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Horseback riding by its very nature is an activity that teaches children confidence and self-discipline. Riding has been a major part of summer camps across the country, and it’s not without reason. The feelings of adventure, fun, and excitement is associated with horseback riding.  These feelings in conjunction with the life lessons it teaches make it an important component of any camp. Circle F Dude Ranch Camp knew this when it opened its doors in 1952. Unlike many summer camps, Circle F Dude Ranch maintains a barn of 50 or more horses year-round. In this blog, Circle F’s barn staff share a little of the knowledge gained over 65 years of being a horse based camp.

The connection

Circle F Dude Ranch Camp is where many campers first learn to ride. When riding a horse, there is a significant connection camper’s feel with these amazing creatures. Studies correlate horses to the human emotional experience. A common statement is, “horses can sense what your feeling. Especially fear.” A lot of our campers at Circle F can attest to that saying. Fear quickly turns to a mutual feeling of love and respect. One of the first lessons at camp is learning how to respect the horse. Through consistent practice campers will notice that horses will watch their every move waiting for its next command, the attention the horse gives isn’t from fear of humans, it’s from respect. A life skill that many campers can take well beyond the barn.

The skills learned

Many campers think that riding is easy. Maybe they rode a pony or participated in a horseback trail ride. Learning to ride truly requires certain skills and knowledge about horses. These skills take time to learn. Before a camper jumps on a horse at Circle F, they must learn the basics about horsemanship. Lessons start with building confidence on the ground.  Lessons focused on the basics of how to approach, lead, and care for horses on the ground provide great foundations. Building on these lessons helps campers have clear and correct communication with a horse, which is critical both in the saddle and on the ground.

From the saddle, a camper learns how to focus their movements, verbal cues, and better communicate with the horse. These cues create a loop of communication that connects the horse and rider. Campers learn to push their horse to trust.   With trust campers learn to break through comfort zones, and at the same time, without even knowing, the rider is learning better communication and growing themselves.

The Benefits

There are many benefits to riding. Then connection a camper creates with their horse or the skills learned during lessons is just the start. On the most basic of levels riding is a physical activity and is a great form of exercise. From the handling of heavy equipment and saddles to working an individual’s core and overall muscles riding improves balance, coordination, and increases joint mobility. Horses are very therapeutic animals. Therapeutic horse programs have risen across the country. A horse’s gentleness and subtle demeanor make for great human companion’s. Circle F campers often find it easy to relate to the horses on an emotional level.

The most important benefit of riding is the learning opportunities and personal growth.  Through the level of work and time spent with the horses during the summer, campers are building skills such as responsibility, compassion, leadership development, and self-discovery. Circle F Dude Ranch Camp 65 year history makes it an outstanding place to learn to ride. Summer riding programs include both Western and English riding disciplines and accommodates every level rider from first-timers to advance equestrians.

Circle F Dude Ranch Camp is located in Lake Wales Florida. It has a divided array of activities over six departments: Extreme Sports, Climbing, General Sports, Water Sports, Arts, and Horseback Riding. In each department, children can choose a skilled activity taught by counselors with experience and training. Incorporated through all activities are camp pillars of (R.I.P.P.L.E.) of respect, inspiration, play, positive thinking, leadership, and engagement. Whichever department a child may find interest in, there is always an opportunity for learning, growth, and independence to what Circle F views as the bridge to enhancing their self-confidence.

Parents always want to ensure their children enjoy their summer camp activities. A camp’s activities play a large part in laying a strong foundation for a positive camper summer. How a summer camp approaches their activities and program play a large part in what any camper experiences. Circle F Dude Ranch, like many summer camps ensure their activities are more than just fun. Sleepaway camps pride themselves on the personal growth benefits of their summer activities and program. These camps design activities that are fun, but also teach life lessons such as personal confidence and perseverance. Most parents want their camper to not only have fun but grow in a positive direction. When choosing the right program and activities for a camper is not difficult if you consider the following.

What structure for attending activities is used?

