Sleep Away Camp?

Updated on May 21, 2013
R.D. asks from East Orleans, MA
22 answers

My oldest two daughters are 7 and 6 and have both been begging to go to a sleep away camp after watching The Parent Trap. Personally I feel they are a year or three too young but my wife thinks now is a good time if we make sure they are together. I simply worry about things like home sickness and them fighting and the counselors not handling it well. I just wanted your opinions before we make a final choice. Also was wondering if anyone had a recommendation for a wonderful camp in the North East? We are willing to drive a little if it is a good place!

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answers from Washington DC on


The counselors are there and know how to deal with homesickness and such.

There are many sleep away camps. My oldest son went when he was 7 and had a BLAST!! Zip lining - swimming in a lake...and pool!!!

My kids have gone to Camp Friendship near Charlottesville, VA;

Look here:

and see what works for you.

Would I let a 6 year old go? Yes. I think the kids might "handle" being away together better than apart. Remind them that "The Parent Trap" is a MOVIE and their experience will NOT be like that.

Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

for a first time sleepover? i don't think a camp is the best place to test drive it. first sleepovers should be with beloved family members or friends in an environment where the kid is already comfortable, and where you can get to 'em if it doesn't work out.
but 7 and 6 are beyond old enough. i totally disagree with the modern parent paradigm of never letting kids sleep away. confidence and independence are valuable skills, and kids won't learn them while constantly under mommy's gaze.
start them off in a safer environment and work up to sleepaway camps next summer.

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answers from Boston on

I really think this is a very personal decision for every family. I personally went to sleep away camp the summer after 2nd grade and I HATED it. I went with my best friend and she liked it, but I was very homesick. I went to a different camp the 3 years later and loved it. Part of it really was the age thing for me, but I also think the second camp was a better fit for me.

I am currently a Girl Scout leader of 2nd graders and we did our first camping overnight this weekend. Most of the girls were like "see ya" to their parents and were fine overnight, but we did have one girl crying b/c she missed her mommy so much. We were able to calm her down and she stayed the night. But my point is there is a huge range of what individual kids are comfortable with. If your girls are pretty good about separating from their parents and like to try new things, then overnight camp might be a good fit for them.

Good luck with whatever you decide!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Do they think they are going to go to camp and discover they have secret twins or something? ;)

They may have a minimum age of 9 or 10 or whatever, so that will have to be a factor. You could also have them do a camp where they just are away 1 night or 1 weekend (Fri to Sun) and see how they like it, if they are old enough, instead of signing up for an entire week. I would also ask yourself how independent they are - if they are capable and willing to look out for their own stuff and their own needs or if they are still relying on you for help with things like getting dressed and taking showers. The camp counselors are very experienced with dealing with things like homesickness and generally they should be comfortable dealing with all of it - it's nothing they have not seen before and usually they spend a summer or 2 as a counselor-in-training before being made a full-fledged counselor.

Friend of mine in MA always sent her daughters to Camp Downer in Vermont. They absolutely loved it, looked forward to it every summer, and eventually became counselors themselves. Their minimum age is 8.

ETA: you could also always consider family camping for a weekend - you go as a family and stay in a cabin (sometimes with other families) and share some of the typical camping experiences together.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My girls go to a sleep-away camp (though we are in California) for 2-3 weeks. The minimum age is entering 3rd grade (so, 7-8 years old). My older daughter is going for her 4th summer, and my younger daughter is going for the first time this year.

I have observed a few things about good sleep-away camps:
1) They tend to be pretty expensive, about $1000/week
2) The facility will be well-kept and clean
3) There will be a high ratio of counselors to campers, and the counselors will have attended training prior to the camp starting
4) Good camps are usually known for their great cuisine (vs. the camps where they serve slop food)
5) They will have a great rate of campers returning year after year (as well as counselors)

In the parent handbook for our summer camp, it says that in terms of homesickness, yes, any child who has a happy home life WILL be homesick. That's just how it goes. We were advised to speak with our daughter about it before bringing her to camp, but also assure her that we knew she would overcome it. Also the handbook advised against making any deals, such as, "If you hate it, we will drive right to the camp and pick you up." That would undermine the process, obviously. Our daughter WAS very homesick, and after the first week, when she was able to call home, she was crying and it was all I could do not to cry, too! But when we went to pick her up at the end of camp, she was all smiles and didn't want to leave! So, even though they do get homesick, it's okay, they get over it.

But I would say that 7, almost 8, is probably the youngest you'd want your daughters to be for a 2 week camp. If it's just a few days, they could be younger. Be aware that because they're different ages, they would probably not be in the same group together, so it might not matter that they're at camp "together" - they won't see each other much.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I went to bible camp every single summer from the youngest age you could go (I think maybe age 7 or 8?) through high school. I LOVED it! It was a week at a time, away from home. I think if your girls want to go, you should send them. Most of the churches have camps that they go to. My son is 10 and is going for the first time. It costs about $220 for the week for him. My daughter is 13 and is going for just over a week, she's going out of state. I'm nervous to let her go, but she's excited about it. They go and help the local community paint houses and do general work. The cost for her is about $485. They have had fund raisers to help with the cost. I would just talk to the girls and let them know that if they do go, they are there the whole time so they are prepared. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

Around here the sleep away camps don't start until the kids are seven. My kids both started going at seven and had a great time. We did go to family camps when they were too young to go on their own, so they were used to how camp operates, and they had both been on plenty of sleepovers away from home. If they do go together it would be best if they were in separate cabins, so they can make their own friends.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I wouldn't do this unless the camp was in the town we lived in. If there isn't one then don't worry about it. Tell them that there aren't any around where you live. I'd also tell them that maybe there would be one next year. Then let it go.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I sent my daughter to wilderness survival camp when she was 8. She was just fine.

