Cooking at Camp Starlight

April 20th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.17.52 AMOne of the perks about sending your child to Camp Starlight that nobody mentions to parents is that it is very realistic to send your child away for the summer and get a private chef when they return. Your child who only knew how to make a sandwich or had no idea how to boil water could come back as a baking, sautéing, mixing foodie who has a newfound appreciation for seasonings, sauces and the magic that can happen in the kitchen. This transformation begins when kids take advantage of the cooking programs at camp.

The cooking program is taught by specialists with a wide range of experiences. The state-of-the-art facility gives kids the tools, appliances and space to create their favorite dishes and learn a few new ones.

Encouraging your child to explore their culinary side not only ensures your get to try some of their creations once they return home, but also teaches them valuable life skills. Cooking is not just throwing ingredients together and waiting until it’s edible. Cooking is an art, and a way for students to express themselves. The thought, preparation, and emotion that goes into cooking is something many children find challenging but rewarding. They also learn valuable skills such as time management, following directions, and communication, and cooking also perfects math and science skills in a way that is fun and different.

When your child is able to start and finish a project in the kitchen, their self confidence grows and they become more self assured and willing to try new things that seem out of their comfort zone. When they are active in the kitchen and learn about the things that go into their food, they are also learning about making healthy choices when it comes to what they eat.

Cooking also gives kids a sense of purpose, and gives them something they feel they can contribute to the family. Once the family takes a bite of their famous mac and cheese or savory French Onion soup and can’t get enough, they’ll feel accomplished and that they have a valuable quality to contribute to family functions. Even if they just learn basic cooking skills, the importance of cleaning up after yourself, and how to measure properly, they will be ahead of most of their microwave dinner eating peers.

Whether your child is a chef in the making, or is just starting to show interest in the kitchen, cooking at camp is a great way for kids to explore the culinary arts.

 

5 Ways Kids Can Stay Healthy At Camp

April 13th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.13.10 AMParents want to make sure their kids have fun and stay safe at camp, but a main concern for many parents while their kids are away is how to help them stay as healthy as possible. Before you send your kids off to experience the summer of a lifetime, get them in the habit of these 5 things so they can enjoy everything camp has to offer and not spend their time in bed with a runny nose, grumbly tummy or annoying cough.

Eat Well

Camp Starlight knows that kids need to stay well nourished in order to have the energy it takes to swim, climb, dance and play all day long. Healthy choices are available, and getting your kids into the habit of picking something nutritious over something salty or sweet is a great way to boost their immune system and fight off germs. Healthy foods also give your kids the energy they need to be as active as possible, where fatty foods will make them feel sluggish and lazy and may lead to missing out on some great fun with other campers.

Stay Hydrated

Encourage your kids to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Get them excited about it by having them pick out their own water bottle the next time you go to the store. Have a friendly competition within the family to see who can fill up and drink their water bottles the most throughout the day. At camp, kids who stay hydrated stay healthy!

Hand Washing

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.13.50 AMKids are going to be shaking hands and high fiving a lot at camp, and this is a very easy way for germs to spread. Get your kids in the habit of washing their hands after they use the bathroom, before they eat and after spending a lot of time outdoors.

Sleep

There’s something always a little off when it comes to sleeping and kids. A teenager’s biological clock is set to stay up later and sleep in late (so it’s not totally their fault when you have to go in at noon and wake them up!) Sleep is vital in maintaining a healthy mind and body, and kids who get the recommended amount of sleep for their age group perform better than kids who don’t. Getting enough ZZZ’s also helps the immune system stay strong, and keeps their memory sharp. Kids who get enough sleep report lower stress levels than those who can’t get enough sleep, and lower stress is better for the brain and heart. A well-rested kid can focus on their creativity, concentration and athletic performance, and can fully enjoy everything camp has to offer

Sunscreen

Before you send your child to camp, get them in the routine of applying sunscreen before they go outside. Help them understand the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, and assure them they can still get a tan while protecting their skin. Nobody likes to spend 3-4 days of camp walking around like a lobster, flinching every time someone brushes up against his or her fried skin. Over exposure to the sun during childhood has been linked with skin cancers in adulthood. Encourage your child to take the extra two minutes to apply sunscreen and remind them how great they’ll feel if they go home without being burnt!

A healthy camper is a happy camper, and by introducing these easy steps to your child before they get to camp, you’ll rest easy knowing they’re not only having the time of their life in a safe environment, but they are staying healthy as well.

