Summer Camp Middle Ground For Tweens and Teens Is Hard to Find

Kim Bongiorno

I know I should have arranged some sort of camp thing for my kids this summer months ago, but it seems I hit a tricky spot. On one hand, they are old enough to be fairly independent. On the other hand, they should be out there socializing. On the third hand, I work from home, so paying boatloads of dough for an all-day or sleepaway camp for weeks on end is a bit much—especially times two kids. What’s a mom to do when her kids reach the middle ground when it comes to their summer camp needs?

My son is fourteen now. I know for a fact that he’s not the only human child transitioning from middle school to high school. How do we find just the right camp for this age—and the next couple of years, until they get their driver’s license and won’t need to rely solely on us to get them to and from the fun? When I was that age, it was totally different: everyone else was hanging around, too, so we just kind of hung out together. Not anymore; these days, suburbia becomes a ghost town come summertime. Everyone has every week fully planned out and booked up by February. (Except me, of course.)

He has been enjoying soccer skills day camps for years. Due to some changes, now his options are either playing with kids far too young to help him improve his game, or get sent to overnight camps with kids much older than him. Uh, yeah. No offense to high school seniors, but I don’t think my kid is ready to be influenced by them all day every day throughout the summer quite yet.

As for my twelve-year-old daughter, she’s bouncing between a slightly-too-young-for-her-now day camp that’s cheap, but a place she can become a Counselor in Training at once she’s fourteen (so it’s a future job thing), and a basketball camp that we can only get her in for a single week. The rest of the summer, I’m trying to patch together week-long day camps with her interests in mind, but lots of them sell out before the first spring bloom. We usually can’t firm up summer travel plans until July, making booking camps ahead of time impossible. UUUGH.

Over the years I have talked to parents, and when both of them work full-time, they usually send their middle- and high-schoolers to full-day camps around here that sound amazing. The kicker? They also cost as much as I earn in three months. I cannot rationalize working all summer long just so my kids can go to a cool camp with canoeing, overnight trips, and a big, fancy pool. I mean, I know people do this and that’s great for them, but I don’t think I have that in me. Also, I could always take the time this summer to take them canoeing, on overnight trips, and to pools, myself, for a fraction of the price!

And while I get the appeal of “let the kids be bored and have a 1970’s summer,” that works much better when you’re not someone working from home while the kids are either Mom I’m Bored-ing you throughout the day, or having friends over who are so loud that you need to keep pausing work to ask them to keep it down or take it outside. I’m more of a let-them-be-bored-for-part-of-the-day kind of person, preferring to keep them busy at a camp for the morning, then let them do as they wish all afternoon. 

Which brings me back to wondering what the heck I’m going to do with these kids this summer, so we’re not all stuck in the house together  staring at one another until the first day of school. I’m frustrated by the lack of options for this age group that don’t break the bank, and simply can’t find that magical day camp that’s both age-appropriate and interesting.

Are you in this situation, too? Because I’d love to hear what your solution is. 

And if you’re someone looking for a new business venture? Consider this my official idea pitch. All I ask is that you get it up and running ASAP (and give me a deep discount for coming up with it in the first place).

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Categories: TeenagerParenting
Tags: campHigh Schoolmiddle schoolsummer break