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25 Ways to Keep the Summer Camp Dream Alive for Your Kids This Fall

Start by taking all of their electronics and tech items. If they want to text a friend, they'll have to write a letter. They'll complain a little, but deep down, they love to be disconnected.
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After spending a summer at Camp Lenox with my kids, I thought I'd discuss back-homesickness. Yes, I coined that word, so I'll expect royalties if you use it. Basically, it's the feeling campers have when they return home and it feels weird to be normal.

As parents, we want kids to be back-homesick because it means they had a great summer and the fortune it cost us to send them to camp would NOT have been better spent on a family vacation or a fall wardrobe. That said, it's also pretty annoying that they're not more excited to see us and be back home. Well, as someone who spent the summer at camp and has now experienced both sides of this phenomenon, I feel confident that a couple tweaks to your home will be the difference between a mopey kid and a kid who barely notices they've left camp.

Look, we all spent a lot of time and money making camp more homey -- we sent great sheets, a soft rug, a cushy chair for bonfires, plush towels, favorite pillows, stuff to decorate the walls, fans for comfort, pictures of us... But I'm gonna teach you the tough part: how to make home more camp-y for your children.

  1. Start by taking all of their electronics and tech items. If they want to text a friend, they'll have to write a letter. They'll complain a little, but deep down, they love to be disconnected.

  • Tell them they can only drink sodas from the vending machine. If you don't have a vending machine, act as one. Take a dollar each time they want a soda, but only give them a soda two out of every four times they pay you... and one of those times give them the wrong soda... that's about right.
  • Make them write letters to you about their day in order to eat dinner. They love that!
  • Don't allow your daughters to wear any jewelry they couldn't make themselves.
  • Make a fancy chore/job wheel and turn it each morning. Make sure everyone else slacks on their chores, so that your child feels like the only one REALLY doing his/her job -- don't forget to fail him/her during inspection.
  • To wake them up in the morning, do not gently nudge, tickle or kiss them. Blare "Reveille" in their ears and follow that by speaking into a bullhorn while announcing what's on tap for their day.
  • When they're sleeping, close off all the AC/heat to their rooms -- open their windows and maybe drip some honey or juice on them to ensure the maximum amount of mosquito bites by morning. Trust me, they'll thank you for it.
  • Serve all their meals buffet-style and make sure there isn't a single item on the buffet that they truly enjoy. If you do cook something they like, eat most of it before allowing them to the table and fight them over the last piece. This will feel normal.
  • Have your kids crochet you a potholder at least twice a week.
  • Allow them to snack on whatever crap they want -- with the stipulation that it's a month old and that they must keep the packages opened and stashed under their beds, behind their drawers, etc. Campers know that Cheez-Its taste best when fished out from a mattress.
  • Cheer for them at random times for doing random things... like, if they're in the bathroom, bust in with "push-it-out-shove-it-out-way-out!" Nothing says "I love you" like an impromptu cheer... They'll beg for more.
  • Make sure their bathrooms are flooded with a brownish cesspool of water at all times.
  • Draw things on their faces while they sleep -- in Sharpie.
  • Run all the water in your house for large (but varying) increments of time before your children take a bath or shower. They're used to bathing without knowing how long they'll have hot water.
  • If your child still takes baths, make sure to throw in some dirt, along with fish that nibble and snapping turtles -- then tell him/her to try not to touch the bottom.
  • After you wash their clothes, make sure that at least 10 percent of the items are ruined, 10 percent are lost and 10 percent belong to someone else.
  • Also, do not, I repeat do not, fold any of their clothes! Roll them into balls while damp and throw them around their rooms haphazardly. That's how they like it.
  • Do not let them listen to the real words to any songs!
  • If you have a boy and a girl, tell them they get in trouble if they go into the other one's side of the house.
  • Call them to meals in a staggered fashion and claim it's too crowded for the whole family to eat together.
  • Any gifts or new items should be mailed in the form of a care package. Tell them it's coming weeks before it actually arrives, and when it does, inspect it and remove half the stuff, claiming it's contraband.
  • Never wash their water bottles -- just let them fester in the hot sun and refill them every morning.
  • Steal a pair of their underwear while they're sleeping and make all their friends stare at it.
  • Never let them leave a table without fighting over who has to bus it. Even in restaurants, tell the waiters/busboys to "back off" -- whichever child loses has "got this."
  • Wake them in the middle of the night by hovering over them and screaming "We've got spirit, yes we do...." When they groggily respond, goad them by announcing "We've got the most!" and then run out of the room.
  • SWAK

    ~ Jenny From the Bunk, ahem, Blog

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