Outside Play at Camp Starlight

April 6th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 12.53.49 PMA recent phenomenon child psychologists have been focusing on is environmental recreation. What is environmental recreation? It’s as simple as getting children into the great outdoors! Playing outside improves vision, promotes social skills, increases attention span, produces vitamin D, prevents future bone damage and reduces the chance of heart related diseases, diabetes and stress. Playing outside not only improves a child’s physical abilities, but improves their mind and spirit as well.

It’s no secret that today’s kids don’t spend nearly as much time playing outside as their parents did growing up. There are fewer kickball games with the neighborhood kids and more video games. There are fewer kids racing home when the streetlights come on, sweaty and dirty from hours running and playing outside. As we all know, many kids today are glued to a TV or computer screen until bedtime. The benefits for kids who play outside are endless, and when your child spends their summer at camp, they will develop a love and appreciation for the great outdoors.

When campers are participating in adventure activities, they are stepping out of their comfort zone AND surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature. When they are waterskiing, wakeboarding, sailing or swimming, they are keeping their minds and bodies active and breathing in fresh air. When they are playing team sports like soccer, basketball, football and tennis, they are working up a sweat, becoming fit, and improving their vision. Studies show that kids who play outdoors have better distance vision than kids who spend a lot of time inside. With such great vision, maybe they should try archery!
ZQ1B4eko-aELXBpuV9pxSzTg0kdCE5op-7ddLrBczJ0,rOfiYDnybC7ox78CNoLRi1j4ljoBhIK-HYaSd1REtQk,UNmZOXyvC1Qk0JDEgmThqWBGt8PL_-sAxDmgM-YWkm0When kids are playing outside, they are interacting with other kids, which is a great way to develop social skills. Taking turns, sharing, being part of a team and other important rules learned on a playground (or in this case, on a field, on a boat, or flying through the ropes course) are vital for developing children’s social skills, and will transfer over into how they interact with people in the outside world. Kids who play alone and inside all the time don’t get a chance to learn these important skills.

Spending time outside may also improve the time your child spends inside. By spending time outside and releasing all of that energy, kids are able to focus when it is time to come inside for structured time. Being outside also brings out the curious and investigative side of children, as they are naturally compelled to look, learn, touch and try new things they discover outside.

Kids these days are busy, and can find themselves stressed out and pulled in many different directions before they even hit high school. With the pressure of grades, sports, friends and other responsibilities, a little time outside can really help reduce stress. Time spent swinging, sliding, running, jumping, swimming, competing and discovering outside is fun and even therapeutic for kids who have a lot on their plate.

Research shows many kids these days are vitamin D deficient. You could run to the drugstore and pick up some vitamins, or you could encourage your kids to play outside and get it for free: from the sun! Getting enough vitamin D has been proven to prevent bone problems, diabetes and heart problems.

Because of these (and hundreds of other) reasons, summer camps have countless outdoor activities for kids to try. And, camps cater to all types of kids: a child focused on drama or dance will have just as many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fresh air as a camper who is focused on athletics or watersports. This is the beauty of summer camp: campers growing appreciation for nature and the health benefits that go along with playing outdoors. Camp is good – actually, great – for all types of kids. The benefits are limitless!

Living with Peers at Camp Starlight

March 30th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.36.33 PMIt can be emotional to think about, but one day we will have to help our babies pack up their stuff and move them into a dorm, apartment or house of their own. We have to send them off with the hope that all we did to teach them how to be productive, respectful and kind human beings will stick with them as they venture into the real world. Along with being honest and responsible, we cross our fingers that we taught them how to be a good roommate. Did we instill the importance of keeping their stuff picked up, being quiet when other people are sleeping, doing their own dishes? Did we teach them how to take care of their dirty laundry? Did we bluntly teach them to use deodorant so other people near by don’t have to? Our goal is to raise someone who is easy and fun to live with. Nobody wants to have the kid who is known for leaving his or her sweaty socks by the front door, or who never EVER takes initiative and takes out the trash. By sending them to camp, you give them the opportunity to learn what it is like to live with other people other than their immediate family, and prepares them for opportunities in the future (college, marriage, etc) where they will be sharing the same space with other people. Being a good roommate is an important quality to have, and learning how to deal with other people who aren’t the world’s best roommates is also an important life skill.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.37.03 PMAt Camp Starlight, each bunk has 8-12 campers and 2-3 counselors. Campers sleep in single beds. There is a bathroom, with two showers, two toilets, and two sinks. They have cubbies for storage and outlets to plug in clocks etc. Campers are expected to respect each other’s space and personal belongings. Everyone is responsible for keeping the cabins picked up and clean. Although uncommon, sometimes campers have a hard time adjusting to sharing a space with others, and this can cause frustration and conflict with other campers. Counselors are trained on how to deal with such conflict, and use it as a learning opportunity for all of the campers. Counselors show campers how to address someone who has invaded their space and how to communicate their feelings about how another’s actions are affecting them. Being able to effectively communicate an issue or problem you have with someone you are living with is a valuable life skill campers will learn by living with their peers.

