Are you ready for summer camp?

Overnight camps are a summer tradition. For some people, summer camps are a way for generations of the same family to share similar memories of canoeing, “mystery meat” in the mess hall and cabin wars. For others, camps are a chance for kids to trade over-packed schedules of modern life for a few weeks of good old-fashioned fun. Thanks to Hollywood, even those who have never set foot on the hallowed grounds of Camp Whatsitsname have vivid images of what summer camp is like – food fights, campfires, homesick campers, counselors canoodling in the cabins…well, you get the picture.

I did not go away to summer camp until I was nine years old. Even though I didn’t go every year like some people used to do, I always had a great time. I can still remember canoeing, swimming, being “forced” to write postcards home to my parents, making new friends and having to wear flip-flops in the shower. By the time I went off to camp, I was too old to feel really homesick, too young to canoodle, and apparently at a very well-behaved camp (alas, no food fights).

When I think back on it, I’m glad I had the chance to go when I was young and appreciate the little bit of independence I gained from being away from home.

My children have never gone to summer camp, however. They have gone away on weekend camp-outs with Girl Scouts, staying in both tents and cabins. Though a weekend is really not long enough, the girls look forward to and enjoy those camping trips. They also love it when we go camping and hiking as a family.

They have just never expressed any serious interest in spending their summers at a camp. I can’t think of any of their friends who go to residential summer camp either. I don’t know whether that’s a sign that summer camp isn’t as high a priority for today’s kids; or whether their families (like ours) find it difficult to carve out a few weeks for camp each summer after scheduling family vacations; whether the camps are too expensive; or parents are reluctant to send their kids off, and opt for day camps (or no camp at all) close to home.

It’s a shame, because a quick search for summer camps turns up a large number of choices that vary by type, length-of-stay, amenities and geographic location. While selecting a camp without any prior knowledge of it or recommendation could be overwhelming, it’s interesting to see just how many ways kids can spend their summers these days. There are still plenty of traditional camps out there, but now many specialize in one type of activity – like horse camp, sports camp, art camp, church camps, adventure camp, academic camp, computer camp, etc.

Are your kids still interested in summer camping?  Have they attended camp before? How old were they the first year they went? How long did they stay the first summer?  Do you think the experience of being away from home for a week or weeks was a good one? If your child was homesick, how did you handle it?

What type of camp did you choose and how did you go about selecting it?

Is it too late for parents to find a sleepaway camp for this summer? Are financial aid packages available for parents? Ideally, when should parents begin looking to reserve their child’s spot for camp each summer?

45 comments Add your comment

mom2alex&max

May 7th, 2010
7:39 am

I sent my oldest last year and he had a BLAST!

I think part of it may be that middle schoolers think an overnight camp like that is lame and are demanding more expensive camps that have A/C, computers, spas, and shopping. Maybe I’m wrong.

Both of my sons are going again this year and they are very much looking forward to it!

Jeff

May 7th, 2010
7:41 am

I went to a christian boys camp in the late 70’s that is still successful today. It is McColl’s in upstate SC. In retrospect, it fits with my parents and they way they were trying to raise me. I would love for my daughter to go to a camp of my choosing but I don’t get a vote on that.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there. FCM, Motherjane, keep up the good work. The ones who act out and inappropriately always seem to get the headlines and attention, but the good ones make a difference in the lives of everyone around them.

motherjanegoose

May 7th, 2010
7:44 am

Both of my kids loved summer camp. They went to church camp and also a week at another camp.
Four weeks of camp to pay for but worth the investment, for them.

My sister was camp nurse at a camp and so I would fly my son ( by himself) to her and he would stay a week at camp and a week at their house…both with his cousins. He LOVED it. I think he was 10. He also started church camp when he was in middle school.

My daughter started camp when she was 8. I had a meeting in California, for a week, and needed somewhere safe for her. Her brother was 13 and could stay home part of the day ( he went with friends in the morning or to work with Dad one or two days) but I did not feel good about leaving them home together.

