Spring Cleaning and Prepping for Camp

Brant Lake Dance Camp

I know that it’s a bit early but, I am definitely thinking of Spring. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved all of the snow that we’re having at Brant Lake this Winter but, I find myself crossing the street just to walk in the sun.   

I’ve decided to do Spring Cleaning early. I guess you can say that I’m trying to give Spring a little nudge, (or maybe because I can’t find my Airpods). I know, you’re thinking, why am I writing about Spring Cleaning on the Dance Camp BLOG? Well, for two reasons

  1. An unexpected snow day is a great time to sort through all of your dance clothes and make room for new! I mean, we all have that leo lurking in the way back of the drawer that we have loved and can’t say goodbye to but, maybe we need to do a @MariKondo and thank it for all it has given to the joy in our lives and move on.
  2. Make a list of my favorite things that I can’t live without and are coming to camp with me. (Clever how cleaning up can bring us to this list.)


  1. My comfy cozy slippers (to walk to breakfast in)
  2. My good luck green headband (We’re going to win this summer!)
  3. XL water bottle
  4. Yellow rain jacket (because, we believe that when the rain is bouncing off the ground, it is still keeping me dry.)
  5. Tie dye tank (/shorts) for Tye Dye Tuesdays                                     
  6. My Hawaiian print shirt for Luau
  7. Coda (you remember da puppy!…stuffed with rainbow sprinkles?…)
  8. Comfy old tee shirt
  9. RAINBOW TUTU (I found it in the back of my drawer!)
  10. Animal onesie

So, don’t wait for the next snow day, do your Spring Cleaning and make your Top Ten List to bring to camp this summer.

(Special thanks to our Directors of Fun, Liv ‘n Sassy who helped put this list together.)

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Snail Mail – Handwritten Letters are Much More Personal


When was the last time you wrote a handwritten letter? When was the last time you went out to the mailbox to find a handwritten letter addressed to you? If you are like most people, receiving a letter in the mailbox instead of an inbox is a special treat to be treasured. The idea that someone took the time to sit down and put their thoughts to you on paper, find an envelope, a stamp and get it out into the mailbox is something to be admired in this fast-paced world, which is what makes receiving mail so special.

At America’s Finest Summer Camps, campers look forward to filling their friends and family back home in on the details of their camp experience through a series of handwritten notes. But participating in the ancient art of “snail mail” is about more than just touching base with friends and family back home. Writing and receiving letters benefits campers in many ways.

During their break away from school, students typically have fewer chances to practice their basic reading and writing skills. Writing letters helps campers fine-tune this skill in a way that is fun and personal. There is no pressure to get all of the spelling right or indent properly, just an opportunity for campers to practice their penmanship and creative writing skills. Receiving letters from home also gives them a chance to brush up on their reading skills.

For campers who are growing up in a technology-driven world, a letter from home while at camp may be their first experience in getting something personal in the mail. There is an anticipation that comes with waiting for the recipient to receive their letter, and then excitement in receiving the response. This experience could foster a love and appreciation for handwritten notes in campers, and encourage them to continue the tradition throughout their lives.

A letter from home can be just the thing a homesick camper needs to feel better. A letter is a tangible treasure campers can hold onto and look back on whenever they want. It is a tangible reminder of their life back home and a connection to their loved ones.

Campers can write as many handwritten letters home as they wish. They are encouraged to use their quiet times to reflect on their day and write about their experiences and adventure to share with people back home.

A summer at sleepaway camp introduces campers to some of life’s most simple pleasures, such as songs around a campfire, enjoying a sunset and appreciating the art of snail mail. Just another way America’s Finest Summer Camps gives campers experiences that they may not have had anywhere else!

Rainy Days at Camp

A rainy day at camp is better than a sunny day stuck at home!

Summer weather in the northeast can be unpredictable. Sometimes you have weeks of high temps and sunshine, other weeks you’ve got off-and-on rainstorms. Thankfully, America’s Finest Summer Camps are designed to provide an exceptional camp experience, rain or shine.

When it rains, the entire camp is prepared. There are countless indoor activities to keep campers entertained and occupied until the sun comes back out.

Performing Arts

There is no better way to spend a rainy day than enjoying a good show. America’s Finest Summer Camps give creative campers an outlet to work on their performance and musical interests. From theatre improv to dance and instrument practice, campers can express themselves through the creative arts. Regardless of skill level, every camper is welcome to participate in some of the many performing arts options at camp!