Part of being a good roommate is respecting the rules of quiet time, and allowing others to sleep in a space that is quiet and peaceful. Nobody likes living with someone who is up half the night talking and making noise, so it is important that campers learn this type of respect at camp. Many campers plan to move away to college, where they will be living in a dorm or apartment with other students. If they have the experience of living with others at camp, it will prepare them for the kind of roommate they want (and don’t want) to be. Having counselors in the cabins also helps to ensure all campers feel safe and respected, and that the rules are followed closely.

Kids who don’t attend sleep away camps may go straight from living in their home, with their siblings and parents, to being thrown into an environment in college where all of the sudden they have to learn a whole new set of rules, expectations and courtesy. Sending your kids to Camp Starlight gives them a big head start in the rule of sharing their space.

And this will make them one heck of a roommate when it’s time for them to be on their own.

Sailing at Camp Starlight

March 23rd, 2015

When you think about summer, most of the images that race through your mind include two things: sun and water. Whether it’s laying out by the pool, running through the sprinklers, or zipping through the waves on a boat or jet ski, or contemplating life’s mysteries while casting a line out to fish, the summer is meant to be spent heating up in the sun and cooling down in the water. This is why so many campers enjoy learning to sail when they spend the summer at Camp Starlight.

Sailing is an exciting water activity that allows campers to work as a team to reach a common goal. It is a great way to spend the afternoon soaking up the sun, and creates a bond between sailors that can’t be created anywhere else.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.18.06 AMCampers who learn to sail aren’t just learning how to maneuver a large vessel through the water (however that is a big accomplishment!) Everything about learning to sail is a learning opportunity. Math and science are weaved into the fun and challenging sport of sailing. Sailors will learn about the importance of aerodynamics when it comes to the position of the sale. They will learn to read a compass and become confident navigating their way to and from a destination without the help of the GPS on their smartphones. They will learn to solve problems quickly, to be observant of their surroundings, and will find a new appreciation for Mother Nature. Campers who try sailing leave with a “boat load” of useful skills and practical information that will help them for the rest of their lives.

Even if they never have to deal with air pressure or thinking about the curvature of a sail, they will learn to work as a team, follow directions and appreciate the quietness. Sometimes young kids and teenagers have a hard time dealing with quiet, or feel anxious when they don’t have something to entertain them at every second. Sailing is good practice for just sitting back and enjoying nature, and is a great way for campers to learn to be comfortable in their own silence. All of the sailing adventures are guided and supervised by certified instructors, so everyone is kept safe while they are having fun.

The beauty of the lakes surrounding Camp Starlight is a reason all on their own to take up sailing. The view from the sailboat can’t be put into words, and campers write home how much they loved spending their afternoons out on the lake.

Campers have hundreds of opportunities to try new things while they spend their summers at camp, and learning to sail is another great way to expose them to things they may never have a chance to try at home. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment that they can succeed at anything they put their mind to.

Tennis at Camp Starlight

March 16th, 2015

10526136_10152177443296960_5570309213981646310_nWhat do seeds, chips and double bagels have in common? No, they aren’t things you’ll find at the summer camp buffet. They are terms commonly used in one of the world’s most popular sport, and a sport enjoyed by hundreds of campers every year: Tennis.

Tennis is fast paced, competitive and fun. It is a great workout, as it keeps players constantly moving, running and swinging. For campers who prefer individual sports, tennis is one of the best options. It improves speed, agility and hand-eye coordination, skills that are great for kids in all kinds of different sports. Playing tennis helps with both physical and developmental growth, and kids who try tennis at camp can do so in a safe and encouraging environment where they feel safe to try something new without judgment or fear of embarrassment.

Tennis is a very physical sport. It improves leg strength, gross and fine motor skills, agility and flexibility, all while incorporating cardiovascular exercise. Because physical fitness is such an important part of tennis, campers are taught about general nutrition and the best ways to fuel their bodies in order to preform at their best on the court each day.

