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American Summer camps

130 replies

Remotecontrolatmyside · 04/06/2023 17:17

Why have American style summer camps ever taken off in the UK? Is it because it would be unaffordable for the vast majority of the UK population? They always look like so much fun in films (I know that might not be the case in reality) and would solve a lot of child care issues maybe?

OP posts:
GlasgowGal82 · 04/06/2023 21:01

I worked at a summer camp when I was 20 and mostly had a good time, but I wouldn't send my kids to one, for the same reasons I wouldn't send my kids to boarding school. At the one I worked at the minimum stay was two weeks with no visits from parents and very limited phone calls. We had kids as young as four staying for anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks. Longer stay kids could get a visit every two weeks but many didn't. I was in a cabin with twelve year olds and while some of them thrived, some of them didn't and I had to deal with bed wetting, dirty protests bullying and one kid running out of ritalin and trying to run away in the middle of the night. Quite frankly I was too young and ill-equipped to deal with it properly and the advice I got from management was often very harsh.

mondaytosunday · 04/06/2023 23:12

My friends sent their daughter for six weeks every summer since she was 7 years old. Same kids tend to go for the same weeks every year. It was based around horses and she loved it. Both parents worked full time (as many do there as here in my experience @00100001) and it was one solution to childcare.
We did day camp for a couple weeks a couple years. Not quite the same thing though.

goodkidsmaadhouse · 05/06/2023 00:21

i went to summer camp for a month every summer and loved it but I was a teenager, I didn’t go as a young child. Not sure if I would’ve been homesick if I’d gone when I was younger because we were so busy and made such close friendships really quickly.
I don’t think they’re such a big thing in the UK simply because different countries do things differently. There are lots of American traditions that don’t exist here and vice versa.

DibbleDooDah · 05/06/2023 00:39

I worked at US summer camps for many years, including into my 40s!!!! My kids now go to one on the East Coast for three weeks every summer and they love it.

There are huge barriers to setting up something similar in the U.K. The main ones being suitable sites and good weather. They need a lot of land and usually have a lake. Most activities are done outdoors, especially where the whole camp comes together. 500 people in the rec hall on a rainy evening isn’t much fun as a one off, so could you imagine the unpredictability of the U.K. weather?

Then add in the need to have a workforce of hundreds, all of whom you only need for 8-10 weeks. You’ll need qualified lifeguards, skilled coaches and people experienced working with children. You can’t just staff it with university students, but older experienced people generally can’t just drop their real job for two months.

My kids camp costs $6k per child for the three weeks (I do get a discount though because I used to work for them). That works out at about £230 per day. I seriously doubt UK parents would want to, or have the means to pay that.

YMCA, Girl Scout and underprivileged camps charge far less / nothing at all, but they are far from that “Parent Trap” experience.

Ellie450 · 05/06/2023 01:07

ssd · 04/06/2023 18:21

I didn't realise American kids get 3 months school holidays, what a nightmare for the parents!

It really depends on the individual area/school. I remember begging to be allowed to stay with family in the US and go to school in California, partly because I thought I’d have a massive summer holiday. I was highly disappointed to discover that it would only have been 8 weeks. 😂

aloris · 05/06/2023 01:32

Camps with the types of programs you see in the movies are usually really expensive in real life. Most kids go to like YMCA day camp in their town for the summer if their parents need childcare, and as they age out of "going" to camp, they might age into being a "counselor" at camp, so getting paid a little bit to help out with camp. So that would be in a YMCA building with maybe swimming for some of the day and crafts and storytime etc, but not in the middle of the woods with canoeing and hiking all day like in the movies. Most parents cobble together a run-of-the-mill daycare type camp, with a couple weeks of something more unique like programming camp or ballet camp (whatever their child's interest is) and then a week at the beach and a week at family's house and things like that. Or, if you're in Scouts, there's a Scouting camp that I think draws kids from all over the USA and I've heard it's fantastic and of course they try to keep it as affordable as possible.

I know a family who have always done a summer-long camp like in the movies and it's is ferociously expensive and really hard to get in. The kids have an incredible time though, it's a truly memorable experience, from what I hear.

kingtamponthefurred · 05/06/2023 01:49

HatchetJob · 04/06/2023 20:05

I imagine the lack of cheap land next to lakes etc make it too expensive. There’s probably stricter rules here about adult to children ratio as well, all costs more.

I had a friend who worked at a fat camp in America one summer, wish I had done it. They used to confiscate all the banned foods the kids parents would sent to them (whole boxes of Twinkie’s etc) and eat them. It was a really expensive camp as well.

Setting aside the ethics of 'fat camp', why would parents pay a lot of money to send their children to one and then undermine the programme by providing contraband high calorie foods?

steff13 · 05/06/2023 01:53

lavenderlou · 04/06/2023 17:44

Day camps exist in the UK.

And in the US. My daughter starts at one in two weeks where she'll learn the science of cooking.

teezletangler · 05/06/2023 02:00

I'm Canadian. I shudder when I remember my sleepover camp memories! I do have friends who loves it though, it so depends on the camp and the child. But as pp have said, it really is a small subset of the North American population that partake of this tradition; it's quite an upper middle class phenomenon and also concentrated in the eastern states and provinces. Now I live on the west coast and overnight camp really isn't a thing.

teezletangler · 05/06/2023 02:16

Also agree that it wouldn't work in the UK because the camps rely on a large amount of land beside a lake and very reliable summer weather.

