Why Parents Are Thankful For Camp!

Mitch and Stephanie Reiter are bloggers for HuffPost Parents. This blog was also featured in the Huffington Post 

Many parents ask us about the benefits of sleep away camp, how much they can expect their child to grow and mature in a summer, and whether the changes will last beyond August.

Any veteran camp parent will tell you that camp is not just good for the child, but it’s good for the family! If you are a new parent considering camp for the first time, or nervous about whether your child is really ready, we wanted to share some of the changes you can expect after just one summer away from home! It’s amazing what seven weeks will do. We of course notice the change in our campers, but we love getting dozens of letters from first-time families who want to know “What’s in the bug juice, because we can’t believe this is our kid!?”

Here’s some of what you can expect even after just one summer at camp.

1. A willingness to try new things

They say the magic happens when you are pushed outside your comfort zone. And that is why they say camp is a magical place. There are activities kids LOVE and activities that may not be “their thing.” There is food that they can’t wait to eat (pizza day!) and meals that they can’t stand to see on the table. Because campers live and operate as a group, they learn to accept their differences, try new tastes and experiences, and learn they may actually like them! One mom shared that her picky-eater used to only eat plain bagels, plain penne pasta, pizza from a particular shop, salad and Hershey Bars. Seven weeks later, she can give him waffles for breakfast (hey — they have protein), any shape of pasta, any kind of pizza, and whole apples — not peeled and cut up in slices. She was also amused by his expanded choices at 7-11 (which is like the canteen at home), including Milky Way, Twix and Mug Root Beer. Now while that may sound like a sugary mess… you have to realize that this child seriously expanded his taste palette, made independent choices and may just be ready for Sloppy Joes next summer!

When children experience the reward of trying new things, it makes them want to try more. So many campers look at our climbing wall, and shiver at the thought of reaching the top. After a few weeks of watching their friends and being cheered on by their counselors, most of them will give it a go! The rush and excitement of making it half way, or climbing to the top, or even better, getting to ride down the zip line, is so exhilarating… it makes them more open to trying new things in the future.

What parents are thankful for: Less time spent as short order cook; more time planning new and exciting activities for your child.

2. Pride in taking care of themselves

For seven weeks our campers actually brush their teeth (at least before Visiting Day!), comb their hair, shower and dress themselves. All of these things involve surprisingly very few reminders, negotiating and reluctance. Why? Because they know it’s on them to get it done and “everybody is doing it.” They also live in close quarters and recognize that good hygiene is important and socially necessary. What a realization! Without mom or dad there to nag them into these responsibilities, it’s on them to stay clean and look presentable. Of course there is a learning curve for our younger campers to successfully care for themselves. But once they get it, they feel good to know they can do it themselves! When they come home from camp, they actually find it FUN and empowering!

What parents are thankful for: Shower hour for them is now rest hour for you!

3. Respect for their home and family

We talk a lot about the magic of camp, but we also know there is the magic of home. It’s a different kind of magic. The kind where kids drop their dirty clothes on the floor and they magically disappear. The kind where dirty dishes are left on the kitchen table and poof they get cleaned. Does this sound like your home? At camp, nothing magically disappears. Campers are responsible for clearing and stacking their plates, recycling, cleaning their bunk, organizing their belongings, folding their clothes and making their beds. They are held to standards during inspection and feel pressure from their camp family (aka their bunkmates) to uphold their responsibilities. If not, there are consequences. No one wants to let down his or her bunk.

There is also a deeper love between siblings at camp. If your kids are together at camp, they feel more connected in taking care of each other while mom and dad aren’t there. Even a couple minutes of sibling time a day at camp increases their love and respect for each other. New campers also enjoy feeling looked after by their camp big brother or sister, and they are more likely to pay those actions forward to their siblings at home. They have a deeper appreciation of what it means to be a big brother or sister.

What parents are thankful for: A child who contributes to the overall tidiness and order of your home. They also may walk their sibling to class, check on them during the day or read them a book at night. And it costs you nothing…unless you want to reward them with allowance!

4. Appreciation for rest time

One of the reasons so many parents say they can’t wait for camp is that their child will be unplugged for seven weeks. At camp we are 100 percent disconnected from technology and 100 percent connected to each other. Rest time doesn’t equal playing on the iPad, DS or watching television. When your camper comes home, you will be amazed at the activities they gravitate towards during down time. New hobbies like reading, playing cards, making bracelets, writing in a journal, playing ball are a refreshing change for you and them.