Tennis is also a great way to strengthen the character and physiological development of campers. Tennis requires practice and commitment, and helps campers develop a strong work ethic and discipline. When new tennis players stick with the sport, even when it’s tough, they gain valuable life lessons about never quitting and persistence. Tennis is a great way to strengthen social skills, and helps campers learn to be good sports.

The thirteen tennis courts at Camp Starlight are surrounded by natural beauty, and serve as a safe, clean and professional style court for tennis lovers and rookies alike. Tennis is taught by certified and experience trainers, who will encourage the campers to do their best and make them feel confident and excited about picking up a racquet. Most importantly, they make sure tennis stays fun for the campers, and that everyone feels included and is having a good time.

Tennis is a large part of camp culture, and many first time tennis players go home asking their parents to continue playing when they get home. The benefits of tennis are endless, and campers who participate in the various tennis activities will walk off of the court with a sense of confidence and will understand why millions of people around the world love the game of tennis.

Campers being silly at Camp Starlight

March 9th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.34.00 AMCampers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts on stage at Camp Starlight. You can see campers giggling in groups until they cry, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Even staff members get in on the action, letting their inner child emerge by singing, dancing and playing with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe here, safe to be silly, to use their imaginations and to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers.

Camp Starlight encourages campers to be silly in a variety of ways. Free time allows campers to explore the grounds and socialize with their friends in a way that is supervised, but not highly structured. This gives campers time to use their imaginations. Some campers like to put on skits or host a bunk or cabin comedy club. They are encouraged to do and say the silly, kid-like things that come so naturally to them.

During structured activities, kids are supported when they speak their minds, share their opinions and engage in discussions. They are taught to listen to and respect each other, which gives kids the green light to do and say silly things without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. By exploring this side of themselves, kids develop a sense of humor which helps them navigate other areas of their lives. A good sense of humor helps kids to be spontaneous, to see different sides of a situation, enjoy the playful parts of life, and not take themselves too seriously. These character traits are extremely helpful for kids who have a lot of stress and responsibility in school, sports and home life back in the real world. A good sense of humor also increases their self-esteem, which is always a bonus!

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.35.27 AMCounselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun and relatable, and are great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance, goof off and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins.)

Kids are expected to be focused and serious for a large portion of their day in the “real world”, so it is important to foster their childlike wonder and silliness whenever possible. At Camp Starlight, kids can feel safe to show off their silly side.

Confessions of a Camp Counselor

March 6th, 2015

Jackie-300x199As parents, you entrust counselors with your children, well, I guess you mostly entrust the directors or owners of the summer camp, but in reality, counselors are the ones who are with your children most of the time. According to the American Camp Association there are over 12,000 summer camps in the United States, and they employ over 1.5 million people each year, most of whom are counselors. Are these people trustworthy?

Summer camp counselors are notoriously underpaid and overworked, at least that is what we will tell you if you ask, and there is some truth to it. It is true in the same way that parenting is often referred to as the hardest job in the world. I know this because it has been nearly twenty years since I last taught water-skiing, mountain biking, or canoeing as a camp counselor and I am now a parent.Popular culture would have you believe that camp counselors spend the vast majority of their time focused on partying with other counselors (think Meatballs part 1 through 4) and put very little energy into the job of protecting, nurturing, and teaching your kids. Well, I cannot speak for all of us, but this is the perspective of one former summer camp counselor.

So as I contemplate sending my own daughter off to summer camp for the first time, I have a much different perspective on summer camps the role of the camp counselor. As I think back on my summers as a counselor in Pennsylvania and in California in the mid-1990’s, I am easily transported to a time when my life’s priorities were much different than they are today. Yes, of course, the social aspect of living and working alongside a group of fun and energetic people my age was a significant part of the experience, but in hindsight it was not the most meaningful aspect of my time as a counselor. The lasting impression those summers had on my life came largely from the emotional imprint of guiding and mentoring the campers who were in our care. I don’t think I am alone in this feeling, I believe that while counselors often form lifelong friendships with each other (and sometimes even get into some shenanigans on their evenings off), it is the experience of working both individually and as a team to mentor young people that defines those summers for camp counselors.


