About Dan

Dan Weir is the Director of Camping Services at Frost Valley YMCA, a host on the CampHacker Podcast, sports a beard, online way too much. He writes about summer camp and youth development.  He tweets (look below!) at @danlovescamp.

Dan Weir also writes at Unplug at Camp!

 

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Wednesday
Dec162009

Featured in an article titled "Amped for Camp" in the NY Post in June '08 

From http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/item_4RUXND1CcYg2QO5DddKq9K


AMPED FOR CAMP By MAXINE SHEN

Last Updated: 12:08 AM, June 21, 2008
Posted: 12:08 AM, June 21, 2008

FOR some parents, it's the most wonderful time of the year - when kids with trunks full of newly name-tagged togs set off for sleep-away camp.

Color war, talent shows, campfires . . . and hazing, homesickness and mystery meat. All that and more are recounted in "Camp Camp," Roger Bennett and Jules Shell's fun new, photo-heavy book, tellingly subtitled, "Where Fantasy Island Meets Lord of the Flies."

"Camp really is a place of so many firsts, where many people come of age, all at the same time," Bennett tells The Post. "It's a petri dish of achievement, accomplishment and experimentation."

It's also a challenge, especially for first-time campers - and the parents who send them. Below, some tips from the pros.

HOMESICK CURES

"The secret of camp is that everybody is homesick, no matter how often they've been away," says Bennett, a former counselor.

And while it's hard to ignore a child's pleas, don't rush out to retrieve him, says Frost Valley YMCA's Dan Weir.

"A good parent will say, 'I'll come get you,' and that's a way to be supportive and be there for your child, but that leaves a little bit of a window of self-doubt for the child to wiggle into," the camp director says.

"[But] a great parent will say, 'This isn't a punishment, we really want you to give this a good try. If you don't want to go back next year, you don't have to.' This really sets the child up to succeed, since all the child might need is a few days of getting acclimated."

Way before your child gets on the bus, talk about camp as the vacation it is - one filled with fun and freedom.

Just make sure you don't cry when you say goodbye. If you do tend to get misty, wear sunglasses!

CARE PACKAGES

Kids love presents - especially when they're far from home.

Just don't send them candy.

"Food allergies are such a big deal," says Weir of the YMCA. "We want to make sure every child is able to come to camp."

Don't even think of smuggling in brownies in a hollowed-out Harry Potter book. Camp staffers have gotten pretty savvy to subterfuge. Nor should you send valuables, such as iPods, which can go missing in a hurry.

Instead, send gifts an entire bunk can love, like card and board games, Frisbees, mini- water guns and Mad Libs, the kinds of things that Weir says "build camaraderie and the friendships they're trying to make at camp."

And don't overdo the e-mail. Multiple messages per day will make a child feel as if he or she is needed at home - or abandoning the folks - and may only fuel homesickness, not foil it.

BUNKING DOWN

Getting your kid to get over the idea of having to bed down with a bevy of bunkmates - and share showers and sink space - is easier than it sounds.

"Children love sleepovers, and if they view camp as a group sleepover that lasts a whole summer, they'll generally embrace the idea," says Susan Inglese of camping resource site funcampstuff.com. After all, how often does a child get to have a dozen pals over for a sleepover that lasts for weeks, without pesky parents around?

"It's all how you pitch it to a child," Weir adds. " 'You'll never have any privacy,' is the worst thing you can say to a child, but saying that their new bunkmates are a second family . . . is a great way to set up kids' expectations."

Don't worry about the food, either. It probably won't be as good as their usual sushi in the city, but they won't starve. In fact, Weir says, counselors - who aren't much older than the campers - are often instrumental at introducing them to new foods.

You may want to tip them (or at least thank them) later.

 

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