How to Help Camper Homesickness
December 10th, 2018 by Matthew Abel, Camp Director of YMCA Camp Pendalouan
Homesickness is a major concern when sending a child to camp. Not only for parents, but camp directors as well! It's a tough phone call to make when it has become too much an impediment for the camper. However, this is one part of the camp experience parents can help prepare their children for.
Overnight camp is a huge achievement for a child. The personal pride that builds after successfully spending a week away from home is incredible. As with any achievement, practice can help perfect the skill. Staying away from home may not seem like a skill, but providing children with opportunity to stay away from their guardians for a night or two prior to an overnight camp helps them practice. Staying with other relatives or friends gives them a base of confidence - they learn they can stay away from home.
Choosing a camp helps as well. Most camp directors are biased about which camp is the best, but letting the child help choose gives them a sense of ownership. It becomes "their" camp far more easily - they won't want to give it up quickly. Most camps offer preview days throughout the year for this reason.
Once practice has started and a camp is selected, language becomes very important. Some parents want their child to feel safe and tell them they will come pick them up. This can crack a child's confidence. Letting the child know they will be missed is important, but so is setting the expectation that you will be picking them up after their session is over. It creates more confidence in the child - they believe in themselves because their guardian does.
It's also helpful to discuss correspondence with the camp. Figure out if letters make sense or if there is some sort of email system in place. Phone calls can often hasten homesickness - camp directors will give parents a call if needed and determine if it may help or hinder a child for whom homesickness has taken hold.
Homesickness is a real concern. We always let kids know missing home is normal for everyone, that they can have fun and succeed in a week at camp. A plan to help prepare your camper for their time away from home, so they enter their cabin with confidence, is one of the strongest pieces of the parent-camp team. Once your camper arrives, the counselors will keep them engaged and happy.
This blog was contributed by Matthew Abel, camp director of YMCA Camp Pendalouan. Find out more about the camp in our camp listings or by visting them at http://www.pendalouan.org/.
What's New at Camp This Summer?
July 18th, 2017 by Gina DeHaan
As the temperatures begin to climb and sunny days chase away cool weather, it’s clear that summer is in full swing.
Some of my fondest childhood memories live at the place that encompasses just about everything that makes summer great: summer camp! To this day, I still have my “Bullseye Award” hand-painted wooden plaque that I received for getting the first bullseye of the summer on Camp Roger’s new archery targets. As a young camper, it made my summer.
West Michigan’s creative camp directors and their dedicated staff work hard year-round to keep this summertime staple fresh and exciting for kids.
Here are some cool trends to look for in area camps:
Real Time Over Screen Time
As our society, especially its youth, is becoming increasingly dependent on technology, summer camps are stepping up as a place where kids can unplug. When campers take a break from their screens, they are exposed to a whole new (and real) world where they can get outdoors, be active and form authentic friendships, but also slow down and recharge, reconnect with nature and learn more about themselves.
In a recent article released by the American Camp Association, notable educator, author and psychologist Dr. Peter Scales commends the unique opportunities that summer camp offers your child. “Camp is one of the few institutions where young people can experience and satisfy their need for physical activity, creative expression and true participation in a community environment.”
“Nowadays, it’s kind of crazy to think of a kid having no screen time for an entire week,” reflects Kevin VanderKlok, the executive director of Camp Geneva. “But during our sessions, we rarely hear a camper wish he had his computer or complain that she doesn’t have her phone. Camp is built on relationships and discovering those relationships is great for kids.”
Food to Fuel
Camps are revamping their menus to ensure that your kids have nutritious meals to fuel them for their fun-filled days. In addition to making a shift towards healthy eating, many camps have hired dieticians to help accommodate campers with food allergies.
This summer, Camp Geneva will host over 500 campers with varying dietary needs. If your child has food allergies, you will receive a call from Camp Geneva’s food service team two weeks before you send your child off to camp. “We want to fully understand campers’ personal nutrition needs, so their food experience doesn’t present itself as a barrier for the rest of the camp experience,” notes VanderKlok.
