FAQ and Updates
Frequently Asked Questions That Parents Ask
How do you find your counselors?
We spend far more time recruiting staff than we do recruiting campers. A camp can have the most fantastic facilities and incredible equipment, but if they don’t hire smart, responsible, and empathetic counselors the camper experience will be empty. In short, counselors make the camp.
Friendly Pines Camp advertises at colleges and universities in Arizona and across the country. We receive scores of applicants from whom to choose. The hiring process involves an application, a personal interview, and a thorough check of the applicant’s references and work history. If all of this produces a candidate who seems like a good fit, then we will run a professional, nationwide criminal background check. Every candidate who is hired will be drug tested. Our entire staff attends a week of staff training in May during which time they will be trained not only in how to set up a tent or how to cook with a Dutch oven, but also in how to handle homesickness, conflict-resolution, bullying, team-building, and more. We hold our staff to high standards of conduct and grooming. Drinking and smoking are absolutely forbidden, even during time off.
Why can’t I call my child at camp?
This is a very important question, and one that you need to be comfortable with before sending your child to camp. First of all, the logistics of having campers use the phones would be a nightmare, but that is not the most important reason. Part of a camper’s adjustment to camp life is learning to rely on his or her own strengths; to develop a sense of independence; to develop those critical social and personal skills that help us make our way in the world. As we will say often, camp is fun and exciting, and most campers transition smoothly and quickly, but it is certainly not unusual for any camper to need a day or so to adjust to this new situation. That adjustment is easiest when a camper is given the chance to sort things out on his or her own. Camp, like most things in life, requires some patience.
It seems reasonable to assume that a few kind words from a parent over the phone will help a camper over the adjustment hump; however, experience has shown that the opposite is true. Phone calls actually will delay adjustment. We know that for some parents this is a difficult policy to accept, but it’s the norm at most summer camps. To repeat, the “no phone calls” is a policy that you must be comfortable with before sending your child to camp. No matter what camp you choose, you need to believe that your child will be receiving the best 24-hour care and supervision. You need to feel confident that if anything were seriously wrong, the camp would notify you immediately.
Campers can write home daily (though they don’t always). We give each camper a post card once a week to send home. Parents can write, email, and even fax messages to their campers. Because we understand that campers often adjust to being away more quickly than parents adjust to having them away, we encourage you to call and find out how your child is doing any time you feel the urge. Our counselors submit reports on a child’s progress and adjustment each morning of the first three days of their stay and then a summary at the mid-way point. This way when you call our staff can tell you right away how your child is adjusting; how he is sleeping; how she is getting along with others, how she is eating, and more. Now and then parents receive a post card that is sad, and they call us to find out how things are going. We get right on that and will usually call you back with an update within the hour. In most cases, the time between when the post card was written and the parent’s phone call is made, whatever was causing the sadness has been long since resolved. Just as in everyday life, time heals all.
What if my camper takes medications?
We have three registered nurses who live on the grounds in our Health Center or Infirmary. It is there job to administer prescribed medications. It is our goal to get each camper to take responsibility for his or her own health, so we try to train them to show up at the Infirmary when it’s time to take meds. As you can imagine, this takes some time, particularly with younger campers, so it’s not unusual to see our nurses tracking down campers who failed to show. Along with the nurses on the grounds, Friendly Pines has a doctor in town, which is only a 15 minute drive from camp.
Will the camp call if my child is ill?
Absolutely. Our policy is to call parents whenever the camper must spend the night in the Infirmary or if the camper must visit the doctor in town. We probably won’t call if our nurses need to remove a splinter or bandage a scrape. We probably won’t call if the camper arrives at the Infirmary just plain run down, even if he or she is asked to lay down for an hour or two to recuperate. As in all areas of camp, you are welcome to call the Infirmary. You may want to find out if Billy has been showing up for meds, or if Susie has been having trouble with her asthma, or to find out what is behind the claim on Johnny’s postcard that he had a fever of 115 degree and was puking for four days.
