First Time Campers
We’re so thrilled you are considering sleep away camp! Even though it’s a very exciting process, we also know that being away from home for the first time can be a bit daunting for new campers. We want to assure you that we are aware of this and that we have put systems in place to ensure that campers feel comfortable not only on their first day of camp, but for all the days of their summer experience. Sending your most precious possession away for the first time isn’t easy for parents either but you can rest assured we care for your kids as if they were our own. Every first-year camper has the same important questions: Will I feel comfortable? Will I make friends? Will I like the place, the food, and the schedule? We don’t leave any stone unturned when mapping out a new camper’s experience. We go to great lengths to make sure each child has everything they need to thrive during the summer and before they know it they think of K&E as their home away from home!
Becoming a part of the community starts before camp does! (Offseason engagement)
Before anything, the first step in the process is to set up a call with Matt. This will be your introduction to K&E and will provide you an opportunity to learn more about our camp and our philosophies and also provide us an opportunity to learn more about your child. After the call, if you’d like to take the next step, we can arrange a socially distanced Home Visit with your family and Matt or he can meet you virtually via Zoom. Once enrolled, we have a number of ways to integrate your child and family into our community before the summer, and for us to make sure we get to know you all as well:
- Regional new camper parties designed to help your child make new friends and lessen any pre-Camp anxiety.
- We would be happy to facilitate phone calls or play dates with another new camper your child’s age if both families are open to it.
- Regular email newsletters and blog with the latest camp updates and other fun content
- Information and videos designed to help the entire family prepare for the overnight camp experience
- Our comprehensive intake “Camper Confidential” forms help us understand all of your child’s wants, goals and needs so we can set them up for success. This is where you would note anything private that you think we need to be made aware of, i.e. “Megan sometimes gets overwhelmed in large crowds so when there’s an activity where she’ll be in the middle of a crowd, please have counselors check on her and provide her with an option to leave the space if she needs”
- A week or two before camp begins your child’s Unit Leader/Head Counselor will review the Camper Confidential forms for each camper in his/her unit to make sure they are aware of any important issues. If they have any questions or concerns, they will reach out to you.
- We’ll share a thorough camper packing list so you know exactly what your child will need to bring to camp!
While at camp:
Starts at the Bus
The initial experience starts at the bus! As campers head to K&E, new campers will sit with other new campers and introductions are made if they haven’t already met each other at a new camper party earlier in the year! On the bus we make sure there are no strangers and no one is ever by themselves. There will be games being played, songs being sung and fun had by all. Campers can choose to watch a movie too! There are plenty of staff on the bus to make sure kids are well supervised and getting excited for their arrival! And of course, parents will be notified when the buses arrive safely at camp!
They made it! When you step off the bus, your counselors will be looking for you and will recognize you from the photo you attached to your biography form. Right away they will take you to a nearby field where Unit Leaders will let each camper know which bunk they are in and who their counselors are. Together with their new bunk they will head to their lodge and get settled. There will be time to introduce them to the other kids in their bunk and to help them learn everyone’s name. Then your bunk can go for a guided tour all around camp so you are comfortable in your surroundings!
Stuff unpacked, bunk ready
Parents send their children’s bags to camp before their arrival. For Junior Campers we unpack everything and even make their bed before the bus arrives. We also put up name signs on every camper’s bed and counselors also make welcome signs in their respective bunk – so your child arrives to a familiar space with belongings they recognize. We want that first day to be as seamless of a transition as possible!