Consider the summer activity style of the camp. Is the camp skilled-focused,
free-choice or a mixture of both styles? There are advantages and disadvantages to each style. Skill focus activity styles allow campers to become stronger in select activities. Such as going to tennis every day of the camp session. Free-choice schedules allow campers to move from activity to activity, providing them the chance to experience multiple activities in the session. Such as rock wall on one day and arts and crafts the next day. The individual activity growth in a free choice style will not be as strong, but the broadening of their horizons will increase. At Circle F, we like a mix of both programs, offering for skill choices in the morning and free choice in the afternoon.

What activities are best for my camper?

Before camp starts, explore the summer activities alongside your child. Consider their interest and talk to them about which activities they may want to learn or gain more knowledge in. Consider choosing a camp that focuses on your child’s interests. Ask the camp how the campers will learn and build their self-confidence. Camps like Circle F Dude Ranch focus on both the fun aspects of a camp activity, as well as the deeper learning opportunities. Looking at an activity can help one understand the value it teaches. For example, sports activities often teach sportsmanship, following rules, self-discipline, and teamwork. Adventure programs like climbing and extreme sports help campers face fears, build self-confidence, and push boundaries. Horseback riding programs teach responsibility, care for others, and communication. A great camp like Circle F, will ensure to not just teach the activity, but that deeper values are reinforced.

How are the activities taught and by whom?

Is your child going to receive first-hand instruction from counselors? What training did these counselors receive? A camp counselor working in an activity is responsible for creating a fun, safe, and comfortable learning environment. These environments allow a camper to have fun and build confidence. This confidence leads to trust with staff and allows for real growth.
Ensure counselors have the training to teach at different age levels. How do they implement focus on your child’s fine and gross motor skills in activities?

What are the camp’s abilities to professionally and safely push a camper beyond his or her comfort zones? Understanding principles of “challenge by choice” and having the patience to work with concerns or fears campers is key. Circle F’s climbing department provides a great example of this training. Staff work one-on-one with campers to set realistic goals and help them obtain them. Success and growth can happen in many ways.

At Circle F Dude Ranch Camp we divide an array of activities into six departments. Our departments include: Extreme Sports, Climbing, General Sports, Water Sports, Arts, and Horseback Riding. In each department, your child is able to choose a skilled activity taught by counselors with experience and training. Incorporated through all of our activities are our camp pillars (R.I.P.P.L.E.) of respect, inspiration, play, positive thinking, leadership, and engagement. Whichever department your child may find interest in, there is always an opportunity for learning, growth, and independence to what we call the bridge to enhancing their self-confidence.

 

5 Reasons why you should Stay Connected with Circle F Dude Ranch Camp After Summer Camp

There is no doubt we are all impatiently waiting 10 months out the year just to get back to the short 2 months at the place we call home during the summer. Fortunately, you can stay connected with Circle F (your favorite summer camp) through social media and there’s good reasoning why you should.

Weekly Camp Updates

The best part of staying connected with your camp is you are in the loop. Discover how Circle F is more than just a summer camp, but home to hundreds of events and programs year round.  These programs span the range of private group weekends, outdoor education schools, family weekends, girl scouts and even spring break camps. By being part of our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter) you will always be up to date on the ongoing happenings of your camp.

Fun With Social Media

Every day there is something to look forward to at camp and our social media is not different. From fun and interactive games to inspirational and captivating posts you can become part of camp 365 days a year. It’s not just about checking out social media, but actually being part of the larger conversation. Every day is a new opportunity to reconnect with your Circle F Family and Friends. During the summer we have four sessions and being connected allows you to feel like you never left camp. In a way, it’s like being part of another session or as we like to say “5th Session.”

What to Expect for Summer Camp 2018

 It is hard to believe it is already September. As Ben always says at camp, “The work of summer 2018 begins the day summer camp 2017 ends.” This year is no different. Already conversations have begun about the 2018 summer staff, program, and new additions to camp. We are not giving away any secrets yet, but stay tuned for announcements about returning staff, a behind the scene look at program design and selection, and other surprises this year. As always, you can be part of the conversation and will help us make summer 2018 the best summer ever.

