The Heart of Camp/Caring for Kids: Staff and Counselors

In an earlier post, we discussed one of the primary concerns parents have about summer camp – will my child be safe? This week, we wanted to talk about the people who care for our kids at camp and keep them safe; how they are chosen and trained to do their jobs. When you’re putting the care of your children into other people’s hands, it’s important to have confidence in their caretakers. At AFSC, not only does every person who works at camp have to love working with kids, they all also have to be good at it and have the skills to be a success.

Building a good staff begins with selecting the right personnel. Each camp has a director of personnel or staff recruiter who focuses year round on finding, recruiting, and selecting the best qualified counselors to live and work with the children. Most of our head counselors, group leaders, campus leaders and department heads have been with their camps at least five years, and some have returned every summer for 20 years! All are professionally-trained educators and coaches who have proven their ability to instruct a particular activity.

The counselors, who have the most direct contact with your camper, have all completed at least their first year of college (with many further on), and go through a rigorous interview and selection process, and reference and background checks. AFSC camps recruit counselors from over 100 different colleges around the country and many fine universities throughout the world. Just over half of the counselors return from year to year, with many only ending their counseling careers when they graduate college and move on to real-world schedules (no more free summers!)

Of course, selecting the right people is only the beginning of the process of creating a successful staff. The counselors must also be trained and oriented to each camp’s particular processes, schedules and procedures. To do so, all staff must complete a week-long Orientation at their respective camps. Each camp is especially lucky to have large groups of former campers who return to be counselors. They know the camp traditions and songs, and, more importantly, they remember what camp looks like from the point of view of the campers. At Orientation, they can share their experiences with new staff members and serve as ambassadors for each camp’s particular mission and traditions.

Camp staff also get to show off their creative sides at orientation!

The seven-day day Orientation is filled with training in individual responsibilities, working with the campers, and of course, health, safety, and emergency procedures. Such intensive training ensures that counselors aren’t just up to speed with the programs but also child development and the best techniques for working with kids in the cabins. Camp directors bring in outside speakers to provide info on contemporary issues for schools and homes as well as advanced skills for working with other people’s children and those responsibilities.They also meet with counselors and go over each individual child’s information and specific issues that might arise over the course of the summer. By the time the campers arrive, the counselors have a great understanding of every child in their care, gleaned from information from the directors’ meetings with parents, the camper’s profile information forms, and past years’ knowledge of returning campers. Even the group and campus leaders know the children well, since they are mostly veterans who watch the children grow over time. Orientation is fun, and the trainers work hard to create a feeling of unity and team amongst the staff.

Beyond the formal week long Orientation, over half of the individual activity instructors (waterfront, rock climbing, mountain biking, etc.) come to camp early, with key staff and counselors often training three weeks prior to Orientation. Counselors who are responsible for specific program areas are also trained to write lesson plans and taught how to execute a fun and instructional activity period. Each attends an entire training day devoted to teaching kids their particular activities and making it fun. Finally, every camp staff member is well-trained in general safety procedures and first aid, with additional courses and certifications dependent on counselor responsibilities.

All this training and teamwork that begins in Orientation quickly spills over into a great summer for the kids. But the seven days of Orientation before camp starts is just the beginning. Camp staff attend weekly meetings and trainings, and everyone receives ongoing support from their supervisors on a daily basis. Without a well-trained staff, no camp can have a successful season. The right people – people who love children and are good at working with them – create the foundation for a terrific summer of experiences and memories for the most important people on campus, your children.

With thanks to Carly Young for the Laurel South staff photo.


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Getting Connected at Camp: From Txt to Talk

When I was a kid (way back in the mid-70s), keeping in touch with our parents was a hit or miss game. Phones didn’t have answering machines, and if you said you were going to the library with friends, your parents had no real way to check if you were studying or partying. These days, parents can call up their kids’ cell phone location using GPS and keep in constant touch using Facebook and text messaging. I had pen pals around the country and loved writing and receiving handwritten letters. Today, both my 8 and 6 year olds have their own e-mail accounts for keeping in touch with grandparents and we share family news and photos over Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes it’s all a bit overwhelming and I miss those days of being excited to check the mailbox for a letter or card.

There are few places in this world however, that can re-connect us and let our kids experience the “good old communication days.” Summer camp is one such place.

