Reunion: A little bit of summer in the winter

December — it’s the time of year that’s furthest from camp. Holidays, projects and exams, winter sports and vacations occupy our campers’ minds. That’s why every year around this time, when the days are shortest, we set aside an afternoon to revive camp spirit at our annual reunion in New York City. It was terrific to see so many of our campers and staff from summer 2011 this weekend!

Reunion is a chance for our campers to get together in the middle of the year, when it seems like summer will never come again, reminisce about the memories they’ve made in summers past, and get excited about the summer to come. Whether we’re signing reunion t-shirts, watching a magician, watching the summer highlight video or just hanging out and having a good time, reunion is a special time to celebrate the precious friendships that are formed at Bryn Mawr. Although it’s always a little strange to see our campers dressed in their winter clothes without a uniform T-shirt or tennis shoe in sight!

Our campers stay in touch with one another all year long, but they don’t often get to spend time all together with their bunkmates away from camp, and the excitement level at reunion is so high it can probably be detected by weather satellites! We never fail to get a little emotional as we watch the girls run into the arms of their “summer sisters.” Even with snow on the ground and frost in the air, it’s as though we’ve been transported straight back to summer.

That’s one of the special things about the friends girls make at summer camp — they are devoted, dedicated and close in a very unique way. Living together day in and day out, summer after summer, campers get to know one another as well as if they were sisters. When they see each other after a separation, it’s a lot like a family reunion. They pick up where they left off, as comfortable with each other as they were the last time they were together. It’s no surprise, then, that camp friends stay in touch long after their summers at camp are over, going on to be college roommates, bridesmaids, honorary aunts to one another’s children and friends for life. We know our campers talk about “living ten months for two,” or counting down the days until they can get back to camp, but when we see their excitement at reunion, we know they really mean it.

Reunion is a great time for the camp leadership and staff to be reminded of the importance of what we do, too. We love the chance to check in with our campers, recall the adventures of the previous summer and update them with the latest developments at camp. Winter is our planning time for camp, and seeing our campers gives us a great big burst of excitement for the summer to come and all the new activities, events and outings we’re setting up for next year.

More importantly, we get to see the happy faces of the campers we care for each summer as they hug one another and chatter about their plans for next year. It’s a wonderful reminder for us that what we do is bigger than making sure the tennis courts get resurfaced or finding the best dressage instructor for our riding lessons. We work to make camp a safe, loving place where girls can feel free to be themselves and confident in their relationships with one another.

Tips for healthy kids this winter

Attention winter campers!  Fall has come and gone and cold and flu season is here!  It seems like once school starts and the thermometer drops, everyone starts to get sick — and the same cold gets passed around from house to house all winter long. We checked in with our camp nurses to get some tips for getting through the winter in great shape. They’re our resident experts on kids’ immune systems — and on what we can do as parents to make sure our children stay healthy and happy all year long. Here’s what they recommend:

Stay active

In addition to being important for general good health, exercise boosts immunity. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean kids can’t get out and play. Exposure to cold weather isn’t what makes kids sick; colds and viruses are more common in the winter mostly because we spend more time indoors in close proximity with other people. Encourage your kids to get outside and play all year round.

Don’t skip breakfast

Getting kids to eat a healthy breakfast can be tough. (Believe us, we understand. Try getting 350 of them to eat a balanced meal every morning!) But while breakfast isn’t necessarily the most important meal of the day, it’s a crucial part of your children’s morning. Kids need breakfast to help keep them energized and focused during the school day. Studies show that children who don’t eat breakfast are more prone to obesity and are more likely to rack up tardies and absences at school. Check out these fun breakfast recipes and more at Ready, Set, Breakfast!

Clean hands = healthy hands

Hand washing is the absolute number-one best way to reduce the spread of germs and sickness. At camp, we encourage girls to wash their hands regularly, and we also keep the Dining Hall stocked with hand sanitizer so campers can quickly and easily clean up at mealtimes. Get kids in the habit of washing their hands with warm water and soap before and after eating and after using the restroom, blowing their noses, coughing, sneezing and playing outside. Make sure they know to lather and scrub for about 20 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times.

Sleep tight

A good night’s sleep is absolutely crucial for children and teenagers. Tired kids have a hard time focusing in school, and a tired body will have a harder time fighting off a virus than a rested one. More importantly, sleep is essential to growth and organ development. While children sleep, their bodies produce growth hormone, and energy that’s used for other activities during the day can be diverted to promoting growth. If getting to sleep is a problem at your house, doctors recommend not keeping electronics (TVs, iPods, phones, video games) in the bedroom. Try to get kids unplugged before bedtime to help them settle down for the night.

Walk your talk

At the end of the day, kids will follow the lead of the adults they respect. (That’s why we spend so much time teaching our counselors how to be good role models.) So if you model the behaviors you want them to learn — staying active, eating healthy meals, hand washing, getting good sleep — they’ll be more likely to adopt them.