A Collaborative Camp Network
Although there is an abundance of summer camps in the area and a limited number of potential campers, camps choose to collaborate rather than compete. West Michigan camps make a collective effort to stay connected and build a strong community to make sure they are serving their campers, your children, as well as they can.
For example, in September, Camp Geneva, Camp Roger and Camp Henry are partnering on a 5k Fun Run. The camps hope that this race will bring the community together and give local businesses the opportunity to sponsor camp scholarships. More detailed information will be coming soon, so stay tuned to the camps’ websites to see how your family can get involved.
Stretching beyond the West Michigan Camp network, local camp directors and staff, such as the team at Camp Blodgett, attend the annual American Camp Association Midstates Conference to network and stay up-to-date with the industry’s best practices.
When Camp Blodgett considers starting, stopping or revising existing programs, executive director Brian Paul emphasizes that the kids remain at the heart of its mission. “We look at how beneficial a new program would be to the camper. Is it going to be safe for all our participants? Will it be fun? What will our campers learn from this, or how will they grow from this experience?”
From academic to athletic to adventure-themed camps, each has something unique to offer. Use our List Guide to browse camps by category and find the summer camp that’s right for your camper.
Summer camp: a Crash Course in Life Skill Development
March 13th, 2017 by Jacquelyn Zeman
Camp is not just about singing cheesy songs around a campfire, managing to pass the swim test, or escaping parental supervision for a week. I know firsthand that the experience serves as a crash course in social and interpersonal skill development for young people. I was a camp kid.
In West Michigan we have many summer camps, each with a program that makes them unique. Grand Rapids Community Foundation awarded $119,000 in grants to provide scholarships to 16 of these camps for the summer of 2017. The grants cover program fees and transportation to and from camp for around 500 students each year.
We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience summer camp, regardless of their financial situation.
Former campers, like me, tend to remember their experiences for years after attending. My specific summer camp experiences, between late elementary and through high school, were truly unforgettable.
Between fourth and fifth grade, I attended an overnight program at YMCA Camp Manitou-lin. Later I went for a similar experience at SpringHill during middle school. For high school, I went to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp for music and dance.
Looking back on those summers, these are what I see as the four most important experiences young people have at camp:
1. Whether it's day or overnight camp, the experience helps build independence:
For many, camp is one of the first times young people are away from their family, and life as they know it, for an extended period of time. The first summer I was dropped off at overnight camp, which was only for a week, was easily the longest time I’d gone without seeing any family members. I remember it being a scary feeling at first. At that age, the alone feeling made me go out of my way to make new friends. While this is something I may have not done at school, being in a new environment inspired me to interact with more people.
2. Camp teaches the importance of living in the moment:
Unplugging and appreciating nature and what is happening right now, is so important. Camp provides an opportunity where all distractions go away, so you only focus on what is happening there. I attended Blue Lake Fine Arts camp, which is a program where you take classes in a chosen area of performing arts. Having no phone with me made it easier to learn and focus on what was happening in classes and the people I was with.
3. Day-to-day camp life helps develop social skills:
Camp is kind of a weird social experiment. In most cases, a bunch of random people with different backgrounds and prior life experiences are thrown into a cabin together. You are expected to live together, and it is crazy how fast those friendships build. I met friends at camp when I was in middle school, which I kept in contact with for several years. Eventually we both chose to attend the same university, and we see each other all the time at school.
4. The program allows campers to experience activities they’ve never done before:
Activities you do at camp are unique. The one time I ziplined in my life, which was a line about 1,000 feet long and over a lake, was at SpringHill. Camp provides some adventurous activities.
From my camp experiences, I’m glad they pulled me out of my comfort zone. I believe it’s important to leave behind what you are comfortable with at a young age in order to be successful later in life.
Information on summer camps can be found on this site. Happy camping!
Go and Do
July 15th, 2016 by Erica Thomas
"If you want to make a difference in someone's life, you don't need to be gorgeous, rich, famous, brilliant, or perfect. You just have to care."
This summer, Camp Henry invites you to explore what it means to Go and Do. As you come to camp, our hope is for you to be encouraged to extend God's love and grace through your passions and individual gifts.
