Camp is tremendously valuable for both boys and girls


Sunset at the beach at our camp, August, 2014

Camp was a very important part of my life.  I went to the same camp, on Cape Cod, for many summers, including four years of a junior counselor training program and two years as a counselor.  It’s a profound joy for me to watch both of my children attend and love the same camp now.  I couldn’t possibly be more of a believer in what camps offer children.

Camp is a place that kids can be away from their parents, a place they can be joyfully rambunctious and experiment with new activities, skills, and experiences, a place they can meet and get to know friends who are different from their friends at home.  I place tremendous value in the out-of-their-regular-life aspect of camp, and in both of our childrens’ cases they went without a friend from home.

I learned recently that our camp, which is coed, is full for girls but not yet for boys.  Apparently all-boys camps are also less full than all-girls camps.  I find this phenomenon fascinating.  What is it about?  Do boys want to go away less?  This is hard for me to believe.  Do parents feel camp is less vital or valuable for boys?  Again, this surprises me, but maybe it’s true.  Is there increased competition for sports-specific camps when it comes to boys?  This, there may be some truth to.

For us, and I speak for both Matt and me here, we feel that camp is equally as important for a girl as for a boy.  We didn’t hesitate to send Whit, as I had Grace, the very first summer he was old enough (8 years old).  Both of our children were excited about going away that first summer (and every summer since).  I didn’t feel different at all about sending my children to camp.  In both cases I felt some trepidation and sorrow about saying goodbye (not really about missing them, but more about the recognition that I’m already here in my life).  But more than anything, I felt excited for them, and downright delighted to watch them fly.

There’s also such huge value, in my opinion, in the relationships that develop between children and their counselors.  Where else in their lives do kids get to form close, loving bonds with young adults, particularly ones who are in aggregate such terrific role models? In my view this is equally as important for boys and for girls.

I did have one boy-specific moment when I observed Whit with his counselors, at pick-up, certainly, but even at drop-off.  I watched the boys play Gaga Ball and felt like I was watching puppies: they were freed to be physical and rowdy, to be joyful and affectionate, to run and jump and yell.  So much of modern life seems to tell boys to be quieter and softer and I distinctly remember watching Whit and thinking: oh, wow, at last, a place he can just be a boy (I realize this a stereotype even as I write it, but it is one that holds true in our family and thus I share it).

This reflection made me more convinced at the power of camp for my son, not less.  Both of our children are looking forward to the summer ahead, and so are we.

Are you a summer camp family?  Do you feel differently about camp for boys as you do about camp for girls? 



16 thoughts on “Camp is tremendously valuable for both boys and girls”

  1. This is interesting. If anything, I would think maybe the opposite is true–that camp enrollment would be higher for boys, if only for the time to just be a boy (yes, a stereotype but one that is true here as well–even at 3 years old, I’m already shushing my boys more than I ever have Mia). I started going to camp at 8, and it was an important part of my life as well. Mia will be 8 next month and we’ve talked about camp but she just isn’t ready yet. Admittedly, I’m a little disappointed because I know the value of such an experience, but I’m hoping that she’ll come around to the idea when she’s ready.

  2. How interesting! My first reaction was sports- I know both boys and girls here are being pushed into sports camps at earlier and earlier ages. Only having girls I am just guessing but I would imagine the pressure to be greater on boys than girls. A sad truth for sure. Summer camp was such an important part of life and I know I learned and grew much more there than I would have at sports camps…

  3. I didn’t go to camp as a kid, so for me the concept is foreign. As I read the writing of other parents and consider the value of the time away and exploring an identity outside of the home it makes sense. Watching other parents prepare for sending their kids off to college, some of whose kids have never been away for more than a night, it seems unfathomable. I am thinking about it more and more and really appreciate when you share your stories/experiences.

  4. Good Morning-My comment to you is not related to today’s post. I am asking for a recommendation on a poetry book for beginners. You quote so many interesting things, and I am starting to enjoy poetry. Mary Oliver intrigues me, but so many books. Yesterday at Barnes & Noble I came across “She Walks in Beauty”, by Caroline Kennedy. Your thoughts, comments/recommendations would be appreciated. Thank you. Cindy

  5. Hi! Anthologies are a great way to start – I like Caroline Kennedy’s book a lot. And the Mary Oliver volume I think is best to start is Selected Poems. Hooray! So glad poetry is speaking to you. xox

  6. It was such a huge part of my childhood it’s hard to imagine not having gone. Interestingly, though, my only sibling (my sister) did not go to or love camp. So kid-dependent! xox

  7. I suspect it’s different for different kids of camps, but I think it’s really interesting too (why I wanted to write about it!) xox

  8. I went to camp for 12 summers, starting from when I was 7 all the way through my freshman year of college. I was a camper, CIT, and counselor, and I can say with absolute conviction that nothing has shaped me as a person more than my summers at camp. Camp made me independent, taught me how to make friends, and it made me brave. All of my most important firsts of my childhood and teenage years happened at camp, and the friends I made I have still. I think that the way boys and girls experience camp is probably different, but I feel really strongly that it’s an important experience for all kids to have, definitely not just girls.