High-Tech for Parents

Sleepaway summer camps these days are a refreshing and wonderful mix of high- and low-tech communication methods. The good old days of camp were fine, and I loved receiving letters, but I can’t imagine being a parent waiting for the occasional letter home now (looking back, my letters were ridiculously bereft of real information; I sent wish lists!). Today’s parents have instant access to the world of camp through camp websites and social networking sites like Facebook. Many camps, for example, has a secure parent-only section that requires a log-in and password. Through this portal, parents can view photos, send one-way e-mails to campers, schedule phone calls, read blogs from counselors and staff and keep their camper’s information up-to-date. These portals are also easy to find: look for links with names like CampMinder, CampOffice, or links for current families.

Campers still make occasional phone calls home — check your Parent Handbook for details. Parents of new campers usually receive a call from the camp’s director within the first three days with a progress report on how the adjustment process is going.

A little low-tech as well

Even with all this communication technology at hand though, most summer camps still recommend that parents send at least some handwritten letters to their campers. Campers love them, and it keeps the art of writing letters alive. Don’t type and print out your letters either. Reading a handwritten letter is so rare and special these days — give your kids that gift! Margaret Shepherd has an excellent book on the art of handwritten letters if you are interested.

Low-Tech for Campers

For some campers, especially those in the tween and teen years, adjusting to the low-tech nature of summer camp can be surprisingly quick and painless, despite recent stories in the media, including this one from NPR, that claim young people’s constant reliance on technology is eroding their interpersonal skills. Camps nip this problem in the bud. Campers simply aren’t allowed to bring cell phones or web-enabled devices with them. Campers can receive (but not respond to) e-mails from their parents and family and most camps print out e-mails for campers to read, keeping the kids at a distance from the almighty computer to continue communicating face to face.

Living at camp requires campers to express themselves and their needs verbally, whether its in conversations with friends or with counselors and other staff. Life goes much more smoothly for a camper who can talk openly with others and be a good listening ear for a homesick friend.

As adults who grew up in a less technological age, we know that the core of friendship lies in the things we share and the stories we tell with others. Staying up late and whispering secrets in the dark leads to friendships that last a lifetime, which is why talk will always trump a text message.

Thanks to Caitlinator and Mkyl Roventine for the photos.


Camp Weequahic — The Three-Week Camp with the Full Season Experience

“The greatest asset of Camp Weequahic is that we have put together a full traditional camp experience and power packed it into three-weeks,” says Cole Kelly, Camp Weequahic’s co-director. The camp runs two three-week sessions (June 26-July 17 and July 21-August 11 in 2010) and you’ll be amazed at what they manage to to squeeze into a mere 21 days. Campers get to experience two-day specialty camps with guest instructors; participate in county tournaments in eight different sports; go on off-campus trips; and take part in special events (backwards day!) and evening activities. Families also have the option of sending their kids to both sessions for a total of six weeks of camp. To make the super-six option completely stress free, there are activities at camp for those staying over the break. “It’s an amazing summer, whichever option families choose,” says Kelly.

Location, Location, Location

Camp Weequahic is nestled on 100 acres in picturesque Lakewood, Pennsylvania, which is located just 2-1/2 hours from New York City. “Our central location allows us to be the gateway to children who want to come from around the country and around the world for a great camp experience,” says Kelly. Children fly into JFK from all points foreign and domestic and are met at the jetway by camp staff and escorted to air-conditioned motorcoaches for the ride to Lakewood.

History and Tradition

While campers have access to the best of the best in today’s camping world (more on that later), the camp staff and campers never lose sight of the long, storied tradition of the camp, which goes back more than five decades. The camp was established in 1953 and it’s recreation hall walls are covered with plaques from the past 50 years of camp olympics. The camp motto, “Where Caring is a Tradition,” is still the guiding principle of all things Weequahic. Nothing takes a back seat to creating a supportive and caring community for campers, Kelly says.


Ideally, summer camp is a place where there is always something new and different and something special for everyone. At Camp Weequahic, choice rules. “We have 50 different activities for campers to experience, and everyone is encouraged to try new things and improve their skills at old favorites,” says Kelly. Whether your child wants to move up to the next level in tennis, master the newest sweet water skiing trick, or cook a gourmet meal, Camp Weequahic provides top-notch professional instruction in all their core areas. There are six activity periods throughout the day and every camper gets to pick their activities for at least two of those periods. (As the campers get older, their number of choice periods increase.) Weequahic also features cutting edge facilities, including a brand new roller hockey rink, gymnastics center and outdoor adventure course with climbing walls and a zip line. (Makes you want to enroll yourself, doesn’t it?)

