This summer instead of sending just your kids to camp, why not head to camp as a family? Family camps are an opportunity for you and your family to deepen the bonds with each other and enjoy the outdoors. Your family can take part in a variety of activities planned at camp. And if needed, a parent can spend alone time, too.
With crammed-full lives, you race around checking off the activities that are on your To-Do list and rarely ever slow down to enjoy each of your kids. You eat in front of the TV and have to be reminded to read your kid a bedtime story. You try to slow down and enjoy the moment but it doesn't seem to work. Getting away from your home collectively can help you concentrate on each other. "The benefits that a camp experience include developing independence, self-confident and sense of accomplishment, giving everyone a change to unplug from the world around them and plug in to each other," says Peg Smith, CEO of American Camp Association.
Camp also offers the unique opportunities for kids to develop intergenerational relationships and a sense of community. A love for the outdoors and the appreciation of nature can develop, too. Another great benefit of family camp is cooking and cleaning is done for you so everyone can rest and the burden is not on one parent. "Families can try new or different activities and discover new attributes or interests about one another," Jill Tipograph, CEO of EverythingSummer.com.
Family camp is also a time for you and your kids to meet other families. Discuss with your kids that it is a different social arrangement. "Parents also need to recognize they are at camp with other families and be open to social engagement and meeting diverse people," says Tipograph. You can talk to your kids about diversity and listen to their questions about how families are alike and different from your family. You and your kids can start new friendships with new families.
Activities and Services
Parents need to be well informed on what the camp provides. "Parents should make sure they understand clearly about living and food facilities, to manage their expectations and realize they are not at a luxurious resort with in staff or chefs preparing customized food," says Tipograph.
"Sometimes there are special activities for spouses, at other times it is doing something more adventurous with an older child, and then there is a time to do something creative and fun with the younger children," Brian Brandt, Texas father of three and family camp attendee for three years.
Cost Of Camp
Fees are set up differently at every camp however, most fees include lodging, meals and a variety of preplanned activities. A week at camp's fee is comparable to a week-rental at the mountains or beach. Check with each camp's policy as to if the fee is per person or per group.
Camps can be held at various times of the year. Many are held during the off season for a weekend getaway or family sessions in the summer.
Find A Camp
So how easy is it to pick a camp that everyone will enjoy? "Family camps offer activities that are appropriate for all ages, allowing everyone from the very young to the young at heart to have a positive camp experience," says Smith.
It's important to do your research to find a camp that matches your family and their interests. Investigate the camp's philosophy and talk with the director. Make a list of questions so you can listen to the responses. What is included in the cost of camp? What activities are planned for younger children and older children? Inquire about staff training and check out if the camp is accredited by American Camp Association. Sleeping accommodations and bathroom facilities vary from camp to camp so ask questions and read the camp material. Additional childcare options are also available.
Families can check out ACA's family resource site at www.CampParents.org to search for camps with specific programming, in specific regions, and by budget.
The camp experience is as unique as every family member. "From mountain biking to jet skiing, to communal meals with nice families (without the stress of shopping, cooking, and cleaning) to swimming in the pool or boating in the lake --we enjoyed it all," says Joyce Friedmann, New York single mom of twins. Family camp is the beginning of building lifetime memories.