 Learn more about Circle F

 Did you know we started in 1952? Did you know that we use to have teepees and covered wagons? Circle F Dude Ranch has a rich history. As part of our camp family we want to share it all with you. Discover more about your camp this year through new interactive posts and stories shared through our social media program. Want to learn more or have a question send it to [email protected].

 The #1 Reason why we are the best camp in the Universe

 You are Circle F!  We are not the best camp in Florida or the world, but the best camp in the universe because of all of you. Our campers, their families, and our staff make up the most amazing multi-cultural group of individuals from around the world anywhere.  At least that’s our opinion. Our ability to enact change is unmatched.   Circle F and our community grow every year positively by living out our pillars (R.I.P.P.L.E.) of respect, inspiration, play, positive thinking, leadership, and engagement.  We know as part of the Circle F Family and Community that we not only uphold these ideas at camp, but also live them out in our everyday life. In doing so, we grow as individuals and we positively affect others we come in contact with.

We need you. We need to hear your stories, feel your connection, and see your participation to help push all of us in our mission. Together we encourage each other, challenge each other, and support each other. Together we are Circle F strong.    We care about you and we know you care about us.

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Join us this year for a 5th Summer Camp Session like no other before it.

 

If your wheels are turning for beneficial ways to have your child spend their next summer, take into consideration the many benefits of sending your child to summer camp.

Improved Self Esteem and Character
Studies have shown that children who attend summer camp have a greater resilience to the stresses of life, based on an article in “Psychology Today”. The freedom to choose courses for subjects in which they are interested give campers the ability to hone skills, but also the opportunity to take risks and explore new subjects. Your child may be interested in horses and may even dapple in riding throughout the year, but at a typical summer camp, he or she can also explore canoeing or arts and crafts. Succeeding in subjects of which they have always been interested and succeeding at new hobbies that interest him or her give children a sense of accomplishment and often spark year-round pursuits. Children away at camp are out from under the watchful eye of parents and teachers which gives them the freedom to explore and the responsibility to make important decisions, building character and problem-solving skills.

Physical and Mental Growth
The fresh air and physical activity that campers experience at summer camp go a long way towards a child’s well-being. Pair these amenities with the overall structure and activities at a typical camp and children are stimulated physically, emotionally and psychologically. Well-rounded menus offer children healthy options to fuel their adventures. Children flourish with the balance of activity, healthy food, outdoor time, and companionship summer camp affords.

Adventures and Memories to Last a Lifetime
Naturally, summer camps are designed to keep children busy, learning and entertained. From group skits to dances or campfires and movie night, children generally end a learning-filled day with a social experience for fun and making new friends. This combination of structure and free-time is an ideal scenario for a child’s growth. Adventures abound at summer camp and children get to experience a myriad of experiences in a condensed time frame, a formula for building a lifetime of memories.

Socialization and Friendships
When a child attends summer camp they are entering the scenario free of stigma and prejudice and have a clean slate on which to draw. Psycho-social development is key to a child’s emotional well-being and the unique balance at summer camp of children to exercise their freedom of choice whether it in the food they eat, the roommates they choose, or the courses for which they sign up offers children the ability to gravitate towards others who share their interests. Conversely, children benefit from the surprises of summer camp that includes combining new friends in bunk houses, classes, and gathered around for evening activities. These dynamics expose children to new acquaintances, cultures, and adventurers.
Summer camps come in a variety of platforms and can range from specialized interests to a framework that exposes children to all types of experiences. The combination of friendship, learning, freedom and structure is a recipe for success and will leave a lasting impression on your child for years to come.

Of course, equally important is your choice of camp!  With over 65 years of experience in welcoming children and families, Circe F Dude Ranch offers children a safe, positive environment with an array of fun activities. From horsemanship and archery to arts and crafts and theater – Circle F has it all! But don’t take our word for it,  read what previous campers and parents have to say:  Circle F Dude Ranch Camp Reviews

Often, people view summer camp as a collection of fun experiences to occupy a few weeks in the summer.   The reality of camp is much deeper and far more lasting.   At Circle F Dude Ranch Camp, we approach our program with the understanding that every activity, friendship made, and experience directly effects the camper’s development.