  9. How interesting that the camp is filled for girls but not boys, I wonder if that is a yearly occurrence.

    I was a solely day camp kid, and a fickle one at that, changing every year. I’ve no idea why, if my mom was alive i’d ask her because I’m very curious about it. I wonder if I was always searching for that “perfect” fit, that “best friend.”

    I remember sobbing one day after a play date with a friend who went away to camp and adored it. My mom took me aside to ask why, and I asked if she was going to send me away. I was terrified (I was a total homebody, who got sniffly and anxious for sleepovers, though I did go 6 hours away for college!). My mom assured me she’d never send me away unless I wanted to go. I wonder if some kids (like me) just aren’t sleep away camp kind of kids, though your case for it is so very compelling!

  10. Interesting about the boys/camp gap! On a day like today all I can think about is that *I’d* like to go to summer camp. I don’t think this summer will be the summer that Maddy goes to camp because she doesn’t seem quite ready for overnights (she turns 8 first week of Sept) and there are some travel plans that might interfere anyway, but we are actively considering it for next year. My husband and I were not camp children, and we don’t see eye to eye on it (yet). I want her to go, and he seems more hesitant, though he seems to be coming around (and let’s get real: he’s not the one at home during the day so has a different POV anyway). In the end some of it will be up to her too, but I think over all it is something that she needs, particularly as an only child. I will be seeking your advice someday about what to look for in a good camp!

  11. I’m still so glad that your parents got mine to send me to CCSC too. And I think it’s funny that neither of our sisters liked camp. I suspect that the dearth of boys is driven by sports specific camps, which I think is really sad. There’s nothing quite as wonderful as camp for trying new things ad exploring the world- something that 8 hours of coaching in your sport of choice can’t offer.

  12. Lindsey, I wrote about camp too recently when I enrolled my kids a few weeks ago (like yours, my kids go to the camp I went to and then was a counselor at). I think one of the best things about camp is that it allows you to experience a range of emotions. You find and lose your sense of belonging, then find it again; you’re afraid and test yourself; you may even be surprised to discover you’re actually good at something. Like Samantha, all my firsts were at camp or in the company of camp friends. Camp was the only occasion I felt cool during middle school, both because I hung with kids who were a year or two older than me, and also because they never made fun of me unless I was included in the joke. The counselors did not even guide us to behave this way; camp itself inspired in even the most troubled pre-teens a certain amount of respect and awe that produced the very best behavior any of us were able to give.
    I was a day-camp kid and only tried a sleep-away camp once, but I am open to the idea of my kids going to one (maybe yours!), particularly for the reason Amanda gives about sending them off to college.
    How funny that you mention your sister not attending camp, which whisked me back to being a kid and learning after many years knowing each other that camp friends had siblings who didn’t go. They seemed like alien beings I couldn’t understand. How you could not LOVE camp?! Haha. Thanks for the mental journey on this snowy day!

  13. What an interesting note, that boys’ enrollment in camp seems to be less than girls. Summer camp doesn’t seem to be as popular here in Ohio, except for boy scout camps or sport camps. Neither my husband nor I went to camps growing up, except for me a week on two summers to synchronized swimming camp (when I was on a very serious team). It’s wonderful you embrace camp for your kids each year, Lindsey. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Thanks so much for these thoughts. As our oldest (now six) approaches this age we will need to consider what his summers will look like. Camp was not a huge part of my childhood, but it was for a few good friends and it makes me wish it had been for me.

    A question about distance… Since you are in the Boston are, the Cape is reasonably close. Do you sense that the distance (near or far) is a factor once the kids are gone?

    Hope you are staying warm this winter.

  15. I can relate to the boy stereotype. With two of them, I am always saying “calm down” and I get so frustrated with myself. (But when they are left unchecked, things break and it’s chaos). I would love to find a camp for boys … but I can’t even get them to spend a night at my parents’ house. Maybe when they are older:) I never really went to camp and it seems like such a special experience.

Comments are closed.