summer camp for families
When making your summer plans and coordinating camp options for the kids, broaden your thinking and consider family camp. If you have never heard of family camp, it is exactly what it sounds like, a residential camp experience for the whole family, wake up bell included. Why should kids have all the fun? Usually family camp is a cost effective way for all of you to enjoy the outdoors and have the luxury of someone else preplanning the myriad of activities and often the meals as well.
At family camp you can surround yourself with extended family in a relaxed manner. Imagine sharing time with your siblings, their children, cousins, friends and maybe even grandparents without coordinating activities or food. Anne deSoto has enjoyed multiple trips to family camp, first as a mom and now as a grandma. “What appealed at first and still does, is that it is an example of simple, shared living and all the values implied in that. It was a great way to introduce my children to the camping experience that has greatly enriched their lives.” When her youngest son was married, deSoto suggested family camp to the grandchildren and extended family that travelled across the country to attend the ceremony. “It became an annual family reunion and offered the best bang for our buck.”
This style of vacation offers a balance between full-time engaged parenting and a parental getaway. There are often activities that parents and children can participate in separately, providing parents with some free time while building children’s independence. Usually located in a natural setting, camp offers a level of freedom that is a lacking in many children’s lives. Since the routine of camp life is similar from camp to camp, it is also great preparation for children who want to attend camp solo in the future. Not to worry, there are also sports and crafts to enjoy jointly for family bonding opportunities.
Depending upon the geography where you choose to vacation, family camps have a wide variety of activities such as: horseback riding, canoeing, rock climbing, swimming, hiking, boating, crafting, nature education, yoga and dancing. Freeman-Copcutt sampled many options, “Personally I loved starting the day with the Polar Bear Dip, although I complained each morning about why my son had signed us up for this. I followed this with yoga by the water after breakfast. I also had the opportunity to learn to swing dance with my son at family camp and do T-shirts with my daughter.”
At the end of the day each family retires to their own sleeping quarters (these can vary from tents to cabins to hotel-style rooms depending upon the camp). This offers each family some alone time to reconnect and balance the potentially busy day. This privacy also permits the opportunity for smaller children to keep to their regular schedule.
For families who return year after year, campers create lifelong friendships. “My favorite part of family camp by far is the camaraderie and closeness we share with the other families at camp. We encourage each other and each other’s kids. We share laughs and hugs, bug spray and Band-Aids, successes and challenges,” says Knuckle. One of the challenges that some camps help families face is camping with a child who has special needs. Some camps provide trained counselors to help the child enjoy camp and offer respite to parents.
If you are unsure about an entire week at family camp, many offer weekends as a great way to try on this style of vacation to see if it suits your family.
SUE LEBRETON is a health and wellness journalist and mother of two. Her family spent six summers attending a lakeside family camp and recently attended family camp in the mountains. Her clan thinks family camp rocks.
Two Florida Family Camps to Consider:
Circle F Dude Ranch
Located in Lake Wales, Circle F Dude Ranch offers Family Weekend programs ranging from high energy and challenging activities to stress-free. Family Weekend guests will enjoy rustic, bunkhouse-style cabins, located around 500 acres of oaks, rolling hills and lakeside. Each cabin contains six bunk beds and can accommodate up to 12 people. The bunkhouse cabins feature tiled floors, ceiling fans, large open-air screened windows, and air-conditioning. Each bunkhouse cabin includes its own bathroom with a shower, sink, and toilet. Included with each family weekend package are six meals and a two-night stay at the ranch along with use of property.
- 5301 Dude Ranch Road, Lake Wales, Florida 33898
Indian Springs Retreat Center
During family camp weekends, families enjoy a cabin all to themselves, meals prepared by the staff, and during the day, a chance to participate in activites from horseback riding, swimming, high ropes, ziplines, archery, and hay rides. At night, camp staff lead Night Walks where your family will get to experiment with your night vision. The evenings end with a campfire complete with singing, dancing, and stories.
- 2387 Bloxham Cut Off Road, Crawfordville, Florida 32327