Creative Arts

While music, theatre, and dance may be the rainy day option for some, other creative campers prefer the visual arts. America’s Finest Summer Camps introduce campers to woodworking, ceramics, drawing, jewelry and candle making. Aspiring artists can channel their inner creativity in many different activities at camp.

Other Rainy Day Options

The America’s Finest Summer Camp experience is designed to give every camper a unique and personalized sleepaway camp experience. This is why some programs offer additional options for campers who have specific interests, such as radio broadcasting, science, cooking, and digital photography. These options keep kids in their zone as the rain comes pouring down.

 Indoor Athletics

While many of camp’s sports programs are designed to be played outside in the beautiful summer weather, some indoor options allow campers to stay active without getting soaked. Gymnastics, fitness and aerobics, figure skating, and basketball are a few examples of sports that can be moved indoors. These options give campers plenty of possibilities for rainy day fun.

America’s Finest Summer Camps always have a plan. Camp staff and counselors are prepared for rainy days and have tricks up their sleeves to ensure a rainy day is still just as much fun as a sunny days. The best part about rainy days at camp is that you are still surrounded by friends.

We never let a little rain ruin our fun at camp. No matter what the weather forecast says, campers fill every day with new activities, great food, new friends and adventure!

Full Circle at Camp

A significant number of our counselors are campers who just can’t get enough of America’s Finest Summer Camps. Some of our veteran camp counselors and staff members started out as wide-eyed, excited, first-time campers who fell in love with sleepaway camp. The camp experience is ingrained so deep into their life that there’s no place they’d rather spend their summer. Some can barely remember a summer that wasn’t spent at America’s Finest Summer Camps, and they love it that way.

The first year a counselor comes back to camp in a leadership position instead of a camper can be a surreal experience. As they grow as campers, they are given new roles and responsibilities in leadership that prepares them for this role. They serve as big brothers and big sisters for first-time campers and are trusted by counselors and staff to set a good example for younger campers. This prepares them for their role as the ultimate summer role model. When campers evolve into counselors, it means they are fully equipped and ready to help first-time campers have the happiest, safest and most memorable summer of their lives.

Counselors who grew up at summer camp know the campgrounds like the back of their hands. They have formed relationships with other counselors and staff, are familiar with schedules, rules, traditions, and expectations that make camp run smoothly. Their experience as a camper gives them a head start on camp routines and helps them lead in confidence.

Full circle counselors, those who transition from camper to counselor, can share the love of sleepaway camp in a way that others can’t. New counselors can learn to fall in love with camp, but full circle counselors have this love embedded in who they are and naturally share this love with new campers. These counselors have experienced almost everything a camper can experience, so they’re able to relate with common new camper experiences.

America’s Finest Summer Camps loves all of our counselors, but there is a special place in our heart for full circle counselors. We’ve watched these campers grow and evolve into responsible young adults who are passionate about providing the best sleep away camp experience for every camper, just like a counselor did for them.

The first summer spent as a counselor is a unique blend of new experiences and comfortable familiarity. Counselors quickly fall into the familiarity of camp, while happily embracing their new roles and responsibilities. Every day is different as a counselor and provides a new appreciation and respect for the leaders who came before them.

Every year, campers reach the point where they have to decide whether to end their summer camp experience or come back as a counselor. We know that being a camp counselor isn’t for everyone, but view it as the most significant indicator of success when campers choose to come back as a leader. Camp wouldn’t be the same without our dedicated counselors!

Sparking Interest and Developing Skills at Camp

Laurel South:

Camp means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For first time campers, it’s about trying new things and making new friends. Counselors revel in the idea of sharing their passion every day in a new place. Parents know that Laurel South instills confidence, allows campers to take safe risks, and helps them develop their social, physical and emotional skills.

At Laurel South, our counselors are very skilled in the activity they instruct. Our athletic fields and courts are populated by college athletes. Our InterArts program features many counselors majoring in their chosen fields. The same can be said up and down our staff roster in Adventure, Special-Areas and the Waterfront. Our counselors also have a strong desire to share their craft while working with children. This creates a unique environment of understanding and skilled counselors, willing to meet each camper at their current ability level.

Ask our counselors how they first got involved in their activity and they’ll light up with memories of their early coaches and teachers. They remember someone else taking the time with them and want to have a similar impact on their campers. Counselors understand that campers need to have an excitement of a new craft before they begin to develop skills. Coaches and instructors are thrilled to spark an initial interest in an activity and are talented enough to develop campers’ skills. And while campers may not realize how life-changing that is immediately, they’ll look back with fondness on their summers at Laurel South when they realize how they first found joy into their favorite activities.