Much of our inspiration for this theme comes from the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). We are motivated by the acts of this ordinary Samaritan who went out of his way to care for a stranger in need. What really catches our attention are the two high rulers of the church who passed by this man on the side of the road before the Samaritan arrived.
Jesus later asks "which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man...?"
The expert in law replied "The man who was kind to him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise"
Who, in your life, inspires and motivates you to be the best version of yourself? Your parents? Your teacher? Coach? Counselor? Dog? Whoever it is, continue to discover why that is and go and do likewise so that you can be an inspiration to others in need.
Through simple actions of being generous, choosing joy, and accepting others, you will easily get a glimpse of what it means to live in the image of Christ.
We are so excited for this summer and cannot wait to have you here!
Affordable Options for Summer Fun
June 21st, 2016 by By: Nicole Winter
I never went to sleepaway camp. To ensure I still enjoyed an active summer, my parents encouraged me to be physically and mentally active during those three months outside the classroom. My parents, both teachers, truly understood the importance of seeing this “vacation” not as a break from activity but as a redirection of my energy. As a child, my summers were filled with taking trips to the beach, playing games of wiffle ball with my brother and reading stacks of books taller than me.
Many families are aware of the perks of summer camps, which offer children mental stimulation and physical activity while fostering independence and confidence. However, for many families, summer camps are too expensive to be a reality.
A recent New York Times article, entitled “The Families That Can’t Afford Summer,” attributed the lack of a summer camp experience to the socio-economic achievement gap. “Most kids lose math skills over the summer, but low income children also lose, on average, more than two months of reading skills,” the article said.
Here in Grand Rapids, several organizations have committed to helping all kids – whatever their economic background – enjoy stimulating, exciting and affordable activities. We have compiled free or low-cost options for summer fun, meant to be in addition to the classic suggestions of parks, beaches and renting library books.
The Grand Rapids Public Library has partnered with area attractions to provide visitors the opportunity to use their library card (you can get one for free!) to check out a free membership to museums, zoos and botanical gardens. Participating organizations in the “Check it Out” program include Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, John Ball Zoo, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and more. These memberships entitle up to six people to visit the organization once within a six day period.
Your free library card can also admit you to hundreds of destinations throughout Michigan. The Michigan Activity Pass grants free or discounted admission passes to Michigan state parks, campgrounds, arts and cultural destinations and more.
Consider attending Grand Rapids’ museums on their discounted days. For instance, the Grand Rapids Art Museum holds Meijer Free Tuesdays and Free Thursday nights. These special offers occur every week. Also, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum offers a discounted entry price of $1.75 on Thursdays after 5pm.
For outdoor fun, visit Millennium Park, a 1,400 acre park on the Grand River. Most of the park is available for free use, but a small entry fee grants access to the beach and splashpad. There are also boats and kayaks available for a very reasonable rental price. Consider attending one of six Maranda Park Parties throughout the summer. These free parties are filled with games, music, food and other surprises, such as a zip-line or inflatable obstacle course. Finally, Grand Rapids has several public pools and water playground locations that cost no more than $1 for children to use.
Undoubtedly, summer can be a challenging time for working parents. It takes thought and creativity to compile a list of engaging and budget-friendly activities for children. Hopefully these suggestions provide a sense of relief that you can offer your children, grandchildren or younger siblings interesting and affordable outlets for their persistent energy.
For more information on the suggestions listed above:
- Check it Out
- Michigan Activity Pass
- Grand Rapids Art Museum
- Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
- Millennium Park
- Maranda Park Parties
- Grand Rapids Public Pools and Playgrounds
What I Ike Ikus Means To Me
June 8th, 2016 by Megan Lougheed
It has been such a great pleasure and joy working here at Indian Trails Camp! March marked my two year anniversary from when I first started. The decision to switch jobs was a tough one as I really did enjoy my previous job but I couldn’t be happier with the decision that I made.
It has been such an amazing couple of years! Each day I am happy to come to work, I don’t think many people get to say that and truly mean it. I have met so many amazing people, get to work with incredible staff and build friendship with coworkers and campers alike.
Each day brings new and exciting challenges, I am able to grow and learn, teach and train each day somehow being better than the last.
