Summer camp can be a fun, life-changing experience for any kid, but should it be a family affair? Are siblings better off at the same place, or should you send them their separate ways? Here’s what’s great about each option:
SENDING THEM TO THE SAME CAMP
“One of the big advantages is that it can help with homesickness,” says Renee Flax, director of camper placement services for the American Camp Association of New York and New Jersey. Plus, shared experiences can be a strong bond. “Singing camp songs, telling funny camp stories—these are things siblings can relate to long after they’ve left camp for the summer,” says Flax. For parents, of course, it’s always helpful to have shared visiting and departure dates, identical packing requirements and often, generous sibling discounts.
SENDING THEM TO DIFFERENT CAMPS
On the other hand, there are times when going to separate camps is better. “There are children who really want camp to be their own special place and don’t want to share it with another family member,” Flax says. Different camps can be especially beneficial for a middle or younger child who’s always being identified as someone else’s younger sibling. “A camp of their own is a place to shine for themselves and develop their own identity. It also makes some children more self-reliant to know that they don’t have a sibling to go to whenever there’s an issue, and they can solve the problem on their own.”
If you’re unsure, Flax suggests a hybrid: Many organizations offer affiliated camps—they’re on separate campuses, but siblings have a specific time they get to spend together, like Sunday afternoons or dinners once a week in the case of sleepaway camp.
Overall, Flax suggests you choose the right camp by considering the needs of each kid. “If that happens to be the same camp as a sibling, that’s great, but don’t compromise what’s best for each of them if the same camp isn’t the best possible choice.”
—Jamie Wisniewski is a freelance writer and adjunct professor at Montclair State University. She grew up at summer camp, and now spends her summers traveling the world.