Child Development at Circle F Dude Ranch Summer Camp

I think when choosing a summer camp, it is important to understand the camp’s approach to your child’s development.   At camp, we have several priorities.  Number one is your child’s safety.   However, just as important is creating a fun experience that promotes positive outcomes on their development.

We talk a lot about this at camp and with parents.    I feel the phrase “positive outcome” is spoken daily by me to the staff.   What does positive outcome really mean?   What does it look like?   Most important, how does Circle F Dude Ranch create a fun program that can produce these outcomes?

 I believe the foundation of our program begins in the outdoors.   Being centered in the outdoor moves campers into nature.   Multiple studies have shown that time spent in nature relives stress, releases endorphins, and promotes healthy growth.   

We also know the value of not relying on electronics to foster creativity, but instead allowing the child to be creative without assistance.  The tactile experience of building a sand castle is unmeasurable against creating one a computer screen.   Tie in building a castle with a friend at camp and we begin to venture into a whole new level of growth in communication, friendship, and shared goals.

How Do We Structure Growth

Everything we do in our daily life is an opportunity for growth.    At camp the same is true.   The program of climbing, riding, swimming, sports, arts, and hiking to name a few allows us a starting point.   As we structure these activities, we look at both the hard skill and the soft skill.    A hard skill is something that the activity teaches.   For example, learning to aim a bow during archery activity.   A soft skill is an underlying development skill that you learn from an activity.   For example, archery also teaches self-confidence.

Teaching staff to look at both hard and soft skills allows us to build a program that helps with development.   Staff look for soft skills and actively use positive reinforcement and praise to acknowledge the skill.   We extend this out from not just our activities, but to the whole way camp operates.

During staff training we teach what soft skills look like and how to identify them.    When we want to focus on ideas of leadership within campers we have to look at the skill set.   A leader is someone that takes initiative when they see something that needs to be completed.   A camper that gets up in the morning and does his or her chores without being asked takes initiative.      Counselors are then able to praise that camper for being a great leader in the cabin.

Not only do they praise him or her.   They are very specific with their praise.   Making it clear to the camper that doing chores without being asked is taking initiative and great leaders know to do this.   This focused way of approaching our campers helps us to develop the positive outcomes we discussed earlier in this article.

Positive Outcomes Matter

We want Circle F summer camp to be more than just a camp; we want it to be a positive influence on your child.    Our approach of recognizing that each moment matters at camp gives us the ability to really make a difference.   The foundations that we teach at camp are not pass or fail; they are bedrock ideas that help individuals be stronger and more positive members of their community.

Every time a camper has a positive outcome, no matter what it might be, it helps step them in a direction of future success.   We are so lucky to have this opportunity each summer.  We are also so lucky to have amazing parents and guardians who believe in the process.    As summer approaches a world of new possibilities stand before us.   We look forward to seeing your camper soon.

Ben Moss is the Camp Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp and Outdoor Education Center in Lake Wales, Florida.   The outdoor education center hosts thousands of students every year from private schools across the state of Florida.    He has over 20 years of youth development experience working in the camp and outdoor education industry.

 

The spring outdoor education season is in full swing at the Ranch.   Schools from across the state of Florida converge at Circle F for their trips.   These one, two, three, and in some cases week long trips, expose their student population to a whole new world.   Stepping out of the classroom is an adventure for both the teacher and students.

Effects of Outdoor Education

The schools we partner with all have an outstanding educational curriculum.    Outdoor education is not about replacing a school’s current curriculum.  Instead it compliments their program and helps to bring new exciting facets.    Every educator knows that bringing students outside of their normal learning environment acts as a catalyst to expanded learning.

