Summer Camp: Kids’ Expectations vs. Reality

Summer Camp: Kids’ Expectations vs. Reality

Summer camp doesn’t always live up to the incredibly high expectations of young campers.


By Maria Mora

Summer camp has reached near-mythological proportions in our culture. Kids look forward to it all year, parents often save up for it all year, and everyone expects it to be life changing. Is the reality quite that mind-blowing? Here, six reality checks for kids’ most common summer camp expectations.

1. Expectation: Summer romance
Whether they grew up watching camp movies or not, kids can’t help but hope for a sweet first romance while away from home at camp.

Reality: Unrequited crush
The popular kid everyone has a crush on ends up being aloof and too busy having fun to indulge in painful first attempts at flirting.

2. Expectation: Sleeping in an awesome tent
Tents seem really cool. They’re like blanket forts, except totally legit. Camp is all about getting to build them and sleep in them under the stars.

Reality: Tents are horrible
Ever tried putting a tent together? The only thing worse is taking it apart. And the only thing worse than that is lugging heavy tent equipment around.

3. Expectation: Roasted marshmallows every day
Who doesn’t love the taste of roasted marshmallows? At camp, kids dream they’ll eat nothing but sweet, sticky marshmallows with a perfect caramelized crust.

Reality: Sloppy camp food
Beyond one blissful evening of marshmallows, camp food is mostly mashed potatoes and weird sloppy casseroles. And if you’re out on the trail, it’s even worse. The only saving grace is hot sauce.

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4. Expectation: Amazing athletic feats
Summer camp is the ultimate place to hone your skills. With all that practice time, kids are bound to come home an expert in horsemanship or archery.

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Reality: Total mediocrity
Beyond perfecting their cannonball, they don’t get much practicing done. Who wants to take on repetitive form drills when there’s Capture the Flag to be played?

5. Expectation: Best friends for life
Kids may think that at camp, they’ll meet kindred spirits with whom lifelong friendships will be forged over campfire smoke. They’ll never lose touch with them.

Reality: Summer cliques
Kids are the same at camp as they are at school. Social groups form quickly, and teasing happens just as much as it does during the rest of the year. Except at camp, young counselors aren’t as adept at heading it off.

6. Expectation: Painful homesickness
The scariest part of camp is missing home. Kids plan on writing letters to their parents every single day while lovingly gazing at their photos.

Reality: What home?
Despite every bump and bug bite, camp really is the best. Kids forget their parents’ names by Day 5, and contemplate running off to live in the woods with their camp buddies. When pick-up day arrives, they have so many memories they don’t even know how to start telling Mom and Dad about them. And they hope their parents have already signed them up for next year.

What was your favorite thing about summer camp?


Maria Mora is communications director at Big Sea Design and Development in St. Petersburg, Florida. She lives with her two sons and their rescue terriers.

Image ©iStock.com/nano


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