Category: Before Camp Starts

School to summer transition coming

by Karen Meister

The “change” is about to arrive.  Settling into a new routine can be problematic AND enjoyable for the whole family.  So here are some tips to help you and your whole family, transition into summer.

  • Prepare your children.  The last few days of school typically end earlier than standard.  During this time, you can create opportunities to identify changes in the coming weeks as it relates to fun, chores, bedtime and more.  It is important to let everyone know that although their vacation may be starting, your home is not a dumping ground and the parents are not the slaves.
  • Start a countdown. If you are planning a trip or getting ready for camp, highlight the first day of summer break on your family calendar and make it a point to show the calendar to your child each day. Put a big colorful picture of launch day on the calendar as well.  Use a fun activity to figure out how many days are left until the big event starts!
  • Flesh out your “to do” calendar.  Many activities will have to be done before the big day.  Identify the tasks such as shopping, packing, labeling, doctors visits etc.  Make appointments with professionals as well as with yourself and children.  Get everyone on board so there are no surprises.
  • Allow flexibility but also have structure.  The greatest freedom comes from knowing what must be done, what can be done and what times are dedicated to keeping it open.  Without any structure at all, there will be great frustration on everyone’s part.  So make a plan and build in open moments.
  • Safety remains key.  Teachers and camp directors will tell you the greatest fear is during open time at the playground when everyone’s guard is down.  Make sure your child has free time in safe environments and be vigilant, not just when they are in the pool but at all times.
  • Summer programs.  If not enrolled already, summer programs and activities are a great way for a child or teen to break up the summer a bit.  South Florida can get hot, humid and of course, very rainy.  Getting away for as little as one week can be terrific for the whole family.  Contact Camp Experts and Teen Summers today to find programs that still have space for your specific needs.

What ideas do you have that help with the transition to summer?  Please share.   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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

Camp Packing Trick

How’s this for an amazing trick?  Had to share as you get ready for camp packing….  Brought to you by Karen@CampExperts.com….  If you still need help with summer plans, for children, tweens and teens, call me right away at 305-931-5437.

 

Camp Experts Packing List

Packing-for-Camp To Do’s

by Karen Meister

There is so much going on right now that your head must be spinning.  Awards ceremonies, finals and AP exams!  One month left of school and so many days of summer still unplanned.  Too many procrastinators for sure.  And although there is still space, and we can find it for you, this article is dedicated to the PLANNERS!!  (Listen to the slow clap in the background….)

So if you are one to prepare in advance, here is a simple and organized “to-do list” to prepare for sleepaway camp!   Click here for a great packing spreadsheet.

    • Plan Ahead — The camp will be sending you a list of items that are required, whether they go for 2 weeks or 7.  Beyond shopping for clothing, the early order list will include:  duffle bags and name labels that go on EVERYTHING.  In addition, you need to know when the truck will be picking up the duffles in order to work backwards and deliver the bags to the loading site on time.  If you are sending your kids to a uniform camp, you need to order those items in advance.

 

    • Review Camp Packing Lists — Individual camps should provide a recommended camp packing list, complete with any required equipment, preferred footwear, etc. Be sure to carefully review what is needed, with special attention to those items that may not be permitted at camp. Before packing your camper’s favorite game system or cell phone, be sure that the camp permits electronic items. Most camps do not allow electronic items in camp or at least out of the cabin.

 

    • Label Everything — Laundry pens, iron-ons, and press and stick labels will distinguish your camper’s belongings from those of other cabin mates. Most camps ask that you label each item, including clothing, personal items, and toiletries. Make sure that your child can identify the label used.  And if you have multiple children, with the potential of hand-me-downs in the future, consider just labeling with the last name.

 

    • Break in Shoes and Boots Before Camp Begins — Make sure that your child’s clothing and footwear are comfortable and appropriate. Sending a camper in brand-new hiking boots can result in sore feet and time spent sitting out of exciting activities.