Stronger Relationships

Great outdoor education programs help schools improve student relationships.    The Ranch’s program, for example, has a no electronics policy.    When students look at each other instead of their phones their communication skills improve.   Experiences in teambuilding programs, rock climbing, horseback riding and other programs bring students closer together.  This also helps them to learn how to better trust, support, and communicate with one another.

Teachers also experience an improved relationship with their students.     Students and teachers share the experience of being together outside of the classroom together.    The Ranch’s outdoor education program allows teachers to step back and observe their students while our experienced staff run the program.     This gives teachers the luxury of being able to mentor students without worrying about being the authoritarian.

Green Space Makes a Difference

Most school campuses are beautifully manicured and maintained green spaces, there is no comparison to the actual wilderness.  Many students have never experienced the outdoors.  The peace and connection that comes with being in the forest is something that can’t be measured.  Tie that with the hands-on lessons of forest or fresh water ecology and students have a real opportunity to grow.    They are able to see hands on in person examples of what they have studied in their classroom.

Outside the Comfort Zone

For some, a trip into the woods will place them outside of their comfort zone.   This might be the best effect of all.   When students push beyond their normal limits, they grow.   That growth can be expanded into other areas of their life. Each time a student succeeds in something they did not think they could do, they become stronger. The programs of most outdoor education centers help students confront their fears in a safe and supportive way.

Making a Trip Happen

No school trip just happens.   It is through the dedicate work of teachers, parents, school administration and the outdoor education facility.   Here are a few simple tips to help you and your school make a trip happen.

Know why you’re going.

At Circle F we believe that each trip should be unique to the school.   Strong outdoor education programs will help schools tailor programs to their needs.   Therefore, the school should know what they want out of a program.   Is this trip about student bonding, ecology, leadership development or all of the above. Remember to work with your school administrator in crafting your goals.    Knowing what you want and having the support of the administration is important to having a successful trip and picking the right facility.

Develop a budget

Most schools will develop a budget for their trip.   Here are a few of the big things to consider if you have never planned a trip. How much will the facility cost?  What extra costs, if any, are part of the program or facility?  Factor costs for transportation to and from the facility.

Choose a facility

Once you know your budget and what you are looking for in a trip, you can choose a facility.    Make sure to talk with the facility director.   Understand how their program will support your goals.   Discuss who will teach and run the program and ask about their credentials.   For example, the Ranch uses college graduates with backgrounds in communication, camp leadership, education and youth development.   Our staff are trained by outside contractors to insure third party independence.    A great outdoor education facilities should meet these standards.

Beyond staff, the facility should have developed lesson plans with outcomes that they can share with the school.   These plans should be designed to meet the standards of the state or match the standards of your program.   These plans help to maintain continuity in teaching throughout the whole program.

Learn about the logistic of the facility.   How are meals served?  What is the menu?  How are dietary needs handled?   What are the sleeping arrangements?  Remember to have a plan for your chaperones and understand how the facility handles their sleeping arrangements.   These by no means are all of the questions to ask.   Don’t be afraid to ask to tour the facility.

Out of the Classroom and into the Wild

The Ranch prides itself in helping facilitate amazing and memory-making experiences for our schools.   If you have never taken a trip with your class, we encourage you to step out of the classroom.   Start with a one-day trip and build up to something longer.   All outdoor education facilities will be happy to help you in the right direction.    We know you and your school won’t regret it.

 

Ben Moss is the Camp Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp and Outdoor Education Center in Lake Wales, Florida.   The outdoor education center hosts thousands of students every year from private schools across the state of Florida.    He has over 20 years of youth development experience working in the camp and outdoor education industry.

What is a Summer Counselor:

Many college aged young adults think that being a summer camp counselor sounds like a fun summer job.  Hundreds of counselor’s applications flood into Camp Director’s email boxes every year.    They dream of an easy summer job.   The real work of a camp counselor is much more difficult, but can be very rewarding.  

The magic that is camp happens when the camp activities, program, and staff come together.   When they work together they provide campers with positive impressions that in turn result in growth in the camper’s life.   The reality is that every activity or program only happens through the dedication of the staff that run them.   Any Camp Director will tell you that a camp is only as good as the staff in the cabins and the activities.   