Unfortunately, we moms (and dads) can’t enroll ourselves for all the fun Camp Weequahic has to offer. But if you’re interested in finding out more, you can take a virtual tour on the camp’s website by clicking here, and you can get in touch with camp staff, including Cole Kelly and his wife Kate, who serves as co-director, by sending an e-mail to [email protected].

All photos courtesy Camp Weequahic


Keeping Kids Safe at Camp: What Every Parent Needs to Ask/Know

Even when you are right there next to your child to offer comfort, care and treatment, accidents and injuries can be difficult to deal with. So as we prepare our kids to go to summer camp, it is important to ask some questions of the camp and prepare our children well. That way, everyone can rest assured they are having a summer of fun and making memories to last a lifetime in a safe environment.

We’ve discussed many issues parents need to consider when choosing a camp, enrolling their child and sending them on their way on this blog. As we get closer to the start of camp, here is a list of things to ensure are in place as you get your family ready for a summer away:

  • Camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. This requires camps to follow certain guidelines, including counselor to child ratios and other safety procedures.
  • Camp requires staff safety training.
  • Camp has emergency contact information for your child.
  • Camp has been notified of any medical conditions and/or allergies your child has. Be sure to be specific when you communicate with the staff. Let the camp know the specific name of the condition as well as warning signs and steps to take to help your child. Click here for an ACA article on administering medications at camp.
  • Camp has provided written health protocols and policies.

Beyond physical safety concerns, ask how the camp deals with homesickness. We’ve talked about that topic on this blog as well and will also be discussing staying connected in next week’s post.

Just as the camp can have multiple safety policies and procedures for kids, it is also important for our young ones to learn how to stay safe independently. So take the time (repeatedly) to ensure that you and your child

  • Know what’s safe and what isn’t. Review the camp’s handbooks for rules of conduct for campers. Review these with your child before he or she leaves for camp.
  • Understand which kinds of behavior are acceptable and which aren’t. Breaking the rules can put others in dangerous situations.
  • Have good hygiene practices. Cover sneezes and coughs with their elbows (not their hands) and wash hands frequently.
  • Know when to notify a staff member and ask for help. Not every bump and bruise requires medical attention – make sure you and your child knows which is which. Each AFSC camp has a health center with four to six nurses present (depending on the camp) and a doctor that is on campus or visits daily.

These are all fairly simple ideas to keep families safe and camp is no different. If, as parents, we do our research, read the parent handbooks and camper manuals, ask all the right questions and talk with our children, everyone spends the summer relaxing, being cared for and as safe as possible. For more information, visit the ACA website and read more about this and other camp topics on their parent pages.

Thanks to [email protected] and cjc4544 for the photos!


They’re In Good Hands: Getting Your Children to Summer Camp

Summer camp season 2010 doesn’t start for a few weeks, but if you haven’t made travel arrangements yet, it’s time to start planning! Depending on where you live and the camp your child will attend, you’ll have various transportation options at your disposal.

Your first step, however, doesn’t involve calling a travel agent or navigating to your favorite travel website. The family of AFSC summer camps are very experienced with the ins and outs and obstacles of getting children from all over the country and all around the world safely to camp.

As soon as you know which session your child will attend and have completed the enrollment process, review the camp’s website Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for specific details on your camp’s procedures. Once you have a plan in mind, call the camp and make your arrangements. It’s really that simple, and the staff’s reassurances about their personal touch and genuine caring about your child will keep your heart rate and blood pressure low.

Option 1 – The Drop-Off

The most hands-on way to get your child to camp, of course, is to drop them off yourself. For families who live within an easy day’s drive, this choice may make the most sense. Families who live farther away have been known to make the trek to camp a family road trip, stopping to see sights along the way. The bonus? Mom and Dad get to spend some time alone on the drive home!

Option 2 – The Magic Bus

Camp buses are magic because unlike ordinary bus lines, the only passengers are campers and their staff chaperones. Many camps

“bus stops” in several major cities with a day’s drive from the camp. Camp Weequahic, for example, which is located in Lakewood, Pennsylvania, charters buses to pick up campers outside of New York City, at one of two locations in New Jersey, in Philadelphia and in Baltimore.

As soon as the campers step on the bus they are basically at camp—parents can rest assured that their children are in the hands of experts who will handle every aspect of managing check-in, finding the right bunk, getting the luggage to their right place, etc. The bonus for taking the bus? Dropping kids off at the coach stop can make the transition to camp easier. Kids say their good-byes and then settle in for a ride with their friends, old and new.