 

    • Prepare Together — The more ownership your camper has in selecting items to bring, as well as the action of packing, the easier will be their adjustment and transition to camp.  In our house, packing became a contest.  Each child packed their own “stuff”.  They completed their spreadsheet and placed the items in front of their duffles for parental review.  (It sounds like drill Sargent tactics but we made it into a game — at least at the beginning — LOL!).  We would check off all the items together and place them in the bags.  A copy of the spreadsheet was put into the duffle bag and went to camp.  At the end of the summer, they had their list and went scurrying around looking for all the items on the list, would check it off as they  put it BACK into the duffle to come home. A week after their return from camp, their smelly bags would make it home and we unpacked and checked off to see which one of the boys brought home the most “stuff”.  Every year, it was the same winner and he typically brought back everything.  An age appropriate prize was awarded and we had a system each year that became a part of their excitement to go back to camp.

And don’t forget, after everything is packed, make sure to hide a few surprises!!   Make sure to contact us for some great ideas!!

 

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

Are they gone yet?

by Karen Meister

The planning and packing are complete.  School has ended and now the waiting begins…. for many.  So many camps and teen programs start right after Father’s Day.

So, what do you do from now until then?  If you planned well, the kids are either doing pre-summer programs like day camps or “mommy” camp or your teens are sleeping in and happy to do a little down time.  You may have even planned a family trip for pre-camp weeks.  I am loving the pictures I see on Facebook of all the activities — from the Islands to Europe to up in Canada to stay-cations — we do live in Paradise!

Now, if you did not plan well for this time, you have extra humans in the house ALL THE TIME!!  If you are both working parents, you may have a caregiver in the house for the full day and I’m sure you are coming home to slight chaos.  If you are at home with the kids, then you are either having a great time meeting other friends and their kids for some low key activities OR you are spending plenty of money on activities to keep the kids busy.

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK!! When are they leaving for camp????

The kids want to leave and you are happy too.  And that is what it is supposed to be like.  You are not getting rid of your kids.  You are exposing them to learning ne wthings, meeting new people and growing independently.

Now, what about you?  What will you be doing this summer with the extra time you have while the kids are away?  Yes, yes, the closet cleaning is always top of the list.  But what else?  What is your passion?  What are your dreams?  Are you traveling?  Will you spend time reacquainting with your spouse?

Share your plans and your ideas.  You never know who you will inspire or who will inspire you!!

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

 

You, My Child, Are In Charge Of Your Body

by Karen Meister

You’ve met the Camp Director, selected the best possible camp, it has the right staff, the right training, the right accreditation, and comes recommended highly by everyone.  And then, something goes terribly wrong at camp.  There was one thing you forgot to check off your to-do list and that is to EMPOWER YOUR CHILD!

So before you send your precious gold off to sleep away camp, there are a few things you need to discuss.  Granted, age appropriate discussions will be to your discretion, but below are the 7 critical topics to discuss.

1. You’re the Boss of Your Body! No one is allowed to touch you in any way that makes you feel yucky, weird, or uncomfortable. And no one should try to play any kind of “touching games” with Private Parts… not an adult, a counselor or another camp kid.

2. It’s OK to say “Stop Touching Me” or “HANDS OFF MY BODY” to anyone at camp… including another camper, a bigger kid or even a grownup or counselor. You actually have to teach kids HOW to say this ahead of time and tell them they have permission to tell anyone to “stop touching.” Practice this before they go off to camp.

3. Stay with your group all the time, especially on field trips and outings. Even if you’re bored or restless, it’s not okay to wander off alone.

4. Tell your counselor right away if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or you’re having any kind of problem. DON’T WAIT. Be honest with your counselor and let them know if you need them to help you with anything. No one should make you feel guilty, or “yucky”.


5. Tell another safe grownup at camp if your counselor doesn’t help you or is part of what is making you feel uncomfortable.  (Parents: be sure your child knows several different counselors or adults at camp ahead of time.)