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answers from San Francisco on

The youngest age overnight camp I have ever seen around here is age 9, or completion of 3rd grade. Any younger than that and it's not usually a good experience, for anyone. A certain level of maturity and independence is required to be away from home in a structured environment. Those girls in Parent Trap were around 11 I think, like 5th grade.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

Girl Scout camps sometimes have "mini" camps" that are 3 days and 2 nights (at least that's how long they were when I was a counselor). At our local camp most of the sessions were 1 week or 2 weeks, but they did offer a few "mini" camps through out the summer.

It's something to look into, and you usually don't have to be a Girl Scout to attend.

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answers from Washington DC on

You might be too late to sign up for overnight camp.
My kids loved Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, Va. It is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Check it out!
The Methodist church has Rolling Ridge Camp in North Andover, Ma. I know a lot of kids loved it there.
There is a YMCA Camp - Nokomis - on Winnepesaukee in NH that is terrific. I'm not sure how young they take kids these days.



answers from Beaumont on

I agree about keeping them together but I also agree they're a little young. Maybe a local "day camp"??



answers from Hartford on

My son is going to be 7 at the end of the Month and is going to sleep away camp for the first time. He is a bit nervous but also very excited. The directors at the camp used to run the Girl Scout Camp I worked at while I was in college so I feel comfortable with him going. I think it will be a great experience for him as he did wonderful and loved day camp last year.



answers from Washington DC on

My dd is 9 and not ready for that kind of stuff yet. She's a very picky eater and I'd be worried about that. She also likes me to put her to bed at night and would be very homesick.

Every kid is different, you really have to look at how ready they are as individuals.



answers from Miami on

Start out with a day camp. They must acclimate to that successfully before even considering stay-away camp.

My mom put me in sleep-away camp when I was 7. I lost half of my stuff. She decided that meant that I wasn't old enough to go. I didn't get to go to camp again until I was 12... LOL!

For my boys, I sent them to day camps only until they were in 7th grade. Then I chose one that had "starter camp" that only lasted for a week. When I saw that they handled it well, I let them go for regular camp.

I do think your girls are too young for sleep away. Try day camp first.


answers from Tulsa on

If they have slept over at other kids or grandparent's houses before and haven't been homesick, then it doesn't hurt to try. You can look into camps that are only for a weekend or a week. I went to summer camp for a week at a time during the summers when I was younger and I would have hated being there longer than that. I am not an outdoor girl and a week was pushing it for me.

Another option is if you have an older cousin or neighbor who was acting as a counselor or assistant who could go with them. I looked after a 6 year old when I was about 13. Her dad was a counselor for one of the boys cabins, but she stuck with me and slept in my cabin. I know some teens might not like that, but it was fine for me.


answers from Boston on

I think it sounds a little young but I would consider sending them to a one-week overnight camp. I wouldn't think they'd be in the same bunk though - those are usually separated by age. If they're going to fight, believe me, the counselors have seen that before, but I'd give them a good talking-to beforehand. Homesickness is a problem for a lot of kids, and some much older than yours. Most of the regular camps don't have a one-week program, but sometimes the Girl Scout camps do, and occasionally camps have a "try it out" 1 week session for young kids and first-timers.

I'd find something close to you on the Cape. Many camps will be filled by now but you can check. There are camping associations that accredit camps and rate them.

I'd let them know they have group responsibilities and bunk chores and things like that (let them practice that at home - it's not like in the movies!). And they have to get up when it's time, and they have to eat what's served.

Go visit a few camps and let the kids see how it compares to the idealized version in the movies.



answers from Boston on

Based on their experience, many sleep away camps don't accept campers as young as your daughters. Most start with children who are about 8 or 9 years old. Also, most camps will require that sisters (or even children from the same home-town) are placed in different cabins. If you do find a good camp that takes 6 and 7 year olds, here's a great link with camp prep-tips for parents. Among other topics, this link addresses homesickness and what you can do to minimize it.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would start next summer when they are 7 and 8. I think 6 is a little young, but 7 and 8 are good ages. Start with just 3-5 days. If they love it, they can go longer the following summer.

My dad and many other members of my extended family used to go to Camp Walt Whitman in New Hampshire. I've never heard a bad thing about it! They used to go for the whole summer (8 weeks) and made great friends that also went back each year. I'm not sure if they offer shorter sessions. It's definitely worth looking into - I know they loved it! They even go back for big reunions (25 years, 50 years, etc).

Another cousin of mine went to Camp Akiba. This is a Jewish camp, so I'm not sure if that works for you. I know she loved it though. There might be multiple camps with this name. I'm not sure exactly where hers was, but she grew up in New Jersey, so I know it's somewhere in the Northeast.



answers from San Francisco on

They are begging. Let them go.



answers from New York on

Personally, I think that's a little young for a week long overnight camp. However that depends on their lifestyle and camping experience. If you go camping as a family and they are used to the outdoors and if they spend several nights away from home on a regular basis (like a weekend at grandma's), they may be ready.

You may want to check out the Girl Scout camps. My daughter loved Timber Trails in Otis (she was a bit older when she attended).

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