A Summer of Fun! 2024 Summer Camp Guide

New summer camp routines can turn out to be glorious

by Rebecca Thornburgh
Posted 3/21/24

When you’re a kid, summer camp gives you a chance to experience real life, but seen through a funhouse mirror.

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A Summer of Fun! 2024 Summer Camp Guide

New summer camp routines can turn out to be glorious


When you’re a kid, summer camp gives you a chance to experience real life, but seen through a funhouse mirror. You get to jump out of your regular life to have experiences that are completely different – fun, exciting, challenging, maybe even scary (at first) – and then live to tell the tale when you jump back into the real world of the school year schedule.

Weirdly enough, being a kid means having a routine. Always has. During the school year that familiar ritual revolves around your school day – your wake-up time, heaving your backpack into a car or onto a bus to get to school, your after-school soccer practice, your piano, violin, dance lesson, your homework ritual, your family dinner, and your reluctant drag toward a mandatory bedtime. On weekends, there’s more time for fun stuff like club sports and sleepovers, but still, you’ve got a routine. 

During the school year, you know what’s happening and when. But when the school year ends, that routine does too. When school’s out what takes its place for you is sometimes, maybe even often, summer camp. And what summer camp gives you is a routine that’s anything but familiar. 

You’re gonna spend days or weeks someplace you’ve never seen, meet kids you probably don’t know, do things you’ve never tried before, eat stuff your parents don’t usually serve up for dinner, and sleep somewhere very different from your own bed at home. You’re going to go through all kinds of new stuff – stuff that will make you giggle, shiver, scream, sigh, laugh, and even cry. Stuff is going to happen to you. And you are going to change.

Getting geared up for summer camp has its own routine, too. All that’s mostly on your parents, but you’re in it, too. Sometime around the end of March, your parents are gonna start talking about the summer, asking innocently, “Gee, sweetie (or sport), what would you like to do this summer?” The question may sound casual, but it’s not. Clearly now is the time to make a plan for your routine this summer. 

Your parents’ routines don’t (usually) take a break for the months of June, July, and August, so they need to find you something to do. So, whether or not you are up for the discussion, you and your parents are in it together to think through what’s out there to keep you busy and having a decent amount of fun (while you’re staying out of their hair). 

And maybe, probably, the plan you put together will include some time at summer camp. Maybe it’s a daytime program where your parents drop you off every day, or maybe it’s a sleepover thing, when you go to the woods or a special retreat center for a week or two, or even all summer long. 

Once the team of Parents-plus-You has decided on The Camp, the weeks of late spring are all about gathering your supplies. No matter what kind of camp lies ahead, there will be a list. A major, capital-L list.

You’ll need summer camp clothes: maybe just a swimsuit and a towel and extra sneakers, but maybe also a pair of climbing boots or riding breeches that you can only get at one specific store that’s 75 miles away and open only on Tuesdays. You’ll need summer camp gear: maybe just a water bottle and sunscreen, a flashlight, a rain poncho, but maybe also a very specific model of tennis racket or drawing tablet or musical instrument, something obscure that’s guaranteed to be out of stock any place local, so that it also means your parents have to drive 75 miles to fork out more than a few bucks to acquire. And of course, even if you already have some of the stuff on The List – a sleeping bag, hiking boots, swim goggles, binoculars – you will know these existing possessions are flimsy, inadequate, and dated, so they totally have to be replaced –  so you can be fully prepared – like all the other kids are gonna be, right? 

Once you’ve got all of that essential stuff piled up in a corner of your bedroom, maybe by Memorial Day, all that’s left is to make sure your name (and of course cell number and email address) are clearly and permanently marked on every single item, every t-shirt, every sock, every pair of underwear, your asthma inhaler, your extra pair of glasses. Your parents will take care of this – either by sewing on custom-made labels they ordered from Etsy (your mom) or by scrawling a barely legible legend with a dried-out Sharpie (your dad).

Then it’s June. Everything’s ready. Except you. Early June goes by, mid-June goes by, school’s gonna be out soon, and you are still not ready. Because all you can think about is what is it gonna be like? It’s “Summer Camp: the Movie,” a blockbuster sci-fi fantasy event, outta this world, jam-packed action and excitement, thrills, chills, crazy CG effects, all never-before-seen, and... starring you

It’s a lot to think about. So you do. You think a lot, and you think about a lot. You think about the other kids. Are they going to be okay, are they gonna be friendly, are they gonna be cool? Will they make fun of your retainer, or your outie belly button or how your one ear is lower than the other one? You think about the food. Are they gonna make you, like, cook everything on, like, a campfire? Will they make you eat green stuff? What if all they have to drink is plain water? Can maybe your mom write them a note about how you definitely aren’t supposed to eat kale? 

You think about sleeping (if sleeping is involved). Are there beds or is, like, your sleeping bag just right there on the ground? Is it gonna be, like, totally dark at night, no nightlights? Can you listen to your phone to get to sleep? 

You think about the activities: What if you can’t pass the swimming test and have to stay at the shallow end for six weeks? What if your hands get super sweaty and you fall off the climbing wall like that one kid two years ago who Emma told you her sister’s best friend’s cousin saw get a concussion? What if the sports, the lessons, the games, what is just everything is different, and weird, and hard, like too hard, maybe even what if it’s really scary? AND also what if it's BORING? What if you get homesick? You won’t, of course, I mean, because this time it’s just day camp...but maybe you will?

And somehow the weeks before turn into days before, and then there it is. 

Summer camp is here. And you are there. You’re all in for a wild ride. You’re in a new community in a new location, with new people (kids your age, teenage counselors, unknown adults), new food, new things to think about trying and new things you have to try. It’s a brand new routine, in a funhouse world where everything is unfamiliar and untested. Let the games begin.