6. Set up a code word or phrase in case your camper wants to call you for help or to come and get them in an emergency. Often, a kid may not want everyone to hear that they are calling home or even WHY they are calling their parents. A code word between the parents and child is a great way to set up a “safety system” and it really helps your child feel like “my parents have my back!”

7. Tell your child clearly: YOU are my #1 priority… and I will always stand by you and believe you if you are scared or sad about any experience. You can tell me anything & I’ll support you.

PARENTS: WE HAVE TO LET OUR KIDS KNOW AHEAD OF TIME THAT WE HAVE THEIR BACKS, NO MATTER WHAT.

Remember: practice makes perfect. Go over a few safety rules and scenarios before they leave for camp. Keep the dialog light but clear. If it’s their first time at sleepaway camp, let your child know it’s normal to feel a little homesick at first. That just means you love your family! In a few days, it will pass as you get involved with all the fun, new activities.

 

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

Scared to send your kids to camp?

by Karen Meister

I just watched Meatballs — yes, the goofy camp movie with Bill Murray.  A classic for sure.  But the message was right on.  Rudy, the little guy who arrives at camp and clearly does not fit in spends the first day or so as an outcast and runs away from camp.  Bill Murray tracks him down at the local diner, and over a milk shake and french fries, convinces him to come back to camp.  Over the course of the summer, due to “no parental intervention”, Rudy begins to develop  competence, confidence and independence.

Amazing!

Through a friendship with Bill, he begins to practice running.  He develops an ability and strength the other kids don’t have.  He feels better about himself because although he can’t kick a soccer ball, he can run.  He is selected to save the camp’s last chance in the Apache Relay against arch-rival Camp Mohawk.  And the movie ends with Rudy on the shoulders of the whole camp.

He has gone from outcast to hero and in this simple (and often times silly story), you witness the beauty and magic of camp!

But it takes time for the process to unfold.  Many would think that if your child is shy or timid or you are nervous about or for them, a short experience at camp would be best.  It is actually the reverse.  If these characteristics describe your child, you need to give them the time to work through the fear, build the competence and confidence, and leave camp with a success.

Success is defined by accomplishing ANYTHING….  the perfect piece of pottery (in their eyes), the new skill of the balance beam, a hook shot, or getting up on waterskis.  It doesn’t happen over night, but it will happen, given the chance.

Don’t fear their time away.  Embrace it, find thngs to do on your own, and smother your child with hugs and kisses when they proudly return from sleepaway camp.

Important Caveat:  It is absolutely crucial to find the right camp.  Meatballs is a movie.  If your child is a bit shy, fearful, older or whatever it may be, it is critical to speak with a camp expert that knows the culture, personnel, size, etc. at different camps.

 

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

 

Camp – With/Without A Friend

by Karen Meister

Whether for religious reasons or just purposeful soul searching, we all look forward to the “do-over”.  Apologize, forgive, forget and do better.  And the same goes for our children and hence, the annual escape for a child to their summer home.  Towards the end of June, a child embarks on a new beginning for seven weeks.    The transgressions and mishaps of the previous summer are wiped clean, the positive memories and warm feelings are retained, and the fabulous summer home awaits.

A new year!  A new summer!

So…  off to camp with a friend or without a friend?  I always vote for “go it alone” if at all possible.

When your child goes off to camp without a hometown friend, they may be uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes.  The unknown of their new summer home can be overwhelming.  And yet, with proper selection and preparation, those 20 minutes will be exciting rather than scary.  Your child will be free to:

  • select the type of camp that is just perfect without having to consider others’ needs
  • explore new activities and learn and fail successfully
  • enter the social laboratory of making friends without having someone looking over your shoulder
  • be responsible for themselves alone without the baggage of a friend from home
  • make new friends because they must
  • come home with stories of success and let the failures be part of learning without constant reminder or embarrassment
  • expand their worlds to friends outside of their hometown, and
  • look forward to returning to their special summer home the following summer.

Think about your child’s summer as an opportunity every year to start afresh.  In the words of Queen Elsa, your child can “Let It Go”  as well as start over every summer.

