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?