Do many campers come to camp alone?
Your camper may find that some kids from his or her school, soccer team, or Scout troop also attend Friendly Pines. Most kids, however, come to camp for the first time not yet knowing anyone at all, but this changes pretty quickly! Camp is the perfect place to make new friends because there’s so much to share and do. When the summer’s over many campers discover that they now have two sets of friends – their “school” friends from September to June and their “camp” friends whom they look forward to seeing each summer. Many “first-time” campers leave Friendly Pines with life-long pals (including the staff, who’ll be friends that they can trust).
How will the activities that my child takes be determined?
We create a unique schedule for every camper, based totally on his or her choices! On the day the campers arrive, they, with their counselor’s assistance, complete the Activity Choice Sheet. With over 30 different activities to choose from, campers are be able to find plenty of activities that are right up their alley. We believe that camp’s a place to explore personal interests, so that’s exactly what we want each camper to do. We will mail parents a copy of their child’s schedule a couple of days after the schedules are created. You can, of course, call us and we’ll relay the schedule over the phone.
It’s important to remind you that what the campers are scheduled into is based on their choice. Most parents understand this practice, but occasionally a parent will want to “influence” the campers choices. Or upon seeing their child’s schedule, some parents will call to try to get things changed. We think it is critical that campers make their own choices. Granted, campers sometimes choose an activity only to discover that they don’t really like it. We think this is an important lesson in learning to make decisions. We also believe that campers will get more out of camp if they are participating in the activities that they enjoy, so we will always make changes to a camper’s schedule as long as he or she has given the activity a try. We don’t simply change a camper to get them in an activity with a friend.
If there’s an activity my camper doesn’t like, does he or she have to take it?
Absolutely not!! As mentioned earlier, activities campers participate in are the ones they’ve selected. We know that not everyone likes sports, or swimming, or even horseback riding. We instruct the campers to take the activities they like!! In fact, if they find themselves in an activity that they not as fond of as they thought they might be, we’ll be glad to change it (so long as you’ve at least given it a try).
What do campers eat?
Our meals here at Friendly Pines can best be described as delicious, plentiful, and nutritious. Because campers are active from 7 AM to 9 PM every day, they’ll need plenty of fuel, and that’s why we don’t serve a lot of “junk food”. Campers rarely have any trouble finding plenty of the kinds of foods you like to eat. Pastas, homemade soups, salads, hamburgers, outdoor hot cakes, lasagna, veggies, fresh baked breads, muffins, and cinnamon rolls are just a few of the items that will show up on our menus. We serve desserts at both lunch and dinner which include fruits, ice cream, and a variety of treats, whipped up by our baker. Then to keep you going the rest of the day, we serve a snack mid-morning and another in the afternoon.
How do you deal with picky eaters?
Couple of things to keep in mind. First, lots of campers are picky eaters. Parents of picky-eaters tend to think that their child is the pickiest of all eaters. They would be surprised (even a little comforted) to learn that many children are just as picky. Secondly, we don’t turn the dinner table into a battlefield. We never force campers to eat things they don’t want. We never withhold dessert for not eating one thing or another. We make plenty of healthy, tasty food available. Every now and then a camper will try something new either because they come to the table hungry or because they see other boys and girls trying the food, so maybe it’s not so bad. Experience has shown us that our approach is quiet successful.
We don’t provide options for campers who don’t like what’s on the menu. (We do, however, provide options for campers with special dietary needs.) Every meal offers plenty of choices, and every camper will find something they like. Most every meal includes freshly baked items, but we don’t let campers fill up on bread. Two is the limit. If a camper is not eating much, we ask the counselors to tell us so we can monitor the progress. In time, their appetites will increase. Again, we believe that if we serve plenty of good, kid-friendly meals; if we offer sensible snacks between meals but don’t go overboard; campers will come to meals ready to eat and will find enough to keep them going for the rest of the day. It works.
What are the cabins like?
