Why My Kids Need Summer Camp

Kings Dominion Drop Zone
On a camp-free day, my three braving Drop Zone at King’s Dominion.

All school year long, I both long for and dread the coming of summer.

I’ll happily ditch the permission slips, homework to review and lunch-making times three for letting my kids sleep in as my babysitter walks through the door as I grab my coffee mug on the way out.

What I dread are the moans of boredom, the excessive drain on my wallet paying for both a babysitter (although she’s worth her weight in gold), occasional activities, and of course, summer camps.

Now let me just share here that I attended exactly one camp growing up, and that was an overnight Girl Scout camp when I was about eight years old. It was a wonderful growth experience full of late nights, smelly tents and bug spray and I distinctly remember us all singing at the top of our lungs ’round the campfire:

On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed. . .

But that camp experience was about it. I was one of four with a single, working mom and there was little money, and quite frankly–little precedent–of sending kids to camp in my small Pennsylvania hometown. Most days were spent riding bikes a good ten to twenty miles across town with friends, playing the original Atari Ms. PacMan (there’s nothing better) Ms. Pac Manwith my siblings, swimming in our public pool and devouring as many books as humanly possible.

Flash forward to 2015: my three cherub-like kids are thirteen, ten, and eight. There are twelve good, full weeks of summer, and we’ve built an action-packed project plan for these kids that would make my fellow PMP’s (that’s geek-speak for certified project managers like myself) proud.

If you’d like the details of what they’ve been up to gain ideas and perspective for your kiddos, I’ve spelled them out at the bottom of this post. First though, I wanted to share why we took this approach, and how I struggled with the decision to keep them so engaged when we have a babysitter with them all day.

1) Variety: They get bored going to our community pool (especially the teenager, few of his friends attend) and most of our neighborhood kids are at camps, too, so there aren’t many around to play with.

Our quiet teen at idTech camp at William & Mary, where he came out of his shell the last day to show us the cool graphics he'd created.
Our quiet teen at idTech camp at William & Mary, where he came out of his shell the last day to show us the cool graphics he’d created.

2) Outta that Comfort Zone: Would it be simpler and helluva lot cheaper to keep them at home or at the pool each day? Oh yeah, but they wouldn’t be as active as they are in camps or have nearly the variety of activities to explore.

3) Balance. If there are days when they’re really tired and just want to stay at home, they can do that (with exception of overnight camps, of course). For the most part, though, this schedule has allowed them to each explore their unique interests and have some downtime alone with our babysitter, visiting the Science Museum and other favorite haunts. In total, they’ll have spent about half of the summer in various camps.

While it took my husband and I a while to agree on the timing (he’d have booked them in camps every week, I

This one's for you, good parents of Richmond. We're 2/3 of the way through summer!
This one’s for you, good parents of Richmond. We’re 2/3 of the way through summer!

thought that excessive)–we finally met in the middle and it’s been working well. So while I’ve never felt like I missed out on a bunch of summer camp experiences in my youth, I recognize that it’s a different time, geography, and situation, and for this summer, anyways, it’s working for us. Is this overkill? Perhaps. Do I lose sleep about it? Not really, we can change course at any time, as parents and kids are wont to do.

I hope you’re having a great summer, too.


So far we’ve checked the following off our lists:

-The teen has attended his second idTech overnight camp and loved it–a pricey yet amazing growth experience for our quiet boy with a love of game design. After a couple weeks’ break (he sleeps in until 1pm, after all, we can’t expect him to get to camp every day) he attended Henrico County’s Teen Scene, a free camp that he begged us never to return to. In fairness, he didn’t have any friends attending–which is tough at that age–and he’s shy so it’s a bit tougher when there’s no shared interests.

Our ten year-old chilling on vacation with our pup. So lucky for downtime together.
Our ten year-old chilling on vacation with our pup. So lucky for downtime together.

-A week’s vacation in which we hung out mainly outside in the Northern Neck of Virginia with friends, a welcome, lazy time together as a family swimming and boating.

-The eight and ten year-olds have completed several weeks of Henrico County’s Summer Blast (also free) with somewhat mixed emotions (they love seeing their friends and playing games together but they’d rather be home

Our eight yer-old at Henrico County Drama Camp.
Our eight yer-old at Henrico County Drama Camp.

watching TV).

-Our littlest–and only girl–is now attending Henrico County’s Drama Camp (very low-cost) for two weeks at the Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center and she loves her part as Bobcat Larue in the Taming of Larue, although she’s exhausted from the long days.

Coming up, we have:

Spirited Art Camp for the eight year-old, a repeat session from last year in which this artistic kid was able to create canvases from which color jumps and which now adorn the entire wall of my sunroom.

-“Cousin Camp”-dubbed by my niece, a little more kiddo downtime with their sweet little cousin visiting from Charlotte, North Carolina, playing outside, fighting, maybe Jumpology or Cobblestones and a visit to Kings Dominion

One of my favorite picks of the three of them, cutting up together on a random day out to lunch.
One of my favorite picks of the three of them, cutting up together on a random, unscheduled day.

(passes were their Christmas gift from their grandparents–this was a FABULOUS gift we’re thankful for).

Camp Friendship: This will be a first for all of them to attend this overnight camp that our niece highly recommended after spending a summer there as a counselor. This was our largest investment and took some considerable saving–I hope they love it and have an unforgettable experience.

GForce Carts Camp: The older two, my boys will get crazy with their adventurous side while our eight year-old, the girl has some downtime with our sitter.

Is it time to go back to school yet? :-)


Note: These are my family’s personal experiences, and no compensation for any of these camps were provided to me for writing this blog post. Just old-fashioned sharing amongst Richmond parents.