Bunk life is critical to a camper’s success as they will spend a large amount of time with their bunkmates. We spend months carefully reviewing and analyzing all camper information forms to ensure we’re bunking campers that have things in common and who we think would cohabit well with one another. By the time the new camper arrives, they have already had a home visit with Matt and attended camper reunions and parties throughout the offseason so we have spent enough time to know who they are and what they are like. We aim to bunk new campers from similar geographic regions (not necessarily the same town/school) so they can readily see each other during the off-season. However, if friends come together from home, they will not be bunked together initially, but may down the road once their friend groups are set. All campers will be bunked with other boys/girls their age. There will be 7-8 other campers in each bunk maintaining an excellent camper/bunk counselor ratio of 1:4 The bunks are built well, with clean, comfortable mattresses and kept naturally cool by the New Hampshire nights but there are also window fans if needed. Besides electricity, each bunk is equipped with a shower, sink, toilet and ample warm water so you don’t have to worry about them leaving the bunk at night to go to the bathroom. At K&E, all campers start together on the same day, Day 1 of camp! There won’t be any new campers joining a pre-existing bunk mid-summer and disrupting groups who have already formed tight bonds.
Big Brother/Big Sister
Our newest younger campers (those having finished grades 1-3) are connected with a Big Brother or Big Sister during the first few days of the summer. First time campers find that having a Camp Big Brother or Big Sister as a role model – in addition to nurturing counselors – has a big impact on their ability to adjust quickly to the Camp experience. Later in that first week our new Camp siblings leave our campus with their counselors for an afternoon of bowling or swimming, bonding and ice cream. Throughout the summer the Big Brothers and Sisters gather with their Little Siblings for campfires, games, barbecues, hangout time, and periodic (but important!) check ins. Our Big Brothers & Sisters play a crucial role in helping our youngest campers feel welcome and cared for. Unlike other camps with similar programs, we have elected to hold off on connecting our big and little siblings until after they have arrived at Camp. We do this for a few reasons: often, conversations between young people who do not know each other are not easy, and we want to make sure that your child’s first interaction with her big sister (or his big brother) goes as well as possible. Before we decide on who is paired with whom we want to see what your child is like at Camp. We want to make sure that we know him or her that much better so that when we match them with their Camp Big Sibling they are as compatible as possible. For the rest of the summer, your child’s Big Brother or Sister will be there for them to talk to, hang out with and most importantly, have their back.
The first few days of your child’s sleepaway camp can be the hardest….for the parents! We’re sure that you’ll be eager to know how your child is doing as soon as possible, and while our priority is always to be present with the campers and staff as much as possible, we wanted to let you know what to expect in terms of updates and communication. You will be notified when the buses arrive at Camp, we’ll post on our social media channels, and you’ll be able to log into your parent account that night to see photographs taken by our camp photographers. You’ll also receive an email that night from Camp’s owner and director, Scott, who writes to our families after spending the day and evening with your children. The following day, the office will send you information about your child’s bunk, and a reminder of all the ways that you can be in touch with them and with us. Additionally, we’ll contact you in the first few days with a specific update on your child’s experience so far. You are welcome to contact us at any point, and we make sure you have the main office contact information as well as specific emails and phone numbers for those directly looking after your child.
If we have first time campers, we must have first time Parents!
Just like first time campers, first-time parents want assurance that their child will be well cared for in a safe and healthy environment. We will hold your hand and become your parenting partners!
Access to the Directors
Between Scott and Matt, we will have spoken with every new family by the end of May to discuss their child’s upcoming summer. We’re also available by phone or email anytime during the off-season. During the summer months we will be reachable as well, as long as we’re not out on camp leading an activity with the kids! You’ll also have an opportunity to have a conversation with our Director of Camper Care, Deena Sebell (who is also a licensed child psychologist) on how best to prepare your child (and yourself) for the upcoming summer. Deena can offer some tools and strategies that she has seen work for many families in her 30 years at K&E
Speak to a current camper’s parent
If you’d like us to connect you with the parent of a camper who would be in your child’s age cohort next summer we’d be happy to arrange that. It’s always nice to hear from a parent that’s been through it all already and can help alleviate some concerns!
We do not allow packages for campers – we want the camp experience to not be about things, but rather, the experiences and the people. If campers need something in particular we have a Camp Store option available where parents can fund camper accounts for items like more socks, forgotten athletic supplies, stationary or batteries that they may need during the summer.