True counselors are positive role models that campers inspire to be like in their own life.   Counselor’s actions, words, and behaviors are closely scrutinized by campers.    At Circle F Dude Ranch Camp, we have seen campers attempt to dress like counselors, talk like counselors, and even change their hair style to match counselors.    On a deeper level, we see campers demonstrate compassion, kindness, and respect as they have seen modeled by counselors around them.

These things do not happen overnight.   They happen because of the counselor’s 24-hour caregiving and modeling.   Counselors at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp find themselves working days that start at 7 AM and end around 10:30 PM.   They all sleep in cabins with campers, along with their co-counselor.   There are very few jobs that college students hold that require that length of time and dedication.   During those days’ counselors find themselves as caregivers, coaches, big sisters, big brothers, and guides.    Their attention to their children ensures that each camper has a wonderful experience. 

Traits of a Great Summer Camp Counselor:

The traits of any great counselor start with a deep passion for working and educating young people.    This must be translated into the willingness to work long hours and a dedication to their campers.   An ability to take initiative when they see things that need to be addressed.   Camper will model the behaviors they see.  Every counselor must demonstrate a lifestyle that allows them to be engaging and worthy role model for the camper.

As a Florida Summer Camp, we work with Universities and Colleges across Florida, the United States and World.  We seek to attract counselors with the right mindset.   Circle F often hires staff with major’s in education, hospitality, psychology, and exercise science.  Further more most camps are open to all college majors, and in recent years we have seen majors that span from business to astrophysics applying to camp.  The key factor is not the major but always the individual’s personal desire to provide positive impacts on kids’ lives.

Becoming a Summer Camp Counselor:

CIT or counselor in training programs are great opportunities for younger individuals.  It provides experience in working in a cabin without all the pressures of being the full-time caregiver.   Circle F started a CIT program several years ago, that helps to train 17-year-old campers the skill sets needed to step into a counselor role at 18.  

A camp counselor is more than being a summer baby sitter it is truly a youth development specialist.   One will work long hours in the outdoors.   Need to love working with children.  Most important, Counselor must want to make difference in the world.  If one is willing they will find there is no job more rewarding then summer camp work.    Do you have the right stuff to be a counselor?    Join our team.   We encourage you to check out our website and apply. 

4 Steps for Better Play with a Purpose by Ben Moss

Not long after I started as the director of Circle F Dude Ranch, I found myself in a conversation about the camp’s mission with Paul Wells, owner of camp.   We discussed many things but one of the things we came back to often was that children do not have enough opportunities to play outdoors.   We both agreed that play is critical in the development of children and needs to be part of every camper’s experience at camp.   Paul often tells me that our campers should “Play with a Purpose.”

So, what does this mean?  I think to understand “Play with a Purpose,” we should start by exploring play overall.   Play can look like many things.  It could be time spent on a playground, riding a bike, video games, board games with friends, toys, or even make-believe.  For children, almost all aspects of play are teaching them basic and needed life-skills.   Furthermore, outdoor and imaginative play is teaching a child to be creative and non-linear problem solver.    Play with other children helps focus on teamwork and conversations, which in turn helps children to expand their interpersonal communication and conflict management skills.

Play with a Purpose is realizing the underlying life skill growth that happens when we play.   Learning to allow others play with our toys, such as blocks, helps us to learn to share and be flexible in the future.   Taking turns while playing a board game teaches us the importance of patience and being part of a team.   Play that requires concentration and practice to become better, like learning to dance or shooting a bow, helps us to learn patience and perseverance.     It doesn’t take much to see the deeper value of play.

Some things in our society have begun to stand in the way of this type of play.   The days of parents telling their children to go outside and not come back until it is time to eat have disappeared.    Computers, phones, and gaming systems often take the place of sand boxes, swing sets, and riding bikes.    My focus today is not to dwell on technology; I do not see it as an evil that is destroying our children. Technology is extremely valuable and in many cases, can teach some of the life skills we have been discussing.  Like all good things, technology must be approached with moderation.  My daughter is allowed a limited amount of “screen time” each day.   Technology, however, can’t replace classic interpersonal play.   It also can’t replace the tactile experience of the real outdoor world.

