would begin with the coming of late spring and hang over us like shrouds all through the summer months, and fade only with the end of the summer camp season and the first cold weather of autumn. A train or bus would carry us away from that invisible killer and the streets it menaced, and only when we were out of the city across the bridge or through the tunnel would I feel myself begin to shed the miasma of dread under which we lived. Each summer a dreamlike world presented itself to my innocent eyes: vast green fields and rolling hills and dense stands of trees and the sky an astonishing blue, open, enormous. My family–left behind. My street and neighborhood and city-vanished. The threat of paralysis or death–gone; for the time being, blessedly gone.

And so, as I grew up, chief among the uses of summer camp was the saving of young lives.

The first night in a summer camp: excitement, anxiety, apprehension, disquiet. Strangers in bunk beds. Cold clear night air. Cicadas and frogs: the mysterious pulsing of the earth. Then, finally, the fall into deep sleep. And awake early to the birds and the dawn. Ground mist on the grass and in the woods. Silent ghostly trees. A lowing cow somewhere in the distance. Blades of grass jeweled with crystalline beads of dew glistening in the first rays of the sun. A city child gazing through a cabin window on his first wondrous morning in a summer camp.”

In today’s world, we are saving our children in so many ways by letting go and allowing them to breathe the fresh air, disconnect from the world that bombards them with information 24/7.  Allowing our children to just be children is the greatest gift we can give them.  Holding on tightly, and passing our insecurities to them is not helping them cope.  By letting go, we are teaching them to move on, to live, to enjoy life.  It is critical to select wisely and certainly do your homework and make sure that you are always sending your children to a safe, secure, and well run program.  But do not hold on due to fear…. Let go and invest in their future health, happiness, independence and success.

Let them soar!!!


Karen Meisterin partnership with Joanne Paltrowitz, works with the international consulting firm, Camp Experts and Teen Summers.  Feel free to contact Karen for complimentary assistance at or 305.931.KiDS or 305.931.5437.  Thousands of families have received confidential and complimentary guidance to select the best camp and teen programs from around the world.  Karen is also the Founder of the LifeMeisters.