written by Tanni Haas, Ph.D.
photo by Holly Young Photography
When most parents hear the words “summer camp,” they think of the place their kids are literally desperate to go to after a long, exhausting year at school. But summer camp isn’t just for kids. More and more families are choosing to spend part of their summer at “family camps,” for the whole family. So, what’s family camp and why should you consider it as an alternative to a traditional summer camp?
Like traditional summer camps, family camps are places where you: (1) stay for a period of time, (2) participate in different activities, and (3) sleep in cabins and tents. There are all kinds of family camps, ranging from ones focusing on arts and crafts, sports, to outdoors activities like hiking, cycling, or canoeing. Unlike traditional summer camps, you do it together as a family.
There are several reasons why you might consider signing up for a family camp this summer:
It’s a great way for you and your kids to share experiences in a completely different, more fun and relaxing, way than you usually to. We’re all so busy these days, with long days at the office and school bags full of homework. Even on weekends, we don’t get to spend a lot of time together, with the kids doing extra-curricular activities and even more homework. Family camp is a great way to wake up together to a day of fun activities and no tight schedules, worries or distractions.
Most family camps have a no-electronic-device policy, a good thing since technology is one of the biggest distractions to being together. Once the kids realize that there’s no opportunity to text or go online, and you can’t access your work e-mail, you start to focus on enjoying each other’s company.
Family camp is a great way to strengthen your bonds not just with your own immediate family but also with your extended family – grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins. Plan your family vacation together as a group. Think about the best time for all of your to go away, talk about the kinds of activities that you all would enjoy, and then look for a family camp that you can all afford and get to without too much trouble.
If it’s not possible to get your extended family to join you, family camp is a great way to meet and develop relationships with like-minded parents. Although many of the activities are geared towards the whole family, there are times where you can engage in more adult activities with other parents, like enjoying a glass of wine together.
Most parents are used to their kids coming back from summer camp telling them about all the exciting things they did, funny things that happened, and wonderful friends they made. Wouldn’t it be great if this summer you made all those memories together instead of just hearing about them after the fact?
The American Camp Association’s “Find a Camp” database (see http://find.acacamps.org/) lists more than 300 family camps of which 230 are ACA-accredited. I’m sure you’ll find one that’s just right for your family.
Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.