GeorgiaGirl52 · 05/06/2023 02:33

Summer holidays in American schools have shortened to 8weeks (June and July) so that we can have a week in-between terms (Fall break, Winter break and Spring break)
There are inexpensive day camps, many run by churches or local government, that provide daycare for working parents.
There are also very expensive camps.
What you would spend on a family vacation to France or Spain is what I spent sending my child to summer camps for two weeks. The fact that he was away gave me a "staycation" at home with takeaways and control of the remote!!
Seriously, starting at age 8, DS went to Karate Camp, American History Camp (held in a National Park) to Space Camp for two years, then computer camp (held on college campus) for two years. These were two week camps in other states.
He also attended a week of band camp and a week of church camp each summer. So 4 out of 8 weeks he was occupied and I could work or deep clean or just vegetate.

Trifecta · 05/06/2023 02:46

I lived in the US growing up. Summer breaks were close to three months at that time. Many schools now have a longer break in winter - 3 weeks and in spring - 2 weeks. Summer break is shorter - closer to 2 months.

HamBone · 05/06/2023 02:49

@GeorgiaGirl52 @Trifecta Unfortunately where we live it’s still 11 weeks. 😂 Not so bad now mine are older teens and working, but it’s still too long!

Trifecta · 05/06/2023 02:51

That’s too long. Kids are bored and parents are ready to kill them. 😂

Ponderingwindow · 05/06/2023 02:55

Most children in the US aren’t attending the month or longer sleep-away camp programs you see in the movies. One week overnight programs or day camps are much more common.

we started with weekly day camps and then once she got old enough added a couple of short sleep-away into the mix.

debbrianna · 05/06/2023 02:56

The three-month holiday now makes those high school movies make sense. Like the change in personality on the first day of school. The total "Where have you been question?" which I always found ode assuming they were having six-week holidays.

Ponderingwindow · 05/06/2023 03:10

I don’t think the holiday is too long. It gives my child a chance to spend time with kids who are like her. The camps she attends tend to attract other quirky, high achievers. It gives her a chance to explore other interests. She gets to study science and art. this summer she is old enough that she is adding a significant amount of volunteer work to the mix. It is three months of enriching activities she can’t do any other time because of the constraints of school.

I know our perspective is skewed because of our ability to pay for a curated summer experience. Instead of looking to shorten summer because not everyone has the same opportunities, we should be looking for ways to provide access to enriching activities to all students. Those activities are also a kind of education.

Honeychickpea · 05/06/2023 03:17

00100001 · 04/06/2023 18:23

Yep. Bit way more families have stay at home parents, because houses aren't extortionate on the whole, like they are here and you probably need two incomes!

Are you kidding me? 30 years in the us, I've only known one couple with a sahp. However everyone i know gets 30 + days of pto.

Happyhappyday · 05/06/2023 03:22

American here who spent 13+ summers at camp. I think it’s shorter school hols, it takes a huge amount of infrastructure to run a camp and staff it. I think fewer students work to staff camp, the weather is worse, parents do get a bit more holiday in the UK. Uni holidays are even longer and most students expect to work full time so there are a lot of people looking for summer jobs! And honestly almost every bit of camp feels antithetical to British culture! Everyone I know who went loved it. I’m sure there are some crap ones but mine was brilliant.

Day camps are great too and I don’t think they do really exist in the same in the UK, for a lot of the same reasons, it’s not worth building a business around 6 weeks.

Cantstandbullshitanymore · 05/06/2023 03:29

PatriciaHolm · 04/06/2023 17:22

As well as the reduced amount of holiday days many Americans get.

This seems to be the default answer to anything American raised on mumsnet. That doesn’t really answer the question given average will be what 30 days which includes bank holidays while employees with low vacation days in the US will have about 11 - 15 plus 11 bank holidays.

The difference does not explain why summer camps are popular in the US but not the UK.

4plusthehound · 05/06/2023 03:45

My dd went. Slept in a tent, camp fires, s'mores etc. Stuff of films.

A funny thing - when we picked her up she went to the the loo. She was shocked as she had not seen herself for two weeks! There was no tech and no mirrors - all girls.

She was so healthy when she came out - blooming.

4plusthehound · 05/06/2023 03:51

Cantstandbullshitanymore · 05/06/2023 03:29

This seems to be the default answer to anything American raised on mumsnet. That doesn’t really answer the question given average will be what 30 days which includes bank holidays while employees with low vacation days in the US will have about 11 - 15 plus 11 bank holidays.

The difference does not explain why summer camps are popular in the US but not the UK.

A few thoughts!

Space - city ones are often run on school grounds but are day camps. Country ones are ... in the country with more space usually.

Weather - very unpredictable here. They could be washed out in a jiffy. They often camp in tents - not so great in the wet and cold.

I do not know why staff would be a problem here. Teachers (especially young ones) often work in the them as do students.

4plusthehound · 05/06/2023 03:52

Americans are bloody great at some things. Camp is one I think.

Honeychickpea · 05/06/2023 03:54

I suspect British parents are part of the reason.

MayLeaveADentInYourSofa · 05/06/2023 04:20

As a Brit in the US, I assumed the need for summer camps here grew out of a necessity to break up the long summer break. Having said that most summer camps are day camps that happen locally with no overnight stays.

I quite like the long summer break because the school year goes really quick. My kids don't get burn out here like they tended to in the UK.

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