Athletics at Camp: Good for the Body, Good for the Mind!

Being active is good physically and emotionally!

America’s Finest Summer Camps combine the classic traditions of summer camp, like s’mores around a campfire and exploring the outdoors, with the physical activities that are designed to challenge campers both mentally and physically.

Spending the summer at camp means having ample opportunities to improve upon a skill you already have or to learn something new. There are team sports and individual sports, giving everyone a chance to find a sport that fits them. The beautiful thing about athletics at camp is that campers learn so much more than the rules of the game. Participating in athletics at camp not only makes you a better athlete, but it makes you a better person.

Camp Athletics: Good For The Body

Camp is a safe place to try new things. Sports at camp push campers out of their comfort zones while still ensuring they are being safe and having fun. Campers are taught the rules of the game and given appropriate equipment to ensure they can play their best, regardless of their skill level. Sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse and roller hockey require you to work on speed, agility, and coordination. Gymnastics and dance is an excellent option to improve balance and flexibility, and fitness classes and cheerleading are sure to get your heart rate up. Regardless of your fitness level or ability, everyone can experience the joy of participating in sports. 

The habit of getting outside and getting your heart rate up is something that you can implement into your lifestyle far after you leave camp. Focusing on getting daily exercise, along with learning to balance your meal choices and getting enough water each day helps to build a foundation for a healthy lifestyle.

Camp Athletics: Good For The Mind

Sometimes, just trying a new sport can do wonders for your self-esteem. You can gain a new level of confidence from simply trying something you didn’t think you could do. This is just one example of how athletics are such a vital part in summer camp character building. Participating in sports fosters teamwork and accountability, patience and persistence, and effective communication skills. Practicing a sport over and over engrains the discipline and healthy habits into growing campers. It has also been proven that children and teens who play sports get better grades and have a more well-rounded social circle. Athletics can be a great stress reliever and improve problem-solving skills.

Another great thing about playing sports at camp is that you are playing for fun. There is no pressure from sideline parents and no scouts to impress. Campers simply play for the love of the game. You are allowed to play without the fear of making a mistake or disappointing your team. Everyone is on the same team. Campers learn how to enjoy healthy competition, and handle both winning and losing with grace.

At America’s Finest Summer Camps, you get the traditional camp experience with a bonus: endless opportunities to improve your mind and your body and to have a lot of fun while doing it. Campers can focus solely on one sport or branch out and try them all, either way, you are learning valuable life skills that you can use both on and off the sports field.

Interpersonal Skills at America’s Finest Summer Camps

In a world where third graders have cell phones and middle school students are striving to be “Insta-famous,” it’s no wonder why teachers and parents are noticing that students lack the basic interpersonal skills needed to be successful in the real world. This is why more and more adults are actively looking for ways for young people in their lives to connect with others and improve their communication skills. America’s Finest Summer Camps is a great option for students not only to spend the summer having fun and trying new things but also provides a safe space for them to work on their interpersonal skills, meet new people and build relationships organically.


Being successful at camp means being able to listen to rules and expectations, follow directions and adhere to a schedule. Campers have a lot of freedom to make their own choices, but there are times when their safety, health, and wellbeing are dependent on listening to counselors and staff. Counselors make it a point to ensure all campers feel heard and demonstrate active listening strategies when campers are talking. Eye contact, body language, and asking questions are all way counselors show campers they are listening, and campers follow their example.

Campers are expected to listen to each other and avoid interruptions or distracting behaviors while fellow campers are talking. Learning to be a good listener will help campers be successful students during the school year and prepare them to be successful leaders as they enter the workforce.

Decision Making

Good leaders can make important decisions in a short amount of time. They understand how to use all the information that they have, consider their past experiences, common sense, and intuition, and decide with confidence. Campers are given hundreds of chances over their sleepaway camp experience to work in their decision-making skills. From which activities they want to try each day to what they want for lunch, campers are trusted to make healthy, safe and smart decisions to customize their camp experience.

Problem Solving

While camp will easily be the most fun campers will have all year, not every moment is rainbows and butterflies. Campers will face challenges during their time away from home, and it may be the first time they are charged with solving big problems without their parents by their side. Counselors are always on hand to guide campers through obstacles and challenges, but encourage campers to find solutions on their own. After a summer at camp, campers are equipped with problem-solving strategies to help them become more effective leaders.

