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Second Job to Afford Summer Camp?

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Meanest Mom says: Thinking of sending your child to camp this summer? I hope you have deep pockets.


The cost of sending my 5-year-old daughter to a week-long YMCA camp last week exceeded the amount of her monthly preschool tuition ... and that was just for a half-day program run by high school students. If you want your child to do something more at camp than draw pictures and play Duck-Duck-Goose, then you have to pay for it--big time.

Five mornings of Dinosaur Camp in my city will cost you $150, while five hours of the popular Pony Camp will set you back a whopping $200. That's $40 an hour! For that kind of cash, I would strap on a saddle and let a dozen horse-obsessed preschoolers ride me around a ring.

Why do summer camps cost so much? Cheap labor (from high school and college students) is most plentiful between the months of June and August, and warm weather makes entertaining kids easy and inexpensive (can anyone say "water balloons?"). I understand that camp directors need to make a living, but c'mon! For the cost of two sessions of Pony Camp, I could buy my own pony.

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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous June 28, 2008, 1:19 PM

Dinosaur camp? Why?

momof9 June 29, 2008, 11:38 AM

I work and help organize children’s camps from time to time. A huge part of the recent seemingly unreal increase in the cost of camp is basically because of the increase in liability protection we must now have. Now, if little Jenny or Johnny stubs their toe we may be in for a 6 year court battle due to the emotional distress that the stubbed toe caused the entire family of Jenny or Johnny. We also have increased costs because we must do extensive background checks on every adult who might have any kind of contact with the children while at camp and that includes everybody even the janitors. We also must pay a nurse to be on hand the entire time the children are there to handle all the minor accidents and also to distribute all those medications children are now taking. Sometimes we have to have 2 nurses if we have a large camp. When I began working children’s camps 20 years ago we had no fear of a lawsuit from parents for any normal childhood accident. If Johnny or Jenny stubbed a toe or even broke a bone or needed stitches we just called the parent’s and they took care of it. When I started working children’s camps 20 years ago we might have had 5 children out of a hundred who had medication to deal with and the parent’s were OK with a counselor giving the medications to the children and did not demand a licensed nurse. Now 9 out of 10 children are on some kind of meds many of them are taking multiple medications on very strict schedules. When I started working camps 20 years ago we had maybe 2 children out of 100 who might have some kind of allergy and the child was expected to know what they were allergic to and avoid it themselves. Now about 3/4 of the children we have at camp have allergies and parents expect us to be the ones to be sure that their chidlren are not exposed to what they are allergic to. Many work hours must be paid for even prior to camp for a nurse & dietician to help prepare a menu that will not get us sued due to allergies and that the menu must also provide the nutrition children need. When I started working camps 20 years ago the college students who came to help were volunteers. We only paid them with a certificate to take to the college to say they had done the community a service. Now those students get at least minimum wage and we must have many more of them than in the past because children generally are not as well behaved now and so instead of the 1 adult for 10 or 15 children ratio we used to need to maintain a safe fun camp we must now have a 1 adult for 5 children ratio if we have any hopes of maintaining control of the children of this new generation. Not only are todays children much more delicate physically but they are also more delicate mentally so we must have & pay for all our camp couselors to attend classes to learn how to handle the delicate emotional state of this new generation. We have to be wary of lawsuits if Johnny or Jenny get their feelings hurt at camp too. So all in all I would say that the biggest reason that camps cost so much more now is because the children are so fragile now and the parents so litigious. By the way I do not get paid at all for the work I do at the camps I help with.

That was funny! Mom of 9 July 1, 2008, 1:57 AM

Seriously mom0f 9 - that was so funny! And true…of course that is why these things are so expensive…that should have been the real address of the blog post. We all know why they are so expensive, it is great to laugh about the why!

Anon July 1, 2008, 10:45 AM

Summer camps are just overpriced babysitters.

flipper July 12, 2008, 11:02 AM

You know… maybe they need two summer camps. Each would offer a similar camp experience. One would be for the physically delicate, mentally unstable, heavily medicated, multiply allergic so called “children” and their litigious parents. They could pay $5000 per week.

Then, we could have camp for my kids and their ilk… physically tough, unmedicated, low-level or no allergy, mentally stable, well socialized children and their non-litigous parents. Camp for these families would be around $500 per week.

PalmettoBreeze December 27, 2008, 1:45 AM

From my experience working in recreation and having spent three summers at a residential camp, I can see where the money goes and why its needed. Lawsuits are out there and I can only imagine the costs of the insurance. But if you look at a traditional sleep away coed camp there are a ton of costs most people don’t think of. Lets break it down- Arts and crafts: tons of clay, paint, paper, pencils, ceramic, replace new pottery wheel at least one new one a year, other supplies. Horses - Yea thats a money drain with food, rental/or buying horses, vet bills, stables. Pools - in recreation for the most part a traditional rectangle pool is known as a money drain. In cold places like up north the concrete will crack and tear up quickly. Then sports - Camps have to be comptitive and need flat fields (don’t forget the grass seed and mowers/mowing that needs to be done) and of course there is the equipment that gets abused or borrowed - Bats, balls, lacrosse sticks, frisbees, basketballs/goals, tend ot have a short life span when the owners are an institution. Food lets not forget that.

Long story short, there are a ton of expenses at most camps. I mean I would like to think camps make tons of money but at the camp I worked at and I am talking one of the nicest (costliest) traditional camp I worked out our owners did not roll up in a blinging car.

I like to throw the councilors side out when people complain about the price. You can pay around $3000 for some camps for 4 weeks. When we got paid which I am not going to say how much it equated to about 25 cents an hour becuase we were technically on call 24 hrs a day snce we stayed in the cabin.

Bob January 15, 2009, 1:37 PM

A full week of camp at Camp Allendale is only $335.

Nick Riotto February 17, 2009, 1:23 PM

The cost of many summer camps is directly related to the quality of instruction that your children will receive. If your kids are receiving instruction from older high schoolers or college-age counselors, the cost will be lower. If the camp hires professional instructors who are year-round experts in their field, parents can expect to pay a premium. With more than 12,000 camps in the US, it’s often difficult to make distinctions between the programs. A referral service like that offers reviews and expert advice may be a great place to start. March 31, 2010, 10:37 PM

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