Children smiling at camera


Summer Camp Is a Privilege Many Families Can’t Afford — Here’s How We Made it Work For Us

Apr 12, 2019

Growing up, summer often cleaved my kid-heavy neighbourhood in half: There were the kids that stayed home and the kids that went to sleepover camp. I was firmly a member of the former, sleepover camp not ever being a priority or, more realistically, a financial possibility in my four-sibling family.

I neither regretted nor resented the omission of sleepover camp in my life, but once I was a parent myself, the question of overnight camp came up again — that is, my kids asked to go. After doing some research, my husband and I agreed that it would be possible to send our two girls to a modest sleepover camp, for no more than one term.

But before we would make a decision, we had a few things to mull over. Was overnight camp right for our family?

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After much thought, family discussion and negotiation, we did decide to send our girls to a nature-based overnight camp located in a national park, for one session. It was a great experience and they’re looking forward to going back again this summer.

Sending your kids to camp affects the entire family, so the decision should be made with the entire family in mind. If you’re considering sending your child to overnight camp, consider answering these five questions first.

If camp is right for your family, it will be something that positively impacts every member.

1. Has your child asked to go?

First things first: Whose idea is this? Like most extracurricular activities, even the really fun ones, the success rate seems to be higher if it’s something your child has asked to do. And if attending camp wasn’t your child’s idea, why do you want to send them? You might be anticipating a quiet week at home, but if your kid isn’t ready, you’ll hear about it. Make sure they are ready for the experience so it will be a positive one for both of you.

2. Will your child be able to handle the separation? (Will you?)

Camps are well positioned to handle a bit of homesickness, but it’s a good idea to consider how your child navigates social situations and immersion in brand new environments without you. The median age for first attendance at sleepover camp is 7 or 8 (ours were a little older), so there should have been a few opportunities for testing separation coping skills already. Parents should also be comfortable with the separation so you don’t spend your week worrying or needlessly checking in with the camp. Seriously, go have a nice dinner out and enjoy the quiet.

3. Will the cost put stress on your family’s finances?

Camp isn’t cheap, and really, how could it be when it is feeding, housing, entertaining and supervising your child for the time they are there? But even if you find a camp you can realistically afford to send your kid to, the costs don’t really end at registration. Consider the additional possible costs of transportation, tuck, spirit wear, photos and whatever clothing and sundries you may need to buy before you think you’ve calculated the total costs.

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4. Will you be able to send your child and/or their siblings again next year?

If your child has a great time, they’ll want to go back to camp. Of course things happen and situations change, but seriously consider that this is now a recurring cost/time commitment, and that if you have other children, they will want to go to overnight camp as well. 

5. Are you ready to make overnight camp a core component of your family’s summer?

Summer goes by fast, doesn’t it? Consider that sending your kids to camp for any length of time, whether it’s a three-day junior camp or a full two-week session, takes time away from other potential summer plans. There’s a reason that overnight camp is a tradition for so many families, but it has to be something that everybody is willing to work with and around.

Article Author Karen Green
Karen Green

Karen Green is a corporate and creative freelance writer specializing in parenting, culture and books. Her work has appeared in numerous digital and print publications, including Canadian Family, Today’s Parent, Bustle, Canadian Living and The Globe and Mail. She has written two very early readers books for Fisher-Price, and is the author of the popular parenting blog, The Kids Are Alright (on hiatus). A Toronto ex-pat, Karen now lives with her husband and two daughters in Chatham, Ontario, where she spends her free time doing quaint things like making jam.

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