As we are in the hiring process for our 2016 summer camp staff I get excited sharing why I love Indian Trails Camp when the question is asked, which it often is, but I get even more excited as we hire people, knowing that they are going to have a fantastic, memorable and life-changing summer/experience. It is inevitable.
Here’s to 2016 at ITC being the best year yet! I Ike Ikus, nobody like us, we are the camp of ITC!
Blessings & Love,
Camp Director & Respite Coordinator
Thank you to Megan at Indian Trails Camp & IKUS Life Enrichment Services for sharing this blog post. Click here to learn more about Indian Trails Camp.
"Our Mission here at Indian Trails Camp & IKUS Life Enrichment Services is to provide individuals with disabilities an enriched life experience through recreation, advocacy and meaningful relationships."
Summer Camp Season Begins
June 6th, 2016 by Nicole Winter
When the doors to your child’s school close for the summer, will you have enough plans in mind to keep him or her busy, active, and engaged? Why not consider a West Michigan summer camp?
Summer camps offer mental stimulation and physical activity while fostering independence, creativity, and confidence. As a parent, there are many questions to consider before choosing the right camp for your child. This website offers a guide to the camps held in West Michigan, detailing their programs, costs, financial assistance opportunities, and more.
View our Camp Directory to find the camp that is right for your family. Discover answers to all of your questions with our FAQ page. Contact camp leaders for more information about camps of interest to you.
Considering Summer Camp? Start Here:
July 6th, 2015 by
Let the adventure of a lifetime begin!
- Read the Camp Blog for the latest news and updates from camps across West Michigan.
- Check out our Camp Guide to find a camp that is right for every member of your family!
- Get answers to your questions with our Camp Q & A page.
- Find out what it means to be an American Camp Association Accredited Camp.
- Contact camp leaders for more information about the camp you're interested in.
- Use the List Guide to browse camps by category, including:
It's Summer Camp Season!
June 3rd, 2015 by
Each summer, youth from across West Michigan leave home for the experience of a lifetime—summer camp. As a parent, there is much to consider when it comes to choosing the right camp program for your child. This website is intended to help you learn about the camps and programs offered in West Michigan, along with providing the information and resources necessary to make the dream of summer camp a reality for your child.
Get started by viewing our camp guide. We're sure you will find something that meets your child's needs, and more!
Summer Camp at Camp Geneva
March 26th, 2015 by Camp Geneva
Learn More About Summer Camp at GENEVA!
Summer camp 2015 is rapidly approaching, and there are still openings available in some weeks. Below is some information to help as you get ready for your week of camp or if you are still considering signing up. All this information and more can be found on our website or by calling GENEVA at 616.399.3150.
Camp Exploration Days (April 7 and April 16, 4-6pm each day)
Want to learn more about GENEVA before registering your child? On Camp Exploration Days, you and your child can together tour the camp and explore the grounds. Our staff will be there to greet you, show you around, and answer any questions you might have.
Community Open House (May 17, 2-4pm): It’s a great way for new and prospective campers to explore the facilities before camp starts. Knowing what the cabins will be like and how to find your way around can make the first day much less anxiety-producing. We’ll even have the heated pool open for you to enjoy! Maps for self-guided tours will be available at both Shores and Pines and there will be lots of staff around to answer questions.
Personal Tours: You can call and request a tour anytime. These are great for families unsure about the camp experience and for first-time campers and bunkmates to get comfortable with the camp surroundings before they attend for a week. Call 616.399.3150 to set up a tour and we will do our best to be available when it’s most convenient for your family.
Keeping camp affordable: There are payment plans and scholarships available to assist with the cost of camp. Many churches also provide support for children from their church.
Three Day/Two Night Camps: We offer two 3-day/2-night camps for younger campers (children entering grades 3-4) who are ready to sample what a week at camp is like without staying an entire week. These sessions will end with an invitation for the entire family to join in on some of the popular camp activities like arts and crafts, swimming, and archery.
Availability: If you haven’t registered your child for summer camp yet but still want them to attend, check GENEVA’s website for available dates. Specific session availability can be found here.