NOTE TO THOSE WHO ( wrongly) THINK I AM A HELICOPTER MOM….I did not take my daughter to her first camp….imagine it…I was already gone and my sister went with my husband to drop her off. I covered everything with her before I left. My sister said it was hard to leave her but she seemed fine. SHE HAD A BLAST and went several more years after that to the same camp which was then near Hampton, GA. She also started church camp in middle school and will be spending her last week at HS camp this year.

I think all kids should have the chance to go to camp, without any technology….just nature. They forge new friendships and learn all sorts of things. We found very affordable M-F camps, but it was about $1000 or so for 4 weeks of camp ( 2 per child) back then…over 10 years ago. My kids earned part of the money themselves and they always took their own spending money…even that is a lesson as being able to spend their money ( $20) freely, at the canteen, gives them some independence.

Camp lesson for Moms: organize 6-8 outfits WITH your child on their bedroom floor. Include top, bottom, socks and underwear. Put each set in one plastic grocery bag. Tie the bag. Add one large trash bag.

Result: child will grab a bag to take with them to the shower ( if they shower…some kids do not) and have everything they need to wear…it may actually match too. No worries about getting out of the shower and having no underwear or dropping your socks somewhere on the path. Put all dirty clothes in the large trash bag after wearing them. You may want to tuck a dryer sheet in that bag to help with the odor.

Pack extra clean white socks…my son went sockless for a few days and due to wet and dirty tennis shoes, he had blisters and his shoes smelled awful. This, according to my sister who acquired his suitcase and the odors inside when she took him home with her boys.

Also, take your insurance card and copy both sides so they can be read clearly. They do have you fill out forms but when your child is ( not with you) at the hospital ( as our son was with a broken finger) it its MUCH easier to have the real thing…if you can send your card…even better.

Extra glasses are good too…our daughter’s fell into the lake from the canoe. She did not have contacts then and went the rest of the week without them.

motherjanegoose

May 7th, 2010
7:50 am

@ Jeff…thanks so much…that was really kind!

@mom2alex&max…SPAS??? Maybe I am REALLY out of the loop here. Is this what kids expect?

We have never camped as a family ( I did it often growing up and it is NOT my cup of tea) BUT my kids loved the outdoor nature camps and had a great time without any technology or modern conveniences such as IPODS or cell phones.

G.R.I.T.S.

May 7th, 2010
8:14 am

my older sister and i went every summer to Camp Timber Ridge…not sure if its still around…it was a girl scout camp and i loved it. my kids and i always went camping ourselves…and loved it. i did learn a lot from my camping as a child..my family wasnst into camping so i never would have known how much i liked it or how to do it…my grand daughter in atlanta goes to a day camp every summer mainly for the ‘day care’ thing but she always likes it…shes 12 this year so im not sure if she will go or not…i think over night camps are great for kids…lots of good experiences….my younger daughter went to a computer programming camp at transylvania university one summer…she loved that…i got a lot of flack from family members about letting her go so far away for 2 weeks…but she really loved it….

Kaleidoscope

May 7th, 2010
8:31 am

It is with great delight that I invite you to join Kaleidoscope Kids Camp of Georgia for Summer Camp 2010. This summer’s theme, ChemistryPalooza, will be one to remember as we explore the many facets of chemistry. Our challenging curriculum, separated into three levels of learning, will teach your child concepts that will engage them to understand how mathematics and chemistry happens every day in our lives. We will learn through marshmallow molecules, chemical reactions, weekly themed field trips (such as exciting trips to the Leaping Lions Fun Center, Six Flags and Huntsville Alabama Space Center to name a few) and an engaging understanding of the periodic table. Familiar routines such as our daily math drills, swimming, skating, cultural enrichment activities, Fun Fridays and exciting guest speakers will leave your child with memories to last a lifetime. We have also enhanced our program by adding ten additional computers to our lab for activities that will train your future leader(s) for careers in technology, science, engineering or mathematics!

Kaleidoscope Kids Camp of Georgia is a nine-week long camp for kids ages 5 to 13 and will run from June 1, 2010 – July 30, 2010 (closed on Friday, July 2nd). Our hours of operation are 8:00am – 6:00pm to accommodate most parents work and/or commute schedules. There is a $50 registration fee per camper ($100 per family of 2 or more campers) and weekly rates have increased to $135 week per camper to enhance the quality of science resources and materials for your child.

