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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

7 Ways Sleep-Away Camp Is Great for Kids

By Jill Morgenstern

One of the great luxuries of my teaching career was spending summertime with my children. My kids took field trips as part of their everyday lives, spending the lazy days of summer in museums as often as swimming pools. But as my children grew, I always forfeited some of this special season to sleep-away camp.

The benefits of camp go far beyond a simple vacation for Mom and Dad. While it might be nice to have a break from parenting duties, there are many ways camp can help children grow:

1. Exploration

Kids get access to a smorgasbord of activities that would be nearly impossible to explore at home. Although there are some camps that specialize in certain areas, most offer kids chances to participate in a wide variety of experiences. As a kid, I loved riflery but hated archery. I would never have known that had it not been for camp.

2. Leadership

As campers grow older, they can focus on the activities they enjoy most and eventually help teach them to younger participants. When I first sent my kids to camp, I researched the establishment’s hiring practices to ensure I was sending them somewhere safe. I was told that the camp had to do very little in the way of getting to know their hires: Most of the counselors were former campers. Now that my older kids are on staff, I know what they mean. The people who hired them have known them since they were small, occasionally see my kids outside of camp, and definitely know their strengths and weaknesses.

3. Independence

When my daughter went off to college, I was certain she could operate without me at least for a time. She already had and so had my son. The transition to college is a big one no matter what, but children who have been to camp have the advantage that they’ve successfully been away from home for extended periods of time. The best camps offer children increasing independence with enough supervision to maintain the children’s safety.

4. Values

The truly great thing about camp is that it encourages independence while supporting the parents’ ideals. When my kids were in elementary school, I was a single parent. I relied heavily on my family and community to help me. Camp was part of that community, reinforcing the lessons I tried to teach my children at home. And every time I hear someone say that my son or daughter is a “good kid,” I know that it is in part because their camp helped me raise them. Not only that, but camp makes learning painless, fun even. Finding a camp that reinforces your values may be as easy as choosing one that reflects your religious beliefs, or other factors may come into play. Often camps offer shorter school-year programming (such as a family weekend over spring break) so that you can get to know the camp before summer arrives.

5. The Great Outdoors

Hiking, biking, swimming, or even boating or horseback riding might be on the camp agenda. These can be new experiences for children who spend a lot of time indoors, or they can reinforce the love kids already have for these activities.

6. Community, Bonding, Lifelong Friends

Last year, as I delivered my daughter to camp, we were all treated to a great surprise as one camp alumni proposed to another. Romantic interests aside, when my daughter visits new places, it is often her camp friends she looks up.

7. Time Unplugged

Time at camp allows kids relief from keeping up with their virtual world, be it friendly or dramatic. It fosters real life relationships. For some children, especially those who have had difficult online relationships, camp can be a welcome respite.  

Jill Morgenstern is a wife, mother to four, and teacher. She has 13 years of teaching experience and a master’s degree in teaching reading. She writes at