Thoughts on Sleep-away Camps for Kids

Updated on April 01, 2018
M.D. asks from Pittsburgh, PA
15 answers

I have some adult friends whose kids to to week-long (or longer) camps in the summer. Their kids seem to love it - they ask to go back. And the parents enjoy a week to themselves, doing adult things. The kids start quite young - around age 6 or 7, and continue going to the camps through middle school. And yet, it's a completely foreign concept to me. It is not something that I did as a kid, nor any of my childhood friends.

And now, as a parent, I'm still not sure about it. Between spring sports (that run through the middle of July) and fall sports (that start in mid-August), we really only have a few weeks to relax together as a family. We'd have to give up our only summer family time to do this (we don't do a big summer vacation, but we usually take 2-3 weekends during the sports break to go on mini-vacations (fun stuff within a 3 hour drive of home)).

And yet, as I said, my friends who do this and their kids really seem to love it. What are your thoughts on summer sleep-away camps for kids? Are my kids missing out on something really great?

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answers from Washington DC on

I did sleep away girl scout camps when I was young.

My boys went to their first sleep away at age 7. I was scared to death as I felt it was too young. They didn't miss us! They were so excited - they went for 5 years in a row.

The sleep away camp they went to is old and rustic - but they had a blast - it was expensive - $2K for one week - but they came back with AWESOME memories!

6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Springfield on

My mom recently told me that she was always looking for summer opportunities for us when we were young, especially 12 to 16 - we weren't old enough for a summer job, and we thought most of the camps were "babyish." She was telling my and my SIL that she is so excited for our kids because there seem to be so many different opportunities - that our kids are actually excited about!!!

The challenge, of course, is that we have to make choices. If your kids are interested in sleep-away camp and you found one you think they'll like and it's not out of your price range, great! But if there are other things that take up their time, it's ok to make different choices!

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answers from Los Angeles on

My son went last summer for the first time (he's in 5th grade now). It was a five-night camp and he really had a great time. He's going back this year and my 7-year old is going with him. I think it's a really great experience for the kids - it teaches them a lot of independence, they get to make new friends, and they get to do a lot of outdoor activities that they probably wouldn't do at home.

When I was a kid, I went every summer for 1-2 weeks and looked forward to it every year. When my parents were kids, they each went for 8 weeks every summer and were just telling me last weekend how it was the best times of their lives. Both of them (at different camps) couldn't wait to go back each year - they saw the same friends year after year and loved all the activities, and the break from their parents.

Trust me - I get it with the time crunch. Baseball season for us will go literally until the day before my kids leave for camp. They do swim team all summer long and there are only 12 days between the end of swimming and the first day of school. If we're lucky enough to take a vacation at all, it will be for only 2-3 nights. But, I make sure to schedule a few camp-free weeks so we can do fun things during the day.

The camp my kids go to is Sunday - Friday, so it only takes up one weekend. Maybe you could find a similar 5-night camp for your first time. I really think summer camp is an amazing experience. As for family time, it will give you a week to connect with your husband.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I didn't grow up with it, and neither did my husband. I did pretty much nothing but a family vacation and beach days, and later on I was on a swim team. My husband did day camp and basketball camp and that sort of thing. But we were introduced to it through our synagogue when our child was 6 and 7 years old. and we learned so much that's wonderful, we opted in. He went for 2.5 weeks the first time, and thereafter went for 4 weeks. I cried when I left him but I have to say he had a fantastic time, it built independence and confidence in him, it helped him past his picky-eater phase, and he really responded to the guidance of counselors and staff. They did chores and observed safety rules (without parental nagging), learned to meet new people and get along, and then mastered individual skills in things like swimming, arts, animal care, and more. It was glorious for him. We didn't do it for the "time off" ourselves so much as for him, and it made him the person he is today. Choose wisely and stay away from camps that have kids calling home every day.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Like you, I never went to summer camp nor did my friends. During the summer, we pretty much ran around the neighborhood or hung out at someone's house. My older kids never went. However, there is a camp my older son went to 3 years that he decided just was not for him. My younger son will be old enough to go next year. During the summer, the kids are not really involved in anything so going to camp could be a great thing. I think it all depends on the family and what the kids want to do in the summer. Sounds like you already have things to do. There is really nothing wrong with not going to camp.
People I know that do have kids that go to camp usually work while their kids are gone.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