To learn more about Kaleidoscope Kids Camp of Georgia, please visit our newly re-launched website at http://www.kaleidoscopecamp.com and be sure to visit our photo gallery from Summer 2009!!

TechMom

May 7th, 2010
8:31 am

@MJG I live near Hampton.

My son goes to Boy Scout camp for a week every summer and loves it. His troop votes on which camp they go to each summer. These are pretty structured and they go with kids and leaders they know so not exactly the traditional overnight camp but about 1/3 or 1/4 of the price. Last year some of the older boys chose to do a high-adventure camp and went sea kayaking on the coast for a week. He decided he never wanted to do that again but it was still a great experience. He also goes to church camp but since my husband and I are leaders, he’s been doing that since he was about 7. This year he will spend 2 weeks in Nicaragua. I’ve tried to talk him into going to an overnight camp in north Ga but he doesn’t want to go without a friend and quite frankly, due to the cost, I haven’t pushed the issue. It’s actually about the same cost for him to do a 2-week mission trip to a foreign country as it is for a 2-week resident camp. Hopefully he’ll gain a little more of a worldly vision on the mission trip.

I think parents choose day camp over away camps simply because it’s so much cheaper ($100-200 versus $700-1,000 per week.)

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Lori

May 7th, 2010
8:34 am

I don’t think I’m quite ready to let go of mine yet. But he’s only 6, so maybe in a few more years. It’s good to know there are some good camps still out there though. I think my son would have a blast.

JJ

May 7th, 2010
8:36 am

Both my brother and I did summer camps, in the Rocky Mountains!!!! LOVED it. I think that is what has given me my love of the outdoors, and simple living. We were taught how to live off the land, how to start a fire, what berries are eatible, which are poison, what poison ivy looks like, etc. We learned how to cook eggs on a coffee can on top of a fire…..that was so much fun…..

I am getting ready to buy my daughter a car, and after that I am focused on buying myself a camper and me and the puppy are going to start camping.

motherjanegoose

May 7th, 2010
8:44 am

Sorry to be in my own hoola hoop. I was not even thinking about day camps.

My kids went to those too. Every summer! As a teacher, I worked day camps myself to earn extra summer money. Usually with Gwinnett Parks and Rec but also with Duluth.

There were many times I was outside from 8-1 for an entire week with 40 or so kids: ages 4-6. Some of my friends would say:
WOW…looks like you had a great time at the beach…you are so tan. RIGHT…my week was NOT the beach. We would come home, eat lunch and pass out all afternoon from exhaustion.

JATL

May 7th, 2010
8:56 am

We do some day camps in the summer, but mine are still too small for sleep away camp. However, when they’re old enough, unless they are adamantly opposed -I definitely plan on sending them. I ALWAYS wanted to go so badly, and my mother never would let me. I think it’s a fantastic learning experience, fun and a great place for memories. I DID go on church trips when I was older that I loved. I’ve been looking at summer camp idea already for my boys in a few years, and one reason some people may not do it -they’re EXPENSIVE! I wouldn’t expect them not to be, but in this economy some may have crossed that off the list.

I’m taking note of some of the camps mentioned today so I can check into those in a couple of years when it’s time! I don’t think I could ever stand to send them off for the whole summer, but a week (or maybe two depending on age) would be great!

Delia

May 7th, 2010
9:07 am

Hi You guys-
I would love to put my child in overnite camp but she has serious allergies, and I am afraid. She is 9…Any good ideas? Also I have zoo camp and the acquarium down but what other fun camps are available? She is science freak but also likes to be active…

Wayne

May 7th, 2010
9:17 am

@JJ: You brought back a memory of one of my camps I went to as a kid. We learned how to boil water in a paper cup. Sure, it has all sorts of practical uses today, in my IT job, but it was very cool back then!

That was a Boy Scout camp that I attended. We, as a family, did a lot of seasonal camping. That was the best thing. Sun, water, boating, water skiing, canoeing. It was all good.

But planning for all the day camps for the boys can be a chore. I don’t know what it’s like there, but here, we’ve run into the economy. the park and rec people send out the booklet (schedule) and you sign up and send in your deposit/money. Put it on your schedule and then, oops, not enough people signed up so that one got canceled. That’s happened a few times.