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

First Day of Camp

by Karen Meister

Have you had the talk with your kids?  How did it go?  If you are a second summer parent, what tips can you share with first time parents??

Are you ready?  Are the kids ready?  Trunks packed?  Nerves running high?

All normal.  As my Dad used to say, “It’s good to have butterflies!  You just want to get them to fly in formation!”

Remember, you are sending the kids to camp to help them develop independence, get fresh air, unplug and simply to stay busy during the summer.  But if this is their first time away from home, everyone is experiencing a sense of nerves….

So, here are some hints to give the kids for their first day of camp as well as things you need to do as the parent…..

1.  Pack your traveling pack the night before.

2.  Wake up early enough before traveling to have family breakfast.

3.  Let them say goodbye to their room and make sure everything is just the way they want it.

4.  And then, off to the airport (or bus)…..

5.  Upon arrival, let the kids check in with the chaperone or counselor in charge.  Make sure everyone is introduced and give your child a little space to talk with some other children, while still being available for them.

6.  If your child is going by airplane, stay in the airport with the other tearful moms and dads till the plane takes off.  There have been times when mechanical troubles on the runway causes the plane to turn around and potentially de-plane.  (You will hate yourself if you are not in the airport!)

7.  If your child is going by bus, wave goodbye and head off.

The kids are now out of your hands and in the protection and care of the travel counselor.  So this is what you can tell your kids to prepare them …..

1.  If you have any questions, ask the counselors.

2.  There will probably be lots of singing and activity on the bus.  Watch, listen, learn and if you want, participate.

3.  When you finally get to camp, you will be greeted by counselors and the camp director, most likely holding clip boards.  They will tell you where to go and you will probably be connected with someone that will take you to your cabin.

4.  You will find your bed, meet your new friends and start  to get to know your new summer family and summer home.

5.  You will probably go to the camp dining hall for a meal, introductions and jump right into the start of your summer.  If you see food that you don’t like, don’t be shy to ask for some alternatives.  And, if you have allergies, always speak up!

6.  Eventually, after a very long time it will be lights out.  You may feel very tired, a little lonely, a little sad, or a little nervous your first night.  It is okay.  We will be thinking of you as well.  But now you have your new summer family that you will learn to love, enjoy and count on while you are at camp.  And believe it or not, when you come home, you are going to miss your camp friends so much.

7.  A new day, a new beginning, and let the fun, games and new experiences begin.

8.  Don’t forget to write us letters because we want to hear everything about your wonderful summer.

We love you….

 

 

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

 

5 Tips To Take Away Summer Guilt

by Karen Meister

Whose summer do you plan first?  Yours or your children’s??  I am not suggesting that one should be first, but that typically as parents we tend to do everything we can to sacrifice for our children.  There comes a time, however for fabulous role modeling, that you show your children that you as the adult and your relationship with your spouse or significant other truly is the most important relationship to nurture.  Children see your actions and behavior and will in the long run, strive to have that type of family life in the future.  REMOVE THE GUILT!!

Some parents who continue to work their 9-5 plus during the summer feel guilty that they can’t have those lazy days of summer doing the “50 best summer activities” during the school break a la going to the beach with groups of moms and kids and creating those crafty projects at home that Rosie and Martha promote.  Other parents who ARE home with their kids feel guilty because their children won’t get out of bed before noon by week 2 of summer, they complain about being bored, and you are sick and tired of a totally trashed house.

With three months of summer, proper planning can afford you and your children a fulfilling 25% of their yearly life.  Embrace summer but you really do have to plan accordingly.   Here are a few tips for breaking free from the summer parent trap.

1.   Perspective.  Any plan for the summer is probably significantly better than the days of yore.  Healthy family, healthy environment, food on the table, love in the household…. yes thank you!!  All is well.

 2.    Teachable Moments.  Three months of summer is a great deal of time in which you can teach your children everything from athletic, academic and/or creative skills; time management and exploration i.e. what to do with free time; responsibility and giving back; teamwork and so much more.  Some can be done within the household and some in structured programs outside of the house.

