The perspective on sending your kids to sleepaway camp

By Talia Klein Perez
 Getty Images: Potter
While not for every child or family unit, sleepaway camp has long been a staple of the American childhood. Yet, these days, a more protective approach to parenting has led mothers and fathers to balk at the thought of sending their child out into the mountains for the summer.
Let’s examine three reasons why parents should send their kids to sleepaway camp and three reasons why they shouldn’t.


Three reasons why kids benefit from sleepaway camp


At sleepaway camp, kids unplug by being kept active

During the school year, boys and girls are generally sedentary, spending an average of six hours a day behind their desks. They then devote most of their remaining waking hours to screen time. At camp, though, activities like rock climbing, human foosball and water fights make kids excited to unplug and get physically active. Even just walking across the large, open spaces of the camp grounds to get from one activity to the other gives kids exercise that they don’t get all year round.

Sleepaway camps also provide the opportunity to spend time in nature, which is relaxing and fosters introspection. Away from smartphones, computers and other tech grants children the mental space to think more deeply about themselves and their roles in life. This enables children to become mentally, emotionally as well as physically healthier, as the fresh air cleanses their minds and their bodies.


Absence makes the heart grow fonder

When boys and girls go to sleepaway camp, they essentially are taking a break from family life – and from regular interactions with their family members.. The temporary separation of children from parents and siblings can reduce tensions and rivalry and can have a restorative effect on each member of the family.  Sending your child to camp can also be beneficial for both parents, who can spend quality time as a couple and focus on maintaining and improving their romantic relationship.


Sleepaway camp fosters individuality and self-growth

Sleepaway camp fosters individuality. Away from the constraints of home and school, the unpressured environment of sleepaway camp gives children the memorable opportunity to discover themselves, uncover talents, learn new skills and boost their independence – all while receiving support from their counselors. These are all skills that will benefit them throughout the course of life – in school, on the job and within relationships.


Three reasons why kids shouldn’t go to sleepaway camp


Kids need time to play freely

Today’s children have 50% less play time and much less roaming space than we or our parents had. What they desperately need is more time and encouragement to create their own play and activities. And while we cannot avoid the structure and rigidity required during the school year, during summer children should be given the opportunity to dabble with creativity and cope with boredom – not be shuttled by their counselors from their bunks to structured activities, around the clock.


Sleepaway camp is expensive

Seventy-six percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This means that after paying for necessities like rent, utilities, food and health care, there isn’t any money left for luxuries. And among the lucky few who do have money left at the end of the month, spending several thousands of dollars on sleepaway camp for Tina or Jimmy just isn’t as appealing as a whole family vacation or some other splurge everyone can enjoy. Why not instill the personal and practical skills acquired at camp from home – through summer jobs or family activities and outings on the weekends?


Say goodbye to adult supervision (and good hygiene, nutrition)

At sleepaway camp, counselors, often still young themselves, are in charge of making sure that their campers regularly eat, shower and wear clean underwear. It’s no wonder, then, that hygiene and nutrition tend to suffer. More worrying, though, is that our kids’ emotional well-being may suffer, too. Although some camps require their counselors to be 18 or older, many camps hire counselors as young as 16 and accept 14- and 15-year-old junior counselors. These teen or pre-teen counselors may not be equipped to maintain the levels of cleanliness, proper eating and emotional support that children need to thrive. Who’s to know if they, themselves, have the emotional maturity to recognize or deal with any sensitive issues, like bullying or other mental distress, that their campers may experience?


Bottom line: While camp can be fun and provide kids with life-altering experiences, the sleepaway camp experience is not the only, or perhaps even the ideal, way for boys and girls to spend the lazy days of summer. Do you think children should go to sleepaway camp?

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