JJ

May 7th, 2010
9:56 am

Delia, check Fernbank. I think they have some pretty cool day camps…

Delia

May 7th, 2010
10:08 am

Thanks JJ, looking online now…

Ally

May 7th, 2010
10:16 am

My kids go to day camp, but they are only 4 & 7. I started going to overnight camp in 4th grade, so will think about it after third grade. My sister’s kids (in NY) on the other hand go to overnight camp every year for 6-8 weeks, which I think is much too long. (Last summer her kids were 7 and 10, just finished second and fourth grade respectively). They had a good time, but I would miss my kids. Does anyone else send their younger kids away for that long? Does anyone else think this is too long?

kj

May 7th, 2010
10:39 am

Both of my girls, now 12 and 13, have been going away for a month in the summer for 5 years now. We always plan our summer vacations together before or after. They absolutely love summer camp and at this point, would not trade it. It keeps them busy, it allows them to grow, it allows them to decompress after a long school year, and it gives us (parents) a much needed break to spend a month however we wish. It’s been a great arrangement for all of us.

TechMom

May 7th, 2010
10:42 am

@Ally, considering our summer is only 8 weeks long, I can’t imagine sending my son away the whole time. Though I do admit that for 2 summers when I was in college, I sent my son to stay with my parents for 6 weeks at a time so I could work and take summer semester classes. I missed him but I was so busy, that I knew he would either end up in daycare and not seeing me in the evenings or it would have taken me another year to finish college.

I think one of the benefits of summer break is that kids have time to get bored and thus look forward to school starting back. It’s hard to get bored when you’re at camp and doing stuff all day.

motherjanegoose

May 7th, 2010
11:04 am

No, I could not send my kids away for that long…when they were little. We did all sorts of summer things, as a family, when mine were little. I also could never have afforded the fee for that length of time. To each his own!

Delia

May 7th, 2010
11:10 am

I am very afraid of sending my daughter overnight, only day camp unless I am going. She has to use an epipen if she comes in contact w/a peanut. Some adults are more sensitive to this than others, and she is still learning about her allergies. And, yes I do agree on down time for them…They need time to miss school and to be creative w/o an intinerary (sp. sorry)

TechMom

May 7th, 2010
11:33 am

@Delia I understand your concern with your daughter only being 9. But in a couple of years when she is responsible enough to know what to do, what to avoid, etc. then I would encourage you to get her plugged into a overnight trip or short camp so that you can feel comfortable sending her off for longer periods later- for they are sure to come. Of course you’ll need to inform the adults of her condition and give them instructions should anything occur but the she’ll gain invaluable lessons of independence and confidence.

catlady

May 7th, 2010
12:27 pm

Delia, I think there are specialty camps for kids with severe allergies.

I went to YMCA camp after 5th grade, and then church youth camp after that. I was terribly homesick, but it was good for me. I got to go on a mission trip for 10 days when I was 16, to Mexico right before the 1968 Summer Olympics (yeah, do the math) which was an interesting time to be an American in Mexico. It was a great experience for me.

My kids went to church camp and did very well. I was in grad school, single parent, so they got scholarships and worked at the church sweeping, etc, for part of the cost. It was great for them, too.

Meme

May 7th, 2010
12:35 pm

I went away to summer camp twice because my dad insisted upon it. He was good friends with the man in charge of the Gwinnett County 4-H and this was a political move on his part. I hated Rock Eagle because I could not go home and sleep in my bed. I was shy and lonely and camp didn’t help. Almost 50 years later, I still have nightmares about it.

motherjanegoose

May 7th, 2010
1:06 pm

Meme…you make a good point.

My parents forced me to go to our church’s teen winter retreat, in Arkansas.
I did not want to go but they knew all the staff and were also friends with them. I did not feel well as we drove over and begged them not to go. They thought I was trying to get out of going. In the middle of the evening chapel…I stood up and threw up all over the place. Turns out, I had the flu. The nurse called my parents: who wanted to know if I was really sick or making it up.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? If my kid threw up at camp, I would be there ASAP.