So how do we provide better play with purpose times for our children?   Like many things in life there is no easy pathway.   Turning off a television or video game can be very difficult, especially if your child does not want this to happen.

Step One:            Identify and maintain “no electronic” times daily.

More and more, child physiologists and doctors are recommending that there be an unplug time every day within our homes.    A time when the television, internet, phones, or video games are turned off.    This requires our children to pick up books, play with toys, or go outside.

Step Two:            Find an outdoor playground or park to go once a week.

I always find it funny to see people play games like tennis and golf on a computer screen when they could often head to a local park to play for real with other people.   Children love playgrounds.    Within the last week, I saw the smile of my daughter as she went down a slide for the first time.    Playgrounds offer the chance for your children to meet other children and to create imaginative play.   It also can’t hurt us parents to get outside and maybe even play a little ourselves.    This is where I note how much my wife enjoyed a swing at my daughter’s playground.

Step Three:         Play with our children at least once a day.

I know we all live busy lives, but finding 15 minutes to play with our kids teaches them the world.   Any parent out there understands how our children mimic what they see.  Sitting down to play with your child gives you the opportunity to be at their level.   Teach them values in a fun way.    For example, my daughter learned to say “please” in sign language through play.    Now when she wants a block or doll that Dad is holding, she says please.   In many cases 15 minutes can become an hour when you let it.

Step Four:           Sign them up for experiences with others.

We as parents have become very guarded with our children, but their growth depends on our ability to let go and allow them to be independent.   As they get older we must give them that chance.   From a one-day field trip, to spring break camps, to two weeks of summer camp; these fun and playful opportunities to get out into the world with their peers can really change their life.

As a new year begins, I encourage you to seek out more play opportunities for your child.    Remembering that in the end its more than just fun; its teaching them to be smart, polite, and talented individuals as they grow up.

Ben Moss is the Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp in Lake Wales Florida.   He has a degree in Speech and Interpersonal Communication from Southern Illinois University.   He has worked in the field of youth development  for over 20. 

“Really me? I can’t believe it; I am so honored,” were the excited words of Dori a 15-year-old third year camper selected to light the 2016 opening campfire at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp. Her contagious positive attitude mixed with an amazing approach to camp made her the perfect representative to be honored with the opening of our camp season. Months of planning, weeks of training, and days of final preparations came together in that moment. The mission of Respect, Inspire, Play, Positive Thinking, Leadership and Engagement came alive as campers and counselors began to interact.

Sunday proved to be a day of both happy reunions and the start of new friendships as campers found their way to cabins. With swim and health checks complete the real fun began with team building games, leather stamping name tags, and cabin bonding. One truly unique moment happened later in the day was when Neil a 9-year-old third year camper impressed the Circle F Staff when he noticed another camper taking an extra soda from store; something not allowed; and had enough courage to take the soda from the camper and return it to the store.   When asked why he did it he said “because it was the right thing to do.”  His leadership was not ignored because later in the week he was nominated and won the first leadership pillar award of the camp season.

IMG_0675The first few days of camp has proved to be fun-filled as campers settled into an activity schedule of climbing, swimming, skate park, wilderness camping, horseback riding, archery, arts and crafts, photography, and many others.  14-year-old third year camper, Jenna, led the way in the area of play as she actively participated in programs and made sure everyone in her group had a chance to take turn and play.  Counselors said everyone in their group had fun because of her enthusiasm. Great campers like her help other campers have an amazing summer experience. Camp always facilitates new friendships new activities being tried, and ultimately camper becoming stronger individuals.

