Children of a certain age might be ready for sleep-away camp, a true rite of passage for many American kids. When else can they sleep under the stars with friends? Learn to shoot a bow and arrow? Spend entire days in their swimming suits?
While some sleep-away camps are one and two weeks long, many camps offer three-, four-, and even six-week options. These can be the traditional outdoor types (think Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan in her adorable, early-career stage) that include hiking trips, kayaking excursions, and camping adventures. Or they can be arts camps that allow kids of all ages to immerse themselves in their passions, from music to dance to filmmaking and beyond.
A camp for everyone
There are camps for all interests. Whether it's art camp for the budding young painter or music camp for the blossoming violinist, there is something for everyone. Weight loss camps, kosher camps, boot camp, singing camp, computer camp, college program camps. Camps for tweens, camps for teens. The list is endless. And most all offer opportunities for kids to engage in new skills while also immersing themselves in familiar pursuits.
“For younger students, it can be incredibly inspiring to see other students, just a few years older, performing at such a high level,” says Chris Hintz, a manager at Interlochen Center for the Arts, which offers a high-level summer arts program for kids in grades 3 to 12.
“It gives younger students a sense of what is possible when they apply themselves. High school aged students are also motivated by their peers to achieve their own personal creative and artistic potential. “
Mixing the learning with the fun
Like many sleep-away arts camps, Interlochen allows kids to train intensively with professional instructors in their particular fields of interest, whether those are theater, dance, creative writing, or visual arts. And like most all overnight camps, there are plenty of opportunities for recreational summer fun mixed in with the learning.
“For younger students, there are more opportunities to explore a wider variety of arts – as well as more opportunities for ‘traditional’ camp activities,” Hintz says of Interlochen, which sits on 1,200 lush acres between two lakes in northern Michigan. “Although there is still some opportunity to explore a new artistic discipline through elective classes, programs for high school artists are typically more focused on the student’s chosen discipline.”
While overnight camp experiences may lead to lifelong friendships and tremendous growth for some children, other kids might find it’s too much too soon. Children need to be ready emotionally for the separation in order to get the most out of the experience.
And on the down side, sleep-away camps like these mean all those memories to last a lifetime are taking shape away from home. And that means without Mom around.
Finding the camp that's right for your child
Start with word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted friends. If their kids had a good experience, chances are yours might too. Other places to find the right sleep-away camp for you are:
The National Camp Association: Provides a free summer camp referral service and guidance about summer programs worldwide.
The Summer Lady: A clearinghouse for summer camps of all kinds.
The Camp Experts: Helps connect parents to summer camp options as well as teen programs.
Option 2: Unstructured play
Option 3: Summer school
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