Family Camps Are Fun for Everyone
Plan your family vacation wisely and you may come home with more than a tan. Researchers have found strong correlations between planned family vacations and families that function well.
Family camps offer an affordable way to enjoy a mini-vacation that strengthens family relationships in a safe environment. According to the American Camp Association, the best outcomes occur when families take home what they learn at camp and continue to practice core values such as honesty, respect, responsibility, caring, communication and environmental stewardship.
“Our family camps are wholesome vacations where kids, teens, parents and grandparents can make lifelong memories and friends, try new things, create traditions, and enjoy the outdoors,” says Amy White, program director at the YMCA of Delaware’s Camp Tockwogh.
“For most families, a weekend without TV is torture and eating three meals a day together for a whole week would be a world record,” adds White. “But at family camp, this is easy to do.” She recommends attending camp together for families with children ages 3-12.
Eric Kauffman, director of Spruce Lake Wilderness Camp, a Christian residential camp in the Poconos, observes that in a natural environment with few distractions, family camp fosters bonding and memory-making between parents and children.
Since launching its Parent-Child camps five years ago, attendance at Spruce Lake’s camps and canoe trips for families with children ages 7 to 14 has grown steadily.
Balancing parent-child “together” time with activities that allow kids to develop independence while supervised by camp staff, family camps give parents the freedom to socialize and try new outdoor activities as well. “Parents themselves simply enjoy being a kid at camp,” says Kauffman.
A Good First Experience
Family camps also offer a taste of a traditional camp experience. After attending a Spruce Lake mini-camp with her daughter, Sierra, 8, Sharon Hartmann of Milford, PA, says, “My daughter wants to go to camp alone next year, and having had this experience, I would now be comfortable allowing her to go by herself.”
John Latimer, director of programs for the Camp Nejeda Foundation, Inc., a camp for children with diabetes in Stillwater, NJ, says that kids who first attend family camp often move on to Nejeda’s regular summer programs.
At Nejeda camps, diabetes is no obstacle to children’s activities. “We are a camp first, so having fun is part of the mission,” Latimer says. “Although just one child in a family may have diabetes, the whole family is affected and everybody’s life is changed. Likewise everyone in the family benefits from the educational and empowering experience” at the camps.
“Children who start in family camp really feel at home here and tend to make up a good portion of our ‘lifers’ — those who come from childhood all the way through to becoming staff members once they start college,” White says. “Family camp is the epitome of the ‘it takes a village’ philosophy.”