What parents are thankful for: Good old-fashioned fun like the old days, such as family game night, bringing a deck of cards to dinner (instead of the iPad) and maybe even a love for books. Imagine a world where you don’t have to nag your child to read? Also, your child may enjoy more quiet time in their room… an escape from the hustle of daily life.

IMG_5727 (1)5. Awareness and connection to life around them

A few months ago there was a powerful viral video called “Look Up”. It was a harsh reminder that many of us (and our children) spend our time looking down at our devices, texting, watching videos, hiding behind technology and living disconnected with our world. At camp we always look up. We look into each other’s eyes. Our hands are free for holding, playing and creating. At camp we connect. We are plugged into life. We live in the moment.

Kids learn to really listen to each other at camp. They understand what moves them, what scares them and what it means to be a true friend. They learn the implications of their actions on others, how to resolve differences, how to lead and how to be a part of a group. Because they are forced to live in a bunk with the same people for seven weeks, they understand it’s not all about them anymore.

What parents are thankful for: A better child. A better son or daughter. A better sister or brother. A better friend. A better student. A better community member. A better teammate.

And all of that growing can come from just one summer at camp! Imagine what your camper will be like after two summers, five summers, ten summers!? Talk about potential!

About Camp Towanda:

Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter.  For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, culinary cooking classes, and special events.  We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year.  Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.

Homesick, Childsick, Campsick!


With camp about two months away, you are probably busy preparing, packing and planning ahead for what we know will be the best 7 weeks of our child’s year! By now you have probably read our Parent Guide (maybe even a few times), read one of our favorite books “Homesick & Happy” (and our discussion guide in Campminder) and are gearing up both physically and emotionally for letting him or her “go”.  As you cross things off your ‘to-do’ lists, one concern may be lingering.  Will my child be homesick and what will they do at camp to help him or her cope?

home·sick ˈhōmˌsik/ adjectiveexperiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.

Many parents (and some campers) worry about homesickness. Homesickness is totally normal.  It means that you have a home worth missing! Camp is one of those truly unique experiences that allows children to conquer homesickness is a nurturing, loving, safe environment that will eventually become your child’s home away from home and “second family”.  Learning how to overcome homesickness at a young age will help your child more easily deal with these emotions on future school trips, sleepovers, college and beyond.  It’s all part of the process of becoming a healthy independent person! And isn’t that what we all want for our kids?


While our camp staff are well trained in helping children cope with homesickness, did you know that there are things YOU can do to prepare your child and set them up for success before they leave for camp?

It’s important to talk with your child honestly about what to expect and not ignore that this is part of being away from home. Here are some things you can say and do, which are well captured in the book “Homesick & Happy” (hint- read it if you haven’t already!).

  1. Be honest about the possibility of homesickness. We agree with Michael Thompson’s suggestion in his book of what you can say, “You will probably be a bit homesick when you go to camp. Most kids do, but they get over it in time if they try hard to deal with it head-on and put some effort into coping.  Feeling homesick just means that you have a home worth missing, a place where people love you. It is the most natural thing in the world to feel homesickness. I felt homesick the first time I went away from home. It is part of going to camp.”
  2. Share stories about your own life. Did you go to summer camp or remember a time when you missed home? Is there a sibling in the house who may have been homesick and can openly discuss how they overcame homesickness?
  3. Define 7 weeks. Use a calendar to help them understand what 7 weeks looks like. E.g. 7 weeks is like 7 spring break vacations! 7 weeks is the time between now and your birthday.
  4. Get them involved in getting ready for camp! Ask them to help you fill out your forms, pick out their gear, shop for toiletries, pack, etc.
  5. Trust your parenting partners. Remember that you chose this camp for a reason. No one wants to see your child succeed more than we do!

Ironically, your child will most likely overcome homesickness way faster than you will overcome childsickness! What is childsickness?

child·sick ˈchildˌsik/ adjective: experiencing a longing for one’s child during a period of absence from him or her.

