Summer camp may seem like a fleeting blip on the radar when you think about all that goes into the shaping of a child’s mind, heart, and spirit, but when you think about how kids build character, it’s easy to argue that lessons learned at camp are disproportionately important relative to time spent on lessons at school. And that’s not a slight against formal schooling—it’s just an acknowledgment of the mettle achieved when kids are turned out into the woods with near strangers for a week. My sister and I had the profound opportunity to go to an amazing summer camp as kids—and then work as camp counselors there in high school and college. The camp was called Krislund, which is tucked into the gently rolling hills of Amish country in central Pennsylvania. I know that to this day my life is richer, happier, and more meaningful because of the time I spent there. I have boxes of pictures and remnants of song books, yes, but I would give so much to have all those memories preserved by summer in a book that captured more than just photographs—songs, smells, stories, menus, skits, the names of all the campers with whom I shared tents, cabins, and—in the case of the very unique camp Krislund—covered wagons.
This year is a significant for my sister and me. My sister is sending her kids—ages 8 and 10—off to overnight camp for the first time. And for their experience, Mixbook’s Great Outdoors theme is perfect for a photo book. I’m sending my kids—3 and 6—off to day camps for the first time, and since my older son is at a different camp each week, I’ll use a more general summery template: either Summer Splash or Summer Days. To create your summer camp photo book, start by choosing a photo book theme, then add lots of robust content. Here’s some inspiration!
1. You’ve Got Mail! A week or so before your child heads off to camp, encourage family and friends to send mail—the kind with a stamp and a handwritten missive inside. Kids love to check their mailbox and find notes from home. My dad used to compose elaborate newsletters printed with breaking stories about the family cat, the garden, and small-town happenings back home, along with a couple hand-drawn cartoons. Your family may or may not step up with correspondence of that caliber, but even postcards and letters can be scanned and included in your summer camp photo book.
2. Shutterbugs You’ll want to include lots of photographs, which will be taken mostly by your child if it’s sleep-away camp. You can do a few things, though, to ensure that you’ve got a well-rounded selection of pictures by snapping shots of everything from the camp sign and sleeping quarters to camp counselors and cabin mates before you leave for the week. You’ll want to include names and photos of everyone significant to your child’s week. True, Facebook didn’t exist when I was a camper, but kids still forget names sooner than they think they will, and it can be great fun to reconnect with people years in the future.
3. Words to Camp By Include camp songs, poems, sayings, and inside jokes. If it’s a favorite song or poem with meaningful lyrics, include the full text. Simply choose a layout that accommodates lots of words, then copy and paste the text right into your book. For funny camp sayings and inside jokes, you can include partial phrases just to jog your memory in the future.
4. Campfire Classics Whether it’s a ghost story that’s legendary at your camp—or simply a wilderness legend that’s taken root in on the campgrounds, take the time to jot it down. Boy do I wish I could remember all the fantastic details of the Tasmanian Devil lore passed down at Krislund. Something about a plane transporting the creatures crash landing in our little valley and those little whirling dervishes on the loose ever since. A tall tale, perhaps, but we crept silent as ninjas to our wagons lest we disturb their peaceful slumber in the ferns of the forest floor.
5. List-o-Mania Create a separate page for any of the following list ideas, illustrating them with photos where you have them! For help on laying out these pages, check out our previous entry on photo book list layouts!
- Camp Foodie All your kid’s campfire cooking memories, from “Pot o’ Gold” stew to fireside mountain pies, are worth recording. Your little fireside chefs may even be inspired to re-create a meal for you!
- Unlikely Adventures We used to spend hours doing something called “NBC’ing,” which was basically walking along the beautifulmountain stream and crossing over as many times as possible for miles. Make a list of quirky little traditions like this one unique to your kid’s camp.
- Lived to tell! Make a list of all the challenges and afflictions your kid survived. From learning to cope with smelly canteens to keeping calm through a rattlesnake or bear sighting, overcoming obstacles is the foundation of character building by summer camp. You’ve got to get this stuff in writing!
- Woulda-Shoulda It’s fun to reflect on all the gear that would have been awesome to have. It not only conjures up some funny stories of wilderness hardships, it’s helpful for next year when you’re packing for another adventure.