Option 3 – Big Old Jet Airliner

If you live too far away to drive your child to camp or have them catch a ride on the bus, sending them by air is pretty much your only option. For parents whose children have never flown alone before, the idea alone can cause a cold sweat and a jump in blood-pressure. The airlines and the camps, however, are very experienced at helping kids navigate air travel. Parents are allowed to drop their kids off at the gate – when you receive your child’s boarding pass, you will get a special pass that allows you to accompany him or her past security. When you arrive at the gate, a special airline chaperon meets you at the top of the jetway and escorts your child all the way to his or her seat.

When your child arrives at the destination airport, camp chaperones meet him or her at the gate and provide  escort to baggage claim and to onto a camp shuttle or bus. Be sure to review the current TSA prohibited items list shortly before you leave – the list can change at any time. Also, review the airline’s website for their specific procedures regarding children flying alone. The more comfortable you feel before they leave, the less stressful everyone will be on departure day!

To Learn More

For more information on how each of the AFSC camps handle transportation, visit their websites by using the links at the top of this page.

Thanks to Caren Mack, John Trainor and Flare for the great photos!


The Magic of Starlight

“We want our kids to leave here at the end of the summer never questioning what will happen next year – they know they will come back to Starlight,” says David Miller, the Pennsylvania camp’s director. “There is something special and magical about the Starlight world,” says Miller.

Camp Starlight is a full-season (7-week) camp located in Starlight, PA (about two-and-a-half hours from New York City) which has been in continuous operation since 1947. David and his wife Allison bought the camp from the original owners in 1999, but some things just don’t change. Just driving into the facility up a secluded one mile road to the top of a mountain gives campers a sense of separation from the real world. Starlight is revealed at the peak of the overlook. The 70-acre lake is private to the camp, which enhances Miller’s goal of wanting everyone to feel safe and secure in the Starlight world. “This is their summer home,” he says. “When campers walk into the dining hall there are hundreds of plaques – one from every bunk from every summer since 1947. Campers know that there is a long tradition of fun and family here.”

One thing that makes Camp Starlight unique is how it straddles the line between a co-ed camp and a same-sex camp. There are separate facilities and staff for boys and girls, and they participate in separate sports and activities during the day. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Miller says. Those families that are looking for a single sex camp experience get the separation and camaraderie they are looking for, but the boys and girls all come together for morning ceremonies, dinner and many of the evening activities. The Starlight set-up works especially well for families with sons and daughters who want to attend camp together and are looking for high-quality activities. Miller adds, “my favorite time of day is the flag raising ceremony in the morning. Girls line up on one side and boys line up on the other, but brothers and sisters always have time to check in with each other and see how their day was. I love seeing the kids reconnect with each other.”

It is the connection between campers that is paramount at Starlight. When new kids arrive at camp, they are assigned to bunk with kids their age, but with different interests. “That’s what bunk bonding is all about,” Miller says, “learning about and loving people who aren’t carbon copies of yourself.” Some bunks stay together their entire eight years of summer camp, forming a real family of brothers or sisters. These children because they are given the opportunity of overnight camp usually adjust better to college and dorm life because they are used to living with others and being away from home.

Camp Starlight also works well for families with same sex siblings with different interests because the program is so well-rounded. Whether a child loves athletics, art, theater, adventure or water sports, or just loves to do it all, the quality of the Starlight program and facility make this a first-rate experience no matter what activities a child is drawn to. Camp Starlight also helps expand the horizons of campers by exposing them to all the different activities the camp has to offer. Campers have two choices in their daily program so they also have the time to develop their talents in their specific interest areas; especially as they get older. The two oldest bunks get to set their own daily schedules, for example.

Miller knows that some families have reservations about sending their children to a full-season, seven-week camp, especially when campers can start as young as third or fourth grade, but the benefits are tremendous. Rather than kids moving from camp to camp, week to week, there is truly time for kids to unwind, escape from the outside world and all its pressures and disconnect from technology. This type of summer program provides a real opportunity for kids to be themselves, get to know each other and make friendships that truly last a lifetime. There is no question that this is why such an extraordinarily high rate of campers return summer after summer. The summer is also long enough to do full season camp and still have family time to visit relatives or have a family vacation before school starts.

