Fireflies & Friendships

Sleepaway camps let kids be kids.


They’re everywhere. Summer camps for competitive youth sports, for STEM study, for college prep programs. These intense, structured day camps are blooming, joining the arms race to prepare kids for success. And understandably, parents want the best for their children. But do good, old fashioned sleepaway camps hold any allure? Are they relevant in this competitive, fast paced 21st-century world? 

If you poll most parents of sleepaway campers, you’d more than likely hear an enthusiastic chorus of “absolutely!” and then they’d cite the tremendous value in letting kids be kids. They can experience camp traditions, like catching fireflies and singing camp songs. And they can swim, explore, compete, and bond—all with their peers—learning valuable lessons in friendship, leadership, confidence, and independence along the way. “Giving [children] space to learn and explore is more important than crafting a particular curriculum,” wrote Alison Gopnik in the Wall Street Journal (“What Children Lose When Their Brains Develop Too Fast,” 12/9/22). “A longer, slower childhood may be better.”

Courtesy of Camp Friendship

Virginia is home to some of the country’s most notable summer sleepaway camps. They include: 

Camp Carysbrook (girls 6-16): Riner, CampCarysbrook.com

Camp Friendship (co-ed 7-16): Palmyra, CampFriendship.com

Camp Horizons (co-ed 6-17): Harrisonburg, CampHorizonsVa.com

Camp Maxwelton-Lachlan (boys 9-15, girls 8-15): Rockbridge Baths, Maxwelton-Lachlan.com

Camp Mont Shenandoah (girls 7-16): Millboro, CampMontShenandoah.com

Camp Strawderman (girls 7-16): Edinburg, CampStrawderman.com

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