IMG_8799While your child is very busy at camp, trying new things, making new friends and growing up, YOU are at home imagining every detail of their experience and adjusting to life at a distance.  Yes- there is a cure for childsickness, but you have to be willing to “let go”. Easier said than done? Try these 5 things to ensure that you also enjoy your summer.  Because we  know your child will be having a blast!

  1. Leave it to the camp to manage homesickness. When you talk or write with your child, focus on the positive to keep them moving forward in conquering homesickness.
  2. Don’t make any deals. If you let your child think you will take them home if they are unhappy, it can hold them back on having a successful experience.
  3. Practice makes perfect. Your child should practice the skills he will need (and eventually master) at camp -sleepovers, chores, overnight trips.
  4. Enjoy the gift of time. Use letters and slower forms of communication. Stay tuned for a future blog about “letters from camp”.
  5. Take a vacation! You’ve earned it. Parenting is one of the toughest jobs.  You are giving your child the greatest gift by sending them to camp.  You should celebrate!

We can only say, that once your child returns from camp, they may experience similar feelings of homesickness. Not to worry—this is not technically homesickness.  Please see definition below: 

camp·sick ˈcampˌsik/ adjective: experiencing a longing for Camp Towanda during a period of absence from it. Can only be cured by seeing camp friends, attending reunions and returning the next summer! 

About Camp Towanda:

Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter (who are celebrating 25 years as owners and directors).  For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, and special events.  We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year.  Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.

About Homesick & Happy

Homesick & Happy – How Time Away from Parents Can Help a Child Grow by Michael Thompson is a must read for today’s parents. In an age when it’s the rare child who walks to school on his own, the thought of sending your “little ones” off to sleep-away camp can be overwhelming-for you and for them. But parents’ first instinct-to shelter their offspring above all else-is actually depriving kids of the major developmental milestones that occur through letting them go-and watching them come back transformed. In Homesick and Happy, renowned child psychologist Michael Thompson, PhD, shares a strong argument for, and a vital guide to, this brief loosening of ties. A great champion of summer camp, he explains how camp ushers your children into a thrilling world offering an environment that most of us at home cannot: an electronics-free zone, a multigenerational community, meaningful daily rituals like group meals and cabin clean-up, and a place where time simply slows down. In the buggy woods, icy swims, campfire sing-alongs, and daring adventures, children have emotionally significant and character-building experiences; they often grow in ways that surprise even themselves; they make lifelong memories and cherished friends. Thompson shows how children who are away from their parents can be both homesick and happy, scared and successful, anxious and exuberant. When kids go to camp-for a week, a month, or the whole summer-they can experience some of the greatest maturation of their lives, and return more independent, strong, and healthy.Author – Michael Thompson 

Visiting Day is this week!

Stephanie blueberry picking with the Jets!

Visiting Day is this week! The campers are now quite settled and into the FLOW of things.  They are in a groove, and adjusting beautifully to camp life with their camp family.  The homesickness hump seems to be behind us and we are so proud of our campers for working through those feelings and for our staff for helping them grow.

Camp offers such an amazing opportunity for kids to actually experience and work through homesick feelings…where else would they learn to work through them in such a safe, nurturing environment?

We are halfway through the summer, and our campers are excited to be reunited with you for the day!  As you can imagine, some of those feelings of homesickness may re-emerge.  We can assure you that they will now be able to cope more easily with these feelings as they now have the skills.

What’s actually cool about homesickness is that once they are able to cope with those feelings, they emerge into what’s called a FLOW STATE (Summer Camp Handbook tells us more about this…it’s a great read; check my Reading List!).

For basically 3 straight weeks from Visiting Day through the end of the summer (including Camp Trips, Olympics and Bunk Feast) our campers get to experience 3 weeks of FLOW, which is amazing f`or their mental health.  In the off-season, we are all so busy and scheduled that this FLOW STATE is unfamiliar.

Be prepared…when your campers come home they will actually be coming off a camp-high! They may even seem addicted to camp! In addition to so many other wonderful things, camp is actually good for their mental health (another gift you are giving your child).

So homesickness is totally normal…your child by now knows how to cope and is surrounded by his Camp Family (who won’t let him/her fall).  The only thing you may want to also prepare for…when your child comes home in just a few weeks, they will actually be Campsick…and there’s only one cure for that!

We look forward to seeing our Camp Families on Visiting Day and getting into a FLOW STATE starting July 22nd!