So if you’re thinking about full-season camp, you can learn more about Camp Starlight at As David says, “Most families who come to visit our camp end up enrolling their children,” Miller says. “There is something magical about this place.”

Come meet David and visit the Starlight world first-hand!


The Unique Experience of Maine

Camp Laurel

“There’s something special about camping in Maine”, says Jem Sollinger, director of Camp Laurel, a traditional camp with unparalleled, modern facilities. Indeed, the landscapes available in Maine are rarely seen elsewhere, and campers can take advantage of everything this amazing state has to offer.

Camp Laurel is located along beautiful Echo Lake, with nine miles of shoreline, and offers a full-season, 7-week camping experience. There are 250 boys and 250 girls in camp each year and everyone arrives and leaves on the same day. “It’s very much a family,” says Jem. The camp, which is in its 61st year, also offers a 5-week international option and hosts campers from France, Italy, Switzerland, Israel and Japan. “Our international campers are a very small portion of our population,” Jem says, “but they are an important addition to the camp community.”

“We also fully take advantage of our location,” Jem says. Campers take short trips to nearby Maine and New Hampshire destinations and get real outdoor experiences exploring the natural landscapes of surrounding areas. Campers especially take full advantage of the expansive waterfront, often water skiing 4-5 times per week, sailing daily on our fleet of more than 35 sailboats, playing tennis, baseball, lacrosse and participating in an amazing arts programs…..not to mention a world-class equestrian program.

If you are interested in touring Camp Laurel, Jem says you are welcome to visit any time. Just please call in advance to set up a visit. Prospective families also get a home visit before the camping season begins. Jem visits families regularly in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Boston.

Laurel South

Laurel South is in the Lakes region of Maine, in the town of Casco on beautiful Crescent Lake, with nine miles of shoreline. Camp Director Roger Christian, who has been with Laurel South for 14 years, spends much of his off season time meeting new camp families throughout the country as the camp emphasizes family and tradition. It doesn’t really matter, after all, whether your facilities are state of the art or how many miles of waterfront you have – as long as campers and their families feel that camp is home away from home.

Laurel South was born 15 years ago as a spin-off four week camp from the traditional full season Camp Laurel. “There was just a great need for a shorter, quality, co-ed season,” says Roger. Every year, Laurel South welcomes 200 boys and 200 girls in each of its two sessions. In those 4 weeks, campers at Laurel South experience an amazing, power packed program centered on Athletics, Arts, Waterfront, Adventure and Equestrian.


The Full-Season Camp Experience

Last week we started our discussion of choosing which length of camp is right for your child. Sometimes making that choice is downright easy, especially when it comes to the to the full-season camps. For those children who wish to be at camp for the seven weeks, a full-season camp experience can be an extraordinary time in their lives.

So, how do you know if a full season camp experience right for your child?

Remember our discussion of “Is Your Child Ready for Camp?” If you can answer a confident “yes” to all of the questions about readiness, then a full season camp may be perfect for your child.

As 7 week camps, Camp Laurel and Camp Starlight provide ideal opportunities for children to:

1) develop relationships and bonds with other campers and counselors with whom they are living,

2) explore new activities which they have never done,

3) refine and develop skills and focus so that by the end of camp they are, as an example, not just getting up on water skis…but skiing barefoot; not just hitting a baseball… but mastering the sport; not just participating in a one-act play for 20 minutes….but being part of the cast of a full length musical.

Children who go to Camp Starlight or Camp Laurel return to school refreshed and ready to tackle the new year ahead. They have achieved great success at camp – not only in making great friends – but also in developing and refining skills during the summer that can last a lifetime. Many children who wish to make their middle, JV or high school teams can practice and refine those skills all summer long. They also create beautiful and meaningful pieces of art and have greater outdoor educational experiences during their time at camp. All because they have time and opportunity.

PBS’s camp expert, Bob Ditter, M.Ed., puts it this way:

Camp is about making some of the best friends of your life. It’s an exercise in self-reliance and social learning. Kids not only make some of their best friends at camp, they learn what real friendship is. Since campers live in groups, it is also about learning the give-and-take of making decisions and getting along with all those “brothers” or “sisters” you suddenly inherit when you arrive. In a time when resilience–the ability to stick with something and recover from a setback–is a great quality to cultivate in our children, camp is an increasingly attractive option.


(Photos: Thanks to eyeliam and zappowbang for the great shots.)

