One of the childhood rites of passage has always been going to sleep away camps in the summertime. It is a chance for kids to be outside, active, and challenged in a supervised environment. They get to meet new friends and learn new skills, and they often come away with a bunch of cherished memories and a deeper belief in themselves.
Children who attend the same sleep away camp for several years often become camp councilors in their teenage years as a great first job and a chance to earn a bit of money. But, even if they don't attend camp for that number of years, just attending once in their life can be an incredibly memorable experience for them. As with everything in life, there are good parts of sleep away camp and not-so-good parts, that may cause parents some concern.
10 Pro: It teaches kids independence
Nothing fosters independence more than being away from your parents for a few weeks. No one is there with the daily reminders to brush your teeth, pick up your smelly clothes, change said smelly clothes, and apply bug spray before going on that nature walk. A few days, however, of wearing the same smelly socks and scratching at the numerous bug bites you got because you forgot your bug spray is enough to kick that independence into high gear!
In this day and age of helicopter parenting, it is nice for children to have a break away from their parents and to try standing on their own two feet for a little while, under the safe supervision of camp staff (which is not quite the same as having Mom nearby!).
9 Con: Kids might get too homesick, and want to come home
This argument can definitely go two ways. So, your kid is homesick and calling home wanting you to come and pick them up. One side of the argument would say that this is where they develop their resilience and independence, and that it wouldn't be sleep away camp if they weren't a little homesick!
For other parents, this con would be enough for them to second guess the idea of sending their little one to sleep away camp. It really depends on your child's personality to a large extent. If you know that your child may be legitimately homesick but they would be able to handle it and work through it, then it would make sense to still send them. However, if your child tends to be anxious at the best of times, and getting homesick would be really hard on them, then it might be worth keeping them home... at least for another summer, anyway.
8 Pro: It gets kids outside and learning new skills
If there is one thing that is to be said about summer, it's that the majority of it should be enjoyed outside! Put away the screens and the tablets and get outside! Breathe in the fresh air, get more active, soak in the sun's rays (within moderation!), and revel in summer's beauty.
Sleep away camp is a great opportunity for your children to do just that. They get outside and experience so many new things, from nature hikes to swimming holes to obstacle courses. There are no screens or tablets around at camp, the kids are too busy outside having fun... the way kids should be!
7 Con: They may get hurt or sick
This is always a concern for parents thinking about sending their child to sleep away camp. You hear the stories of kids falling off the climbing wall and breaking their arm or getting hurt while canoeing through the rapids, and it can be enough to scare away the bravest of parents. There is also the concern about allergies; if your child happens to have a life-threatening allergy to a particular item, then there is the fear that they may be exposed to it at camp, when you're not there to help them.
That being said, your child could fall off their bike outside your home and break their arm just as easily, and they could be exposed to an allergen when eating at a friend's house next door. There is risk in everything, and as a parent, we need to assess the risks involved in sending our child to a sleep away camp, and determine whether those risks outweigh the benefits of camp or not.
6 Pro: It provides an opportunity to meet new friends
The children that your child meets at sleep away camp will, quite possibly, become life-long friends, especially if it is a sleep away camp that your child returns to every summer. The bonds that kids form at sleep away camp are a special kind. There are no ways to replicate the friendship formed over a midnight nature walk, when you're scared, excited, and happy all at once.
It also gives your child the opportunity to meet friends outside of their school or neighborhood. This is nice because it gives them friends to stay in touch with throughout the year and look forward to seeing again the following summer. When the same kids return to camp year after year, that is a lot of cookouts, nature walks, obstacle courses, and marshmallows to share together!
5 Con: They may not get along with the other kids
This is another point where there will most likely be two very strong viewpoints. One side that feels children need to work through these difficult social times in order to grow and learn from them, and one side that thinks setting them up for an upsetting week-long social exclusion is not exactly how they want their child spending their summer holiday.
Again, it boils down to your child's unique personality. Some kids are totally cut out for spending a week (or a few!) at sleep away camp; they make friends easily, they fit in, they love the activities, etc. Then there are those children who struggle to make friends, but for whom an experience like sleep away camp may be just the thing they need to increase their confidence and give them a boost in their friend-making abilities. Lastly, there are those children who find it particularly hard to make new friends and fit in, and for whom an experience like sleep away camp would be devastatingly hard for them and would only serve to increase their feelings of self-consciousness and anxiety. As parents, we have to figure out what our child is like and whether or not they would truly benefit from being sent to camp.
4 Pro: It builds confidence and resilience in kids
Summer camp is all about trying new things and learning new skills. From archery to canoeing and everything in between, children get to try many new activities throughout their week(s) at camp. This is a wonderful way for children to discover what they are capable of and perhaps even new skills that they never knew they had.
They often come home from sleep away camp with increased confidence in their own abilities, in addition to their new talents. Kids also develop resilience when they are away at sleep away camp, as they are on their own and figuring things out for themselves, without Mom there to solve it all for them. This is wonderful in helping to develop their resilience.
3 Con: Sleepover camps are pricey
There is no way around this one, sleep away camps are expensive! It makes sense, considering you're getting accommodations, meals, and childcare for the week, plus all the crafts and sports you can imagine. That comes with a hefty price tag!
Sleep away camps range in price, depending on what is offered in terms of those accommodations, as well as what facilities are available, what the staff/student ratio is, and what sports and activities are offered. Check around at various camps in your area, and see if there are ones with a slightly lower price, while still offering what you are looking for.
2 Pro: It gives parents a break!
A child-free week in the middle of summer?? Where do we sign up?? Sleep away camp, while hugely beneficial for kids, is also a really nice break for the parents. They get a chance to unwind, sleep in, and catch up on some much-needed downtime for themselves as well.
The school year is a heavy grind for everyone involved - kids, parents, and teachers. We all need a break and time to decompress. While this is pretty easy for kids to do on summer vacation, being the one raising the kids and entertaining them while they're home over the summer isn't exactly what one would call restful. The week that they're at sleep away camp, however, provides just that.
1 Con: We might miss them!
Truth be told... despite the desperate need for time on our own and for a mental and physical break, who is it that we envision spending our summers with? Our children, of course! While sleep away camp can be a much-needed break from the daily grind of parenting, you might find that you end up missing your sweet little ones a bit too much during the week(s) they're gone.
One way to solve this (and still get that much-needed reprieve) is to have them only go to sleep away camp for one week or so. That way you still have lots of time throughout the summer to make those special family memories, but your child still benefits from their awesome week away at camp, and you still get to sleep in. It's a win-win!