My son goes to a week long camp in the summer. He loves it. Started in 6th grade and has been going every since. I was fine with him going or not. It’s up to him. Don’t feel pressured by what everyone else is doing. Do what works for your family. I attended camps (religious and camp fire camp) as a kid and had a ball. One of my favorite memories is my mom would stick notes in different places for me to find while I was away. I read Stuart Little and that’s still one of my favorites to read to my kids when they were younger. Great memories. 💕😊

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answers from San Francisco on

Two of my kids loved going to camp. One had zero interest, and I didn't force it.
Though in your case it doesn't sound like your kids have any time for it. They are already super structured aren't they? Which is something I personally never found that appealing, as a child OR a parent. Having only a few weeks a year to relax together as a family sounds pretty depressing.
Your kids might enjoy camp, but it may end up just being another chore on their never ending to do list. I'd probably skip it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

I did one week long camp as a kid and I loved it, it was a chance to have fun with other kids while feeling independent of my parents for the first time. But I only had the opportunity to go the one time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

We have at least 8 weeks of summer holidays, and my kids have been going away to camp for 1-2 weeks since they were about 7 or 8 years old. I went away for a week or two of camp each summer when I was a child. My husband never did and has always been jealous of those who did. I always enjoyed it a great deal and so have my kids. We have done wilderness camps and band camps. We always do a family vacation and camping weekends together, but we also enjoy the time apart. Overnight camps also give my kids opportunities to do some things I am no longer up to doing, such as multi-day canoe trips. I found it to be a great way for my kids to build independence.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

My sister and I went to camp for 1 week 3 summers in a row.
Summer after 4th grade, 5th grade and 6th grade.

It was a lot of fun - but then we didn't have any activities during the summer other than playing with our friends on our block.

Our son never went to camp.
He was busy with taekwondo year round and did some day camps.
We went on family trips too.

It's really up to you.

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answers from Washington DC on

well, there are camps and there are camps. the answer to this depends HUGELY on a variety of factors.

is it a camp focused on something your kids would love? i'd have adored a sleepaway horse camp (never got to attend one but it would have been a dream come true.) or just outdoor camping, hiking, bonfires and weenie roasts. but had it been a sports camp i'd have been way less enthused.

kids also come in a variety of flavors. my boys would have adored getting a week to camp out IF there had been friends there and fun things to do. but i know some kids who are less able to handle new situations, and many who have been so sheltered they'd be unable to cope with not sleeping at home with mom nearby.

and there are some camps i'd never consider in a million years, for example proselytizing religious recruitment camps.

have background checks been performed on all the adults who will be supervising the camp? does it have a record of positive experiences you can research? can you contact the parents of former campers? what are their emergency policies?

it's way too broad just to say 'are they great or not?'

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Mine love it, but we have a very unstructured summer and they look forward to it - it's their tradition with their pals. They are outdoorsy kids who are very low maintenance and the idea of not showering all week, swimming in a lake every day and being with the same group of kids day in/day out appeals to them.

My kids had been to sleep away camp with scouting and so we had an idea how they would do.

Not all our kids have gone to sleep away camp. One of ours prefers a day camp with a friend that's yearly. I think it's more important to match up interests.

At our camp, they will have camp for say grades 3-6 one week - so you might not be able to send all your children that same week. So if it's for child care, you still might have to find it for your other kids that week too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jamestown on

Kids need their parents more than friends. Family time is more important. Camps can be dangerous:

my camp counselors didn't bring my bee sting medicine, made me go past a bees nest inches away from me! Because we couldn't go around.

Two young women or teenage girls counselors took us to woods far away with a bunch of young girls i was young, dangerous becasue bad men could have been in those woods, i had no bee sting kit and rabid animals. No cell phones, no way of contact. No first aid.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

A couple of my son's friends went, but not at 6 or 7. That seems really young! I gave him the option every summer but he never wanted to try it. That was fine with me. Kids seem so overscheduled that a little downtime to do nothing seems great!

1 mom found this helpful
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