Summer camps are a great way for children to experience new adventures that they ordinarily wouldn’t if they stayed home. Furthermore, they give their parents a much needed break (at least I always greatly need it). As soon as my oldest son met the minimum age requirements for overnight camps, off he went.
His first camping experience was with Cub Scouts at age 8. This is a great way to ease into camping. I stayed with him for the first night, and then let another parent take over. He was escorted to various activities, and ate the meals voraciously. He loved the idea of sleeping outside, and I loved to see him learning that all he really needs can be carried on his back.
That same year he attended a YMCA camp near our home. It was a 45 minute drive, but it seemed like I was leaving him far away. I left him in a cabin with a counselor and lots of other boys. They seemed friendly, and I didn’t worry about him. However, things were odoriferous when I picked him up. Apparently the bathroom had been a little too far away, and his bladder wasn’t quite mature enough. He seemed to have enjoyed himself for the most part, though. I felt that he was probably a little too young and so he didn’t attend any overnight camps for two years.
When he was 10, I decided he was ready again. I choose a camp in Colorado called Sonlight Christian Camp (http://www.sonlightcamp.org/index.php). This was his best experience yet. He seemed to like the more structured approach, but I think it was the shaving cream fights that really won him over.
Last summer my son, then 11, discovered ID Tech Camps (http://www.internaldrive.com/). By then an inveterate gamer, this was right up his alley. I must say that I would rather he be outside learning about nature than on a computer all day. Nonetheless it accomplished the purpose of getting him out of his regular routine and meeting new people. He also won a set of laser tag equipment, which I’m sure didn’t hurt. He returned home with a computer game he had designed himself and a determination to attend more of these camps. I didn’t choose the overnight option, but it is available. ID Tech camps are held at various universities around the country, and they are pricey. They also offer combination technology/surfing and technology/sports camps, for those who insist their kids spend some time outdoors.
Last summer we also sent him to the Navigator’s camp at Eagle Lake Colorado (http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries/eaglelake/). This is a very professional camp, and the counselors are well-trained. All the kids there seemed to have a good time. In fact my son didn’t seem to want to leave, and said he wanted to stay for two weeks the following year. However, that was before the ID Tech camp, with which he is now besotted. Be ready to wait in a long line of traffic when you drop off your child. This camp is popular and while the staff is efficient, there are only so many campers they can process at a time.
If you’re on a limited budget, you can still create summer camp memories with your kids through church and Scout camps. These are generally affordable, fun, and well-supervised. If your child is old enough, YMCA camps are great, but remember your child will be left in the care of a counselor who is likely only a teenager. Make sure he’s mature enough not to need a lot of attention. If your child loves computers, by all means send him to an ID Tech camp. Just expect him to never want to go anywhere else again.
The irony of my son’s interest in technology camps isn’t lost on me. I wanted camps to teach him what it’s like to live without technology, and he picks one that does the opposite. Perhaps we use the word “camp” a little too freely. I need to be sure my son truly camps part of the summer, I’ve decided. Then if the budget permits, he can techno camp as well.