Parents Want Kids To Have ‘Takeaways’ From Summer Camp, Not Just Fun

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The economy may be inching into recovery, but many organizations and businesses are notably struggling: namely summer camps. The costs of feeding, entertaining, and teaching hundreds of kids for a couple of warm months has escalated, primarily because parents are expecting more from camp these days that sun tans and pen pals. Many parents send their kids away anticipating a new skill set complete with certificates, trophies, and ribbons.

Mickey Black of Pine Forest camp in Pennsylvania told The New York Times that it costs more to run a summer camp now than it did a generation or two ago:

…Mr. Black says, [parents] want something more for their money. They want their children to come home with a better tennis serve, say, or a stronger backstroke, or perhaps a better technique for making chocolate soufflé.

“It is not enough anymore to just go to camp to have fun and make friends and improve independence and self-esteem,” Mr. Black says. “Some parents want actual takeaways. They want to see skills, achievements, patches and certificates.”

Getting more bang for your buck is a valid priority for parents trying to juggle summer camp, household expenses, tuition, and perhaps a college fund. But assessing a child’s summer camp gains through patches and certificates conveys a narrow understanding of the benefits of such an experience. Some camp lessons don’t take the shape of a trophy or a prize, such as independence, or first kisses, or learning how to make a life for yourself once removed from family and friends. A better tennis serve may come with some notoriety, but an eight-year-old who makes new friends without the coaxing of mommy and daddy deserves some too.