3.    Intention.  Much of our dissatisfaction, frustration and guilt comes from falling into summer (you know who you are)  instead of really putting our focus on what we want summer to be like and why. First think about what you want your summer to look like.  Then speak with the other adult in the house.  Once you have your summer desires identified, plan the big picture for your children and teens.  Bring them into decision making when you can propose Option A or Option B…. AND be content with either choice.

4.    Quality time. When you are together as a family, allow yourself to remove the outside distractions and just enjoy the laid back feeling of summer.  Summer is a great time to be “off task”.  Just “hanging” out for short bursts of time can be so much fun and energizing.  There is a time to accomplish and a time to just “be”.  I love short, high-quality activities without using the time to check in with your child about how they’re progressing on a project or skill.

5.  Variation.  Summer has no specific appearance.  It gets to be what you want it to be and it can be many things.  It can be family vacation for a week or two, it can be sleep away camp or pre-college programs for the kids, AND it can be hanging out at home with absolutely no plans whatsoever.

There are 59 days left till the end of the school year in South Florida.  Don’t fall into summer.  Plan and enjoy it to the max!

 

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.

6 Tips for Staying in Touch with Your Kids When They are at Sleepaway Camp

by Karen Meister

The kids have left the house for the summer, or at least a portion of the summer, and you are having withdrawals.  No one to feed, no one to “encourage” to clean their rooms or brush their teeth.  All the moments you spend pushing your kids out the door for the start of school are now YOUR moments.  So often we fill those glorious, wonderful, relaxing moments wondering what the kids are up to as they play in their new summer home.

So here are the top 6 tips for staying in touch with your kids while they are at sleepaway camp.

1.  Snail Mail.  Although old fashion these days, it is most certainly the best way to stay in touch with your kids.  Many parents write a small postcard or letter each day, and often times start the week before so that your child will have mail waiting for them when they arrive at camp. WARNING!!!!  Do not tell your children how lonely you are for them.  Just ask lots of questions about their days….

2.  E-mails.  Today, many camps have services that allow you to send an email to your child.  The camp will print it out and deliver it to them as if it was a letter.  It is definitely easy for you to whip out a quick note each day.  Warning remains.  Do not press send if you have shared anything painful about your days without your child.

3.  Cell Phones.  This is a great one.  Many parents just cannot unleash their children and even though the camp clearly states that cell phones are not permitted, the very clever parent has sent their child with TWO cell phones — one for expected confiscation and the other for their use.  But beware – cell service is very bad at most camps and more seriously, LET YOUR KIDS GO!!  Needless to say, the camps know and your child will ultimately lose the second phone.

4.  Scheduled Phone Calls.  During the summer, you will most likely have an opportunity to speak with your child at least one time per session.  The schedule is sent out, time and date confirmed and your child is escorted to the phone bank at camp to have the mandatory call with the parents.  Please keep your expectations low as to the success of this phone call.  You can prepare a small list of questions just in case your child doesn’t just explode with information.  Or if your child starts to cry on the phone that they miss you, understand that this is very normal.  After the call, life returns to normal and play begins with a bang.

5.  Visiting Day.  If your child is going for the full summer, there is typically a day to visit camp.  They really should call it non-stop junk food day.  Every parent tends to bring boat loads of junk food that has been requested by their child for the day… and of course, you must bring for the entire cabin.  Wonderful day all around to see your child in their summer home.

6.  Camp Paparazzi.  Camps have really changed since back in the day.  There are now professional photographers and videographers hired to capture your child’s summer on film primarily to post on line to allow parents to see their children in action.  This has become such a large part of camp now because the parents are DEMANDING the constant updates.  The kids are often annoyed and hide from the cameras.  The result is a call to the camp director by the parent asking what is wrong with their child?

So great to keep in touch with your children but also remember one of the main reasons to send them to camp….  to develop independence.  Let them go and fill your moments with things you enjoy doing.

 

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 Karen@CampExperts.com 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.