When 3 or 4 Weeks is Just Right

Choosing a camp involves much more than just choosing a location or even the camp with the perfect activities and feel for your child. Camps also come in different sizes, so to speak; depending on how long their sessions are. Sleepaway camps range from two-week to two-month sessions, and choosing which one is best for your child depends on several factors.

In this post, I’ll take a closer look at three-week camps (profiles of longer, 7-week camps will be posted next week). First, some reassurance. Campers don’t “get less” because their camp is shorter. The schedules for the day and the special activities are very similar or exactly the same as longer camps. The programs are just as well rounded and varied, and you’ll be amazed at how much swimming, sport, adventure and creative arts can fit into three weeks – and the kids still get a one-hour rest period after lunch! We should all be so lucky!

Most importantly, the camp counselors and staff are as involved, caring and competent as they are for the longer camps. I know that for my children, their camp experiences are flooded with activities, but it’s the people they keep talking about (and talking to!) months later. Lifelong friendships can be forged and nurtured in the shortest of camp experiences.

So which camp for my child?

Take a look back at my earlier blog post, “Is Your Child Ready for Camp?” If you feel that your child is ready for camp, but you’re still feeling a little trepidation, why not try a shorter camp — for many new campers (and their moms), three weeks is the perfect amount of time.

A three- or four-week camp may also be perfect for your family if:

  • You need to fit in camp among other family plans and vacations
  • Your child is nervous about a longer camp but a shorter one gets him or her excited
  • Your child may be ready for more weeks of separation, but you’re not
  • Your child lives out west, where school schedules can make a late-summer 7-week camp out East difficult (my children get out of school at the end of May and start back in the middle of August!)

Two of the AFSC family of camps offer three or four week sessions: Camp Weequahic and Laurel South.

Camp Weequahic offers a complete traditional co-ed camping experience. What does this mean? Think of every wonderful image you have of summer camp – great times playing sports, spending time in the lake, learning new arts and crafts (friendship bracelets anyone?), going on new and exciting adventures, and, if your child is up for it, they can take guitar lessons and be the next campfire sensation. And it all happens with your new best friends right beside you.

The other AFSC camp that offers short sessions (4 weeks only) is Laurel South. With its beautiful location on Crescent Lake in Readfield, Maine, Laurel South is able to offer the same kind of dynamic programming that you can find at longer camp sessions. They even have the added bonus of an equestrian program.

Whatever you want your child to get out of camp: tradition, family, spirit, adventure, time in nature, and lots of fun, all can be found inside these three-and four-week camps. Because shorter doesn’t mean skimpier!


Life, Unplugged

I don’t know about you, but my kids are constantly plugged into something, whether they are texting their friends (does anyone talk anymore?), bopping along to Lady Gaga’s latest, updating their Facebook status, researching a school project online and creating a multi-media presentation, or playing games on my iPhone while I desperately try to finish a conversation at the vet’s office.

Some days I can win a battle or two (no texting at dinner!) but the war is ongoing. And honestly, I’m not the best example. That iPhone I mentioned is never far from reach, and right now I’m surfing online, listening to my own brand of pop music, answering text messages as they come in and writing this blog.

Don’t you wish there was a place where we could all live life unplugged? We adults may not be so lucky; but for our kids, that place is summer camp.

Knowing that someone out there is cultivating a culture of back-to-basics, low-tech life is an irresistible draw for me as a parent. My husband and I love the outdoors and frequently take our kids on short camping trips, but these offer only a short break from the world of “screen time”. Monday morning comes and before the sleeping bags air out, we’re all rushing to see what awaits us in our email inboxes.

As a mom, I worry about the long-term effects of all of these tech ways of communicating. I’m not alone. Several studies have suggested that kids who spend too much time plugged in lose some skills for interpersonal interaction. Let’s fight back.

At camp, social interaction is done the old fashioned way – face-to-face. Campers and counselors alike leave their cell phones at home and get back to a simpler life, when there is an art to conversation. If you were a camper, think back to your best memories. All of mine involve revolve around interpersonal interactions you just can’t get through an email: telling stories around a camp fire; sharing hushed secrets late into the night; telling the worst jokes you ever heard; huddling together to decide the best capture-the-flag strategy.

Friendship doesn’t need a high-tech interface. Don’t think your kids will get with the program? Check out this Seventeen article where teen girls share their favorite summer camp memories. Not one involves a cell phone, I promise!

Thanks to Pink_Sherbert_Photography and eron_gpsfs for the photos!