The cabin isn’t just the place where campers sleep, change clothes, and clean-up. It is also the place where many of their memories of camp are born. It’s where they’ll laugh and swap stories with their cabin mates and counselor. It’s where they will play games or cards on a rare rainy afternoon. It’s also where they’ll read and write letters home during siesta. For these reasons we’ve designed the cabins to offer privacy along with fun and friendships. Our campers live in rustic redwood cabins and sleep on sturdy bunks. Each person has a set of shelves for his or her clothes. All of our cabins are equipped with private showers and toilets, so there’s no trudging into the darkness if they have to use the bathroom late at night.
How many campers live in a cabin?
The number of kids in each cabin really depends on age and school grade. Our youngest campers may live in a cabin with just 4 kids and one counselor. Some of the slightly older may live in a group of six with one (and sometimes two) counselors. As the campers get older, there’ll be 8 to a cabin with at least one counselor. Cabin counselors live in the cabin the whole session to see that the cabins runs smoothly, to make sure everyone knows where to go, and to help everyone get along and become good friends. Most importantly, the counselor often helps make camp fun!! We, therefore, spend a great deal of time searching for young men and women who are responsible, caring, kind and really enjoy being with kids.
Campers are often worried about being in a cabin with a bully. Friendly Pines has always held its campers to the highest standards when it comes to the way they treat one another. We have a zero tolerance for bullying, hazing, and teasing. We will not allow one or two campers to ruin the experience for the rest of the cabin. We feel it is our job to teach people to get along. Putdowns and cruelty may be something that people do to get cheap laughs on television shows, but it’s not something that is allowed at Friendly Pines. We want our campers to trust that Friendly Pines is a safe place where all campers are free to be who they are.
How do you deal with homesickness?
Not surprisingly this is the question most parents want to ask. Somewhat surprisingly (at least to most parents) homesickness is not that big of a problem at camp.
Most campers really adjust quickly to camp life; others may need a day or so. With so many new things to do, campers simply don’t have time to be homesick! Sometimes a camper may feel a bit unsettled at first, especially the first night. We understand that this may happen and work hard to make the first days extra-busy. Once campers are involved in their activities, and get to know their cabin mates and staff, your camp world seems so bright and friendly. Lonely feelings seldom last long, but our counselors will monitor a camper’s adjustment and report his or her progress to the camp office each of the first three mornings of camp.
Here is how we approach homesickness. On a philosophical level we know that there’s nothing at all wrong with missing Mom, Dad, or pets, but learning to be away from home is one of the first important steps along the road to growing up. To grow accoustomed to camp, some campers need extra support and encouragement – something every person at camp is ready to deliver. Secondly, they need time. Parent’s often ask how many campers went home early because of homesickness. In all honesty, over the course of the last twenty years, we have never suggested a camper go home because of homesickness. Never. In all that time, we have never seen a camper homesick on the final days of camp. They ALWAYS adjust. Admittedly, a camper who was homesick early on may feel a little wistful now in then in the course of 24-hour day. That’s to be expected. But that’s not homesickness. For the vast majority of the day, that same camper is smiling and comfortable and cared for.
Is 6 years old too young?
Not at all. 6 is a great age to start going to camp. In fact we’ve found that 6 and 7 year-old campers are the quickest to adjust to camp life. They’re so gung-ho about the huge choice of activities that they get into the flow of things right away. We also add some special touches to make camp comfortable and carefree. First of all, younger campers will live in a cabin with kids their own age and grade. Their cabin will be in what we call a “village”. For instance a 7-year-old boy may live in Mohave cabin which is part of “Boy’s Lower Village”. There’s even a special play area just for Lower Villagers! Meanwhile, the older boys and girls live in their own villages around camp.
What if my child has never ridden a horse?
Not a problem. We offer English and Western riding at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, so we can place each camper in the activity matching his or her skill level. As a matter of fact, most of the campers who take riding are beginners. Riding isn’t the only activity that’s offered at different skill levels. Others are: Tennis, Swimming, Pony Driving, Challenge, and Vaulting.