Communication with your child
Our policy is very much for no phone calls until the scheduled first phone call with parents. Parents will schedule a time online to call camp to speak with their child. 3 week campers will have one phone call after they complete their second week of camp. 5 week campers will have two phone calls, one after week 2 and the second after week 4. 7 week campers will have three phone calls, one after week 2, one after week 4 and the last after week 6. Please understand that this is not an arbitrary decision that we are making, but is rather based on decades of experience helping kids acclimate to life within our community. Homesickness is typically less about missing parents and more about not feeling as connected to peers and staff as anticipated. Being able to make phone calls during bouts of homesickness prevents campers from fully integrating into life here, which unfortunately can exacerbate the cycle of homesickness. Should your child encounter any challenges like that we can assure you that (a) our staff will be available to nurture and help them in any ways that we can, and (b) that should they experience any prolonged homesickness we will be in touch with you. We are your partners and will not keep information like that from you.
We also have letter writing time built into the schedule three times a week where campers are encouraged to write home, although we can’t promise how often they’ll actually do it!
Parents can email camp as often as they’d like! The office will print them out each morning and put them in the bunk’s mailbox. The counselors/unit leader will pick them up after lunch and get it to the camper. Let’s say your child is scheduled for a big hike and you want to wish them luck and remind them to use bug spray, emailing us is the perfect way to do so!
Although we most likely will not be doing Visiting Day for Summer 2021 due to COVID, in a typical summer (2022 and beyond) we welcome the camper’s parents and sibling(s) to join us at camp for a day to reconnect with each other and take part in the community and all the fun! Visiting Day is usually scheduled for Saturday on the third weekend of the camp season.
400+ photos are posted on our secure website after each camp day, and facial recognition software makes finding your child’s photo a breeze!
I’m still concerned about my child fitting in and/or being homesick:
Because so many of our bunk counselors are former campers themselves, they are well versed in handling homesickness, facilitating friendships, and helping new children feel at home. Counselors are trained to observe and identify a camper who might be experiencing homesickness and are given tools and techniques to help support that child. It’s not unusual for some kids to be shy at first and they might have a hard time letting their guard down in a new environment. Bunk counselors to the rescue! Counselors will come up with creative ways to ingratiate campers to the group and once the camper realizes that they are being embraced by their peers, they will begin to open up and make new friends! This is a typical occurrence on the first day (sometimes it can pour over into the second day) but by the third day kids tend to adapt and fall into the full swing of things, soaking up all the fun. Our bunk counselors stay with the campers all day and night – they live, eat and travel with your child from activity to activity. If your child does experience some homesickness there are lots of people at camp to help them get through it, including our Director of Camper Care, Deena! We truly care about your kids and their experience at camp so we do everything in our power to make them feel at home at K&E and we’re pretty darn good at it!
Wrapping it all up
When you have built a community based on kindness and consideration, campers feed off that positive energy and are able to leave their comfort zones and push themselves to attempt things they wouldn’t have thought to try at home. This is because they are in an environment that doesn’t reward ‘winning at all costs’ but instead promotes effort and attitude over result. That’s not to say we don’t celebrate healthy competition and encourage our campers to be the best they can be; we do! Children come to our camp with an array of skills and talents in various areas and are encouraged to either harness and refine those skills or discover new passions, while feeling no fear of judgment or failure. K&E campers receive support from not only the staff but also their fellow campers who instill confidence and resilience in them as they navigate their summer experience. Because of K&E’s intentional focus on acceptance, should a camper struggle to accomplish an objective, whether on the sports field or at the theater, it will serve as motivation to work harder towards reaching that goal knowing they won’t be judged on the outcome.
There are many things that go into an incredible summer experience but getting started on the right foot and feeling a part of the community might be the most important. With everyone at camp supporting your child and their development from the moment they step off the bus, there is an undeniable feeling of intimacy that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Once you join the K&E community, your family will forever be treated as a part of our family!
Thank you so much for considering our camp. We hope you’ll join us 🙂