Saturday brought the first Olympic day of the summer. Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow teams battled it out throughout the day. Campers and counselors alike took part in volleyball, kickball, tug-a-war, dodge-ball, poster making, sand castle making, knockout, and water balloon tournaments to score points for their teams. Counselor Sydney brought her normal high energy approach to the games to keep everyone involved. She was ultimately nominated by camper and counselor and won the engage pillar for the first week. The Yellow team was victorious during first session. Winning a pizza party for their team.

Last week also saw a trip to Disney’s Blizzard beach water park. A great way for the whole camp to splash around together and try out slides. Sunday brought another camp trip to Universal studios where many campers conquered roller coasters and explored the world of movies like Harry Potter.   Some camper opted to stay back at Circle F on Sunday for a fun filled day relaxing by the waterfront and playing games.

Overall week one has been non-stop fun. I have to admit as the Director I am exhausted just thinking about everything we did last week. One week of camp equals a month of fun back home. More important is all of the amazing things our campers are learning and the way they are growing as amazing young individuals. Through everything we have grown in Respect, Inspiration, Play, Positive Thinking, Leadership and engagement. At camp these are more than just words they are how we approach everything.

From water parks and amusement parks to camper activities and cabin time we are driven to be the best camp in the universe by the way we interact with each other and the world around us.   So happy to lead the best campers and staff anywhere this summer. To our parents, thank you for choosing Circle F Your children are amazing.

Ben Moss is the Camp Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp. He has over 20 years of youth development experience working in youth programing and summer camps.

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We have all become accustomed to instantaneously communication with our friends and loved ones through our phones, computers, and other devices.   I recently saw a refrigerator that can receive text messages and display them on a screen on the door.  I am not sure how I feel about this, but it is clear that electronic communication is part of our world to stay.   So it is very normal for parents and guardians to become a little nervous when they think about sending their child away to sleep away camp without these normal means of communication.   In a world where our children are only a text message away, how should we approach this beneficial shift in our summer communication style?

First I think there is value in all of us realizing that if we want our children to become stronger and independent individuals we must allow for space for that to happen.   Camp is the perfect place for this independence.  Campers are surrounded by caring individuals in a safe environment that encourages exploration.   We as parents are able to step back and allow for the growth.

I am, of course, not advocating that we completely stop or cut communication during the summer.  Most camps provide multiple ways for families to have positive interactions with their child while at camp.  At Circle F Dude Ranch Camp, we use a multi-level approach to communicating.   Parents and Guardians always have access to the Camp Director and Assistant Camp Director for questions or camper updates.   This is a great way to check in on your child without them realizing it.   Circle F Dude Ranch Camp counselors complete camper reports daily about every camper, including information about their activities, how well they are building friendships, and overall well-being at camp.   As directors we are always happy to share with parents how their camper is doing.IMG_0601

Our parents and guardians also use our Bunk One email and photo system.  This password protected site allows parents to send emails to their campers and receive responses back from campers with in a 48-hour period.  The emails are printed and presented to the campers with daily mail.  Parents can choose to ask their camper to handwrite a message back, which are scanned at the camp office and emailed back to the parent.   It is a modern form of letter writing.   Parents are also able to see photos of their camper in the photo galleries.

At Circle F we understand the importance of one on one communication with a camper and this is why a 5 minute phone conversation is set up each week between our campers and parents.    This allows the parent to actually speak with their child and hear how camp is going while not interrupting their camp process.   Campers love sharing their experience from the week and having that short time to talk to people from home.

Often the best way to communicate is the classic hand written letter or package.  Campers love receiving mail from home.   A fun package with things to share with their cabin is always appreciated.   Before sending packages a parent should check with a camp to find out their rules on things like food and other items in the cabins.    Post cards, letters, and notes always make campers smile.

Even with a disconnection form the electronics that drive so much of our communication today, it is still possible for families to have a great dialogue with their camper.    You might be surprised at the end of camp that your camper might even be a better communicator overall.   Less time on the phone almost always equals more face to face conversations and relationship building with cabin mates and the caring adults of camp.

Ben Moss is the Camp Director at Circle F Dude Ranch Camp.   He has over 20 years of youth development experience working in youth programing and summer camps.