My sister recalls going to the same camp and being the last one there on Saturday at noon. My parents took their time coming to get her and she was wondering if they did not want her at home.

Yes, I have lots of crazy stories from my childhood. I sent my daughter/son post cards, telling them how I missed them but that I knew they were having a GRAND time and have so many things to tell me when they got home. I mailed one before they left, to be sure they would get it. My own kids loved camp!

Different parenting styles for sure.

FCM

May 7th, 2010
1:06 pm

@ Jeff—Thank you

On topic: My eldest is going for her 4th summer to Church Camp. It is the 2nd year she gets to go for 5 days. She is excited. My youngest is going for the first time, hers is the same place but it is only Friday to Sunday. She is understandably mixed in her emotions.

They both will go to day camp most of the summer. Those have a wide variety of things — field trips to Fernbank, Stone Mountain, the pool, and onsite–craft projects, talent shows. Both have enjoyed that experience.

Then of course there is the 2 weeks of “vacation” where they go to see Daddy’s family. (Daddy is there for a few days but this year he won’t be). That time is spent watching tv, eating junk, going to the beach, and playing cousins.

It is hard to let them go — I enjoy spending my time with them — but the independence and other skills they gain are very important in life. I just hold back the tears until they cannot see me and know that I am doing the right thing.

motherjanegoose

May 7th, 2010
1:07 pm

This is gross but it was NOT self induced vomiting, on my part.

JJ

May 7th, 2010
1:08 pm

My daughter went to Rock Eagle. Both my nieces went there too. They loved it. It was my daughter’s first week long trip away from me…..

Meme

May 7th, 2010
1:26 pm

I loved Rock Eagle too. I just didn’t want to stay there a week.

mom2alex&max

May 7th, 2010
1:29 pm

Delia: I cannot speak for every camp out there. however, at the one I sent my son to, they take those things very seriously and they make everyone aware. She would most likely carry the epi-pen on her, but the counselors would also PLUS the nurse on site would be aware of it. They take VERY good care of the kids at this camp.

I think you should consider some kind of one night overnight thing she could go to so that she could get used to it and start learning. Just my opinion.

JJ

May 7th, 2010
1:53 pm

Delia, I agree with Mom2Alex&max. It will increase her independence and gain some self confidence. If she knows how to handle the epipen, if needed, then she should be fine, along with adult supervision. But try one nighters for starters….that is a great idea.

Diane

May 7th, 2010
1:54 pm

I went to Girl Scout Camp, church camp and 4-H camp as a kid. Went for years and loved it.

My daugher started sleep away camp at age 3 – with Mommy. We go to a You and Me camp through our church’s Atlanta organization. It’s a 3 day, 2 night camp and she LOVES it. We are going this summer for the 3rd year and she’s already talking about it. When it’s time for her to go to real sleep away camp (without Mommy!) she’ll be so ready. Plus, I went to this camp when I was a kid and I love doing the same activities with her that I did as a kid.

catlady

May 7th, 2010
1:57 pm

Delia, I am wondering, are her allergies more threatening at night?

truthanne

May 7th, 2010
2:24 pm

with three kids my parents could not afford to send us to camp, but I never really realized it because none of my neighborhood friends went either so I guess I didn’t know what I was missing out on. Now that my parents have the money the are spoiling my niece and pay for her to have weekly horse riding lessons and sending her to horse camp…and I love hearing her talk about it…glad they are able to do that for my sister who is single with not baby daddy in the picure. My mom always says she is glad she can do for her grand-daughter what she could not do for us…

DB

May 7th, 2010
3:45 pm

My daughter went to her first sleep-away camp at the age of 8, over at Timber Ridge (and yes, Timber Ridge is still an active, fun camp). She also loved the water sports camp at Pine Acres, and did two weeks at Misty Mountain doing horseback camp. In her mid-teens, she started attending a music camp in Michigan and loved, loved, loved it. My son went to Woodruff every year from 12 to 18 (he was more of a homebody, but I finally insisted — and even tho he was miserable going up the first time, and wrote several plaintive letters suggesting that we come get him, he was wild about going the next year :-) — to the point where he did Philmont twice!