Verbal and Non-verbal Communication

In a world where children and teens do most of their communication from their phones or computers, it’s no surprise that many are lacking opportunities to practice good ol’ fashion face-to-face communication. Since screen time is minimal at camp, campers spend most of their time talking and listening to others, developing things like self-awareness, empathy, patience, conflict management and listening. They learn to read cues given off by other campers, and how to be aware of the way they interact with others, both one-on-one and in a group setting.

Camp helps campers bridge the gap when it comes to the critical interpersonal skills they need to be successful in life. And, as is most of the life skills that campers learn while they swim, fish, act, dance, hike, play, sing and explore, they usually have no idea they’re actually learning something. Every day, campers work on character building disguised as fun and leave camp more well-rounded than they came.

Living with Peers at Laurel South

Whether it’s in a few months or more than a decade away, eventually we will help our children pack up and move them into a dorm, apartment or house of their own. We hope that all we did to teach them how to be productive, respectful and kind human beings will stick. We cross our fingers they have a great roommate. And that they are a great 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?

By sending your children to camp, you give them the opportunity to learn what it’s like to live with people other than their immediate family. It helps them prepare 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. Learning how to deal with other people who aren’t the world’s best roommates is also an important life skill.

Campers are expected to respect each other’s space and personal belongings. Everyone is responsible for keeping the cabin picked up and clean. Counselors help show campers how to communicate their feelings about another’s actions. Being able to effectively communicate an issue or problem you have with someone you’re living with is a valuable life skill campers learn by living with their peers.

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. Sending your kids to Laurel South gives them a big head start in the rule of sharing their space. And, with our fingers still crossed, that should make the day we move them into the dorms that much easier.

New Year, New You

Camp Laurel

Parents often head into the New Year with renewed goals and resolutions: eat healthier, work out, read more, be on the phone less, etc. Turning over the calendar to a new year is a logical time to prioritize our lives. As a parent, it’s interesting to notice things we want for ourselves we also want for our children. Camp naturally prioritizes these things for campers. Balanced meals, constantly being active, interacting with friends and staying unplugged.

At camp, phones, tablets and the internet aren’t constantly at our fingertips. Video games are non-existent. The afterschool shuffling to and from different activities is a distant memory. By focusing on what’s important, we cut out a lot of the extraneous “noise” in our day to day. Don’t get me wrong, Camp Laurel gets LOUD. The Laurel Spirit is always alive and well, no matter what’s going on. But without constant distraction from devices, campers learn to focus on the important things in life: living in the moment, building relationships and being a good friend.

The New Year gives us a concrete reason for a fresh start. It’s also when the camp countdown begins in earnest. The days grow longer and summer inches closer. While we try to stick to our resolutions in 2019, let’s remember to be grateful for the opportunities our children have every summer at camp.

How Camp Horseshoe Helps New Campers Adjust, Fast!

Day One Engagement

We understand that coming to a new place can be an overwhelming experience.  We have campers from all across the USA and around the world.  One thing that everyone has in common: the first day of camp is the first day for everyone!  Our staff are expertly equipped with tools to help campers feel comfortable and “belonging” the second the campers step off the bus and into our gymnasium.  For our youngest campers, our staff unpack their duffles, organize their dressers, make their beds, and get their entire areas ready upon their arrival.  Although it may not seem like a big deal, it’s one less thing to provide worry or anxiety for our new campers. Night one is always “cabin night” where they will have the opportunity to participate in all sorts of different activities around camp with their cabinmates and counselors.

Learn their name and more!

At Horseshoe, we call everyone by their first name. Upon each encounter, we say hi to everyone followed by a fist bump. The first step to making new campers feel comfortable is getting to know, through connecting and building trust with them. When one of our counselors meets a camper for the first time, they’ll introduce themselves, give them a “fist bump”, tell them something about themselves, and then introduce them to someone else so they can make another new friend!  All activities for the first week start with some variation of name games and other icebreakers to help all campers feel more comfortable.

Big & Little Brothers

At the end of our first meal together, all new campers get a “big brother” who is in one of our two oldest age groups.The big/little brother system is just another way we forge and foster friendships and create comfort and familiarity throughout camp.  As soon as the the big brother meets his little brother for the first time, he takes him on a tour of camp.  The tour is important not just because they get to spend time getting to know one another, but the new camper also learns and becomes familiar with the campgrounds.  During the first week of camp, the big brother will spend significant time with his little during rest hour and other periods to help teach camp cheers and to help him integrate further into the Horseshoe community.  They also complete the swim test with their big brother during the first couple days of camp. One added bonus: they get a big/little brother pizza party during the first week too!

These are just a few of the constant ways that we are helping integrate new campers into the Horseshoe community!