Below is an article that we wrote for the American Camp Association’s (ACA) magazine that gets sent out to parents interested in sending their children to summer camp. The purpose of the article was “play up” the benefits of family camp. The recommendation, I think, applies to any camp running a true family camp program. Also, I would point out that full-season children’s camps that also happen to run a “family camp” program are, in this particular instance, a great idea if you are looking for a family camp program to serve the purpose of getting your child comfortable with the idea of summer camp (especially if it is that particular camp).
Training Wheels for Sleep Away Camp
Over the past five years families have become more cautious when it comes being away from each other. It is not uncommon to see young children with cellular phones with the sole purpose of being able to be in constant contact with mom and dad. The days of helicopter parents are here and no one can blame them when it comes to their children’s safety and well being especially when they are away from mom and dad for an extended period.
Parents attach training wheels to a two wheeler in order to provide a safe and easy transition from a tricycle to a bicycle. For the same reasons parents can now do the same to prepare their children for a one, two, four or seven week session of summer camp. American Camp Association accredited Family Camps offer children the opportunity to attend a week long camp away from home for the first time with the security of knowing that their parents and siblings are along for the fun.
Pam Ehrenreich’s two children specifically asked their mom to find a sleep away camp that they could all attend together. Pam’s seven and nine year old resisted the idea of leaving home and attending two separate camps. After doing extensive research on the web this single parent, from Ellicott City MD, chose our camp, located in the mid-coast area of Maine, for her family’s first camp experience,. After attending a week of camp together this past summer Pam now feels both of her children are ready to spread their wings and attend a camp solo next summer.
Family camp is a perfect opportunity for children to gain a sense of what camp is. They learn what to expect and what is expected of them. We have found that at our camp kids who attend morning activities with other campers their own age, such as archery, tennis and sailing, gain the familiarity of a traditional sleep away camp. The morning sessions provide our youngest campers the opportunity to interact with campers their own age. After lunch the entire family spends time together lakeside. Fathers and daughters can fish together, siblings’ tye-dye shirts, entire families enjoy an afternoon sail, while some parents read that neglected novel while their children swim under the watchful eye of the lifeguards. Even grandparents get into the spirit of camp pointing out constellations to the youngsters by the nightly campfires. By the end of the week friendships are formed and kids often choose to sit with their new found friends at meals and at campfire instead of sitting with mom and dad.
While the kids get to try on camp, the parents also get the opportunity to see what safety measures and procedures are in place as well as the level of professionalism in the staff that ACA camps strive for. Both parents and kids get to rid any insecurity they might have about sleep away camp while having a memorable fun family vacation together. When the next summer rolls around, and the camp registration process is complete, parents will have peace of mind while their campers will have the confidence necessary to make their camp session a memorable as well as positive experience. Camp training wheels is a safety net that is a win-win situation for families.
That wind in your face feeling when riding a bike independently at full speed is the same freedom children feel at camp when paddling their own kayak, hitting the bulls eye in archery, developing their own photos in the darkroom, making that special memento in arts and crafts or receiving thunderous applause for a well preformed campfire skit. It is at this moment parents realize that the training wheels are ready to come off.
Advice on Family Camps from a Family Camp Director