Several of my daughter’s friends went to Greystone, up in North Carolina, and loved it. Growing up, my family was not a big camping family, and neither was my husband’s — thank goodness for Scouts, and giving our kids the opportunity to explore camping without us having to fight the bugs and bedrolls!

JATL

May 7th, 2010
8:02 pm

Totally off subject, but another woman with a typically male name -author Curtis Sittenfeld (sp?) who wrote “American Wife.” It’s a great book too! Supposedly about Laura Bush and very dead on -there are even eerily accurate comparisons going on now between LB’s new memoir and that book. Check it out if you get a chance!

G.R.I.T.S.

May 7th, 2010
10:21 pm

i read that jatl…pretty interesting…

i just looked at the website of camp timber ridge…wow it sure has changed a lot since i went there….im glad its still going strong..i had some great times there

Mom Of 2

May 7th, 2010
11:51 pm

Delia – My son loved the Club Scientific camp so much last year that he requested to go do another of their camps this year. Last year he also did Camp Invention but he didn’t like that they weren’t real inventions that would work and didn’t want to go back.
Re overnight camps – Last summer my son did a “beginner camp” (Sun – Fri, rising 1st-3rd graders) and mostly enjoyed it. We would be sending him back this year except that it clashes with family reunion.

CampThunderbirdAlumna

May 8th, 2010
11:47 pm

I went to Camp Thunderbird for many years from ages 9 – 14. It is a fabulous Methodist-based camp located just outside of Charlotte. I went for two weeks each summer, and I still stay in touch with many of the girls that were in the same cabin with me year after year. Learning how to sail, canoe, ride horses and play tennis are all things that I learned at Camp Thunderbird and still enjoy thirty years later!

Mary

May 9th, 2010
1:54 am

Went to Girl Scout camp for two years — Camp Red Cliff. Two-week sessions. Learned to eat oatmeal; went camping; slept mostly in tents w/ bunks; went river hiking, swimming; had campfires and some mores. I was so glad to get away from home for two weeks and my little sister. I think my mom enjoyed the time with her older daughter away, too.

brenda

May 9th, 2010
8:56 am

i spent several years in day camp before starting overnight camps after 4th grade.i usually spent 4 weeks away each summer at a variety of camps like Timber Ridge– loved it! to church, band and sports camps. Being an only child, these were the best times for me as i loved being around all of the other campers A great learning experience and wonderful times…. i even spent every summer in college as a camp counselor!

JudithB

May 11th, 2010
7:07 pm

My two teenage sons have attended iD Tech Camps for three straight years and have loved it, and my daughter is all set to go this summer. The boys took courses in programming and video game design and my daughter is enrolled in a video editing course. She will be going to the Emory University location but they have locations all over the place.

Megan

May 16th, 2010
1:23 pm

If you have young kids that need something fun for the summer but aren’t ready for a full day of camp, try Preschool Playhouse. Thematic, creative, day camps for kids ages 3-5. Some themes: Pretty Princess, Pirate Play, Superheroes, Circus Surprises, etc. Check out http://www.ateachersheart.com for all the info!

Sedgrid

June 23rd, 2010
9:34 pm

If your child is going to summer camp, then you can rent a gps tracker at http://www.locateloveones.com. Most camps will allow your child to carry one since cell phones and other electroinic devices are not permitted. At least with the tracker you will know that your child is safe at camp

BBL

August 4th, 2010
12:10 am

My daughter is going to Oasis Summer Camp in Westchester. My daughter love it, but I am having difficulties with their strickt pick up time. If you are not there at 5.30pm, you are late. I have arrived at 5.32pm and they children are in transit to somewhere else, I cannot pick her up until they get to the “late spot” so they charge you for the time the children are in transit.
The staff is responsible, but don’t ask them where they are going to be if it rains because they have no idea. They can tell you that Parent night is in XYZ place, yet it is somewhere else.

The woman in charge LOVES TO SCREAM. Not to sing they JUST SCREAM!!!!!!!

My daughter comes hoime by Thursday with no voice, She complaints of sore throat and on the weekends she needs to take throat lots of honey and keep quiet.

DO NOT RECOMMEND OASIS SUMMER CAMP.

My daugher had a lot of fun and I think may be that is what counts, but the staff could be a lot more sensitive.