Before TV, iPods, texting and Xbox, families may have shared activities every day, gathering around the radio for entertainment, carrying water from a well, or, you know, hunting mammoth.
Earbuds, overtime and after-school activities tend to get in the way of family bonding, and lots of people are looking for ways to get it back. Family camp, a gathering of parents and children in a summer-camp-type atmosphere, is one of the newer approaches, and a speedy increase in programs over the last few years speaks to the success of this outdoorsy approach to bonding.
It's hard enough to plan a family vacation with no other goal than to relax. Where do you even start when the goal is a closer-knit family unit?
Here, some tips on arranging a successful (and that means fun!) experience for your brood.
Tips for Planning a Family Camp
Family camp is probably a significant departure from your family's M.O., so you'll want to plan your first outing -- whether it's a long holiday weekend or a two-week summer extravaganza -- with extra care (lest it be your last).
If you follow a few general guidelines, planning your family-bonding vacation should be a relative breeze.
Learn what's out there. Family camps come in different shapes and sizes, offered by traditional camps, universities, religious institutions, community centers and groups like the YMCA. Look around to find something in your price range that suits your family and your purpose.
Know Your Goals
Are you looking for bonding, counseling or just plain fun? Different camps offer a host of programs, some of which are intended to teach and develop skills, and others that are a bit looser and purely recreational. Know which one is for you so you don't end up disappointed.
You may be dreaming of that movie moment when your entire, high-tech family realizes that analog togetherness is all they need. That might happen. But you might want to start a bit closer to your comfort zone.
If your family is the athletic, outdoorsy type, by all means, go for the family camp with the mountain climbing and survival course. But don't force it: If your family thinks "camping" means sleeping on an air mattress on the living room floor, choose a camp with some more modern amenities. Remember, this is about enjoying yourselves.
Get Everyone On Board
Depending on your family situation, a week in the Catskills with no Internet access might be a tough sell, but you can do it. Make sure you choose or build a program with activities for everyone -- daughters, sons, husbands and wives (and grandparents and cousins, if you're into that), so you can generate some sort of enthusiasm from every camper involved. No one wants to experience nature with a sulky teenager.
Whether you go the preplanned, all-inclusive route or you plan it yourself, family camp can be an excellent way to spend your precious free time. At best, you strengthen your family relationships in a meaningful, lasting way; at worst you take an affordable vacation and come away with a really funny picture of your kid on a zip line.
- "Camp Trends: Family Camps." American Camp Association. (Dec. 9, 2010)http://www.acacamps.org/media-center/camp-trends/family
- "Great Family Camps." Family Fun. (Dec. 9, 2010)http://familyfun.go.com/vacations/great-family-camps-712404/
- "Family Vacation: Camp Isn't Just for Kids." American Camp Association. (Dec. 9, 2010)http://www.campparents.org/newsletter/0809/article1
- Keer, Gregory. "Family Camp Has Its Days in the Sun." Parenthood. (Dec. 9, 2010)http://www.parenthood.com/article-topics/family_camp_has_its_days_in_the_sun.html