Now, as I consider entrusting my own child to the care of a camp director, I know that it is those camp counselors who will interact most often with my daughter. And I trust that just like I did so many years ago, they may let loose from time to time in their off hours, but when they are “on-duty” (which is most of the time) they will have their campers best interest at heart and in doing so enrich their own lives for many years to come. Because while popular culture suggests that the life of a camp counselor is focused on partying, the truth is much more rewarding for the counselors and reassuring for parents like me.

This post was written by Gabe Millar.

 

Camp Leaders at Camp Starlight

March 2nd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.18.34 AMConfident leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And great leaders come from spending time at America’s Finest Summer Camps. Campers and counselors alike leave camp with a better understanding of how to serve others and act as positive role models for those around them.

From the first day they arrive, campers are thrown in a group setting that, for most of them, is very different from what they are used to. They eat with their peers, spend the entire day doing activities with their peers, and share their mornings and nights side by side with them as well. This is the perfect situation for campers to build upon their leadership skills, as it encourages them to quickly determine whether they’re going to follow the crowd or stand out on their own. Campers have countless opportunities on a daily basis to make good decisions to positively affect their stay, as well as the experiences of those around them.

Their involvement in sports helps to foster strong leadership traits, such as being a team player, being fair and winning (and losing) with grace. Team sports like soccer lacrosse, and baseball encourage campers to step up and be leaders of their team, and to be a positive example for their teammates. Campers who participate in other activities like archery, gymnastics and dance have the chance to be leaders when they choose to make responsible choices regarding their involvement and commitment to the activity that they chose. Arriving on time, respecting their competition and their counselors, and doing their best every day are all great ways campers can act as leaders at camp.

A good leader is someone who can serve others well. Campers have plenty of opportunities each and every day to be helpful and kind to their peers. They are encouraged to stand up for each other, support each other, communicate with each other and be an honest and loyal friend. Even if they aren’t aware of it, the building of these characteristics is also building a leader in every camper.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.19.58 AMCampers aren’t the only ones who leave camp as stronger and more confident leaders. Camp counselors who spend the summer at Camp Starlight also learn valuable leadership skills in a much more obvious and intentional way. They are trained thoroughly on what it means to be a leader and positive role model for the younger campers. They are very aware that there are always young and impressionable eyes watching everything they say and do. Counselors learn very quickly that being a counselor doesn’t just mean making sure all of the kids follow the rules. They become teachers, big brothers/sisters, role models and friends. Camp counselors also get an opportunity to improve their time management, problem solving, and multitasking skills. The training and education required to be a camp counselor prepares them for managing groups of children in a confident, patient and trusted way.

Whether they come to camp as a camper or a counselor, everyone leaves camp as a more confident leader. This confidence transfers over to their attitudes towards their siblings, friends, coworkers and teammates in the real world. The world is a better place with leaders like the ones developed at Camp Starlight in it.

Being a Camp Counselor at Camp Starlight

February 23rd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 6.37.07 PMEveryone has that one teacher, babysitter, neighbor, family friend or other adult influence that has made a lasting impression on their lives; a person they credit with shaping and molding the person they’ve become. When you become a camp counselor, you become this and so much more to hundreds of children every year. A camp counselor does so much in the life of a child, but not many people realize how working on staff at Camp Starlight changes and shapes the camp counselors as well.

Camp counselors become experts at time management. They learn how long it takes to get from one place to another, how long clean up, set up and break down takes, and how to effectively manage their time so activities run smoothly camp-wide. They learn the importance of appreciating the time and schedules of others, and campers pick up on this valuable social skill.

Camp counselors become expert communicators. They have no choice but to constantly strive to be good listeners, as kids will remember people who they feel truly listen and hear them, and those who write them off. Counselors learn to speak confidently, while always keeping in mind the effects their words can have on those around them. They learn how to express their concerns and articulate their opinions and expectations without hurting the feelings of others. The ability to successfully communicate with individuals and large groups is a vital and life changing skill that comes naturally from being a counselor.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 6.40.32 PMProblem solving, conflict management and the ability to maintain a positive attitude in even the most stressful circumstances are all things counselors learn while spending their summers at Camp Starlight. All of these skills are exactly what employers are looking for in the people they hire, and a summer (or two!) as a counselor really sets you up to be the “dream employee” so many jobs are looking for.

Being a camp counselor changes who you are, in a good way of course. Watching hundreds of campers learn more about themselves, create lasting memories and try new and exciting things because they knew YOU believed in them will change your life. You will experience a sense of purpose as you build relationships with campers that you can’t get anywhere else. Being a camp counselor makes you a better friend, family member, student, employee and most importantly, it makes you a better YOU.