"Short" overnight camp for resistant 10-yr old

My highly sensitive 10-year daughter has never been to overnight camp, and is scared to try. The pandemic only increased her fears. Sleepovers have not always gone well.

I think she needs a nudge into trying a "short" camp (e.g., 2 or 3 nights) this summer. Does such a thing exist? Bonus if it is close to Berkeley. Most of the camps I see are 7+ nights and a 3+ hour drive away. 

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Girl scouts has several short overnight options. Our daughter started when she was 9 with just a two night stay. There is a camp in Marin county they offer so it's pretty close as well. Our daughter absolutely loved it and has gone back every year for longer and longer stay. It's a great program and also girls only which I think makes it extra special. You don't have to be affiliated with girl scouts to go to the camp. Good luck! 

I understand why you want to force this but I don't think that you should. She's still really young and there's plenty of time to do try sleepover camp. I signed my son up for sleepaway camp the summer after 2nd grade and it didn't go well. He didn't eat or sleep much and he seemed afraid of one of the older kids when we picked him up. The kids put on a performance the last day of camp and I was really looking forward to it. But my son was cringing and hiding and really didn't want to do it so we left. We took him fir food and he ate like a horse and then he slept for most of a day. I felt really badly about putting him in such a stressful situation. Sleepaway camp was something I liked as a kid but my son doesn't like a lot of the things that I did.. Your daughter has clearly told you that she doesn't want to do it yet and I think that you should honor her wishes. Good luck to you both.

Respectfully, would you reconsider this? It sounds like your daughter has gamely tried already, by participating in sleepovers. And they haven't worked for her, for her own reasons. Perhaps she's not only scared--maybe she simply doesn't want to be away from you, and her home? I'm an adult, and I don't want to be away from my family for three days! 

If your child is scared to try a sleep away camp, and sleepovers have not always gone well, it sounds like she is not ready. While I understand that lots of kids go away to camp for several weeks at a time, 10-11 is still pretty young. I would focus more on the baby steps that might prepare her for camp (eg overnight visits with friend or family member away from you), rather than pushing her into a camp situation. 

Does your daughter have any friends that might be interested in going to a camp with her, have you asked any of her friends mothers?  If she does not have close friends or someone that she is comfortable to go with, then drop the subject.  If sleepovers have not gone well, then stop trying to push her into one.    There are some kids that have anxiety over this issue and it is best not to push them.  Give her time.  Have her join a Girl Scout Troop and that could help.  

We used to see sleep under the stars type events at Chabot Space Center and the Oakland Zoo that was one night thing on a Friday or weekend. I’m not sure if it’s still happening but that’s nearby overnight and seems fun for your kiddo’s age range :)

NOBODY is more pro-sleepaway camp than me, for sure. I was a camper as a child, a counselor as a teen, and now the parent of two campers. That said, I see NOTHING to gain by making your child do something she is scared to do. Sleepaway camp is not right for every 10 year old, nor for every child/teen - regardless of age. Please don't send your child someplace they don't want to be, as it makes life very difficult for their counselor, and unpleasant for the other girls in the cabin.

So what can you do? This coming summer, you can sign the whole family up for a stay at a family camp like YMCA Loma Mar, where they offer a mix of family/sleepaway options, so your child gets a feel for the camp experience without missing parents. You can also recommend to her age-appropriate fiction set in camps. Depending on how your family camp experience goes, you can then plan to feel her out for summer 2023 and think about if there is one friend who might also be interested (just one, as sending a small group of friends defeats the purpose of camp). There is literally no rush, and again, i can't urge you enough to consider her feelings and not send her a place she doesn't want to go.

Haven’t done it but YMCA Camp Gulch is 6 days (which may be more than you want) https://www.ymcasf.org/programs/overnight-camp-camp-jones-gulch

Point Bonita has family camps that are 2 nights: https://www.ymcasf.org/programs/family-camp-weekends-point-bonita

For the family camps, maybe you go with another family and she can share a tent with another kid as a way to ease into it? 

Do you allow her to sleep over at friend’s place? That can be a test run for an overnight as well. 

For what it's worth, my son didn't go to overnight camp until he was 12. The first few nights were tough but he got through them and wound up absolutely loving it. he can't wait to go back! So, if it were me, I'd consider choosing a camp with enough days/nights for the child to have the opportunity to "get over the hump" and adjust to being there.  Just a thought...hope it helps. Good luck!

Some YMCA sleep away camps have mini camps. I know that Camp Campbell in the redwoods has a "six day" (but 5 night) mini camp - scroll down until you see "six day mini-camp" https://ymap.ymcasv.org/PersonifyEbusiness/Program-Search/BR/RW/CAT/WEB_OVERNIGHT_CAMP/SCAT/YOUTH_OVERNIGHT/WL/Y/AUTO/Y

YMCA has others in the area but this is the one my son went to and loved. It has the classic camp look with charming cabins, nestled in the redwoods in Boulder Creek with a stream, a big swimming pool, TONS of activities and well trained friendly staff. My son was terrified, worried if he could make friends after a bad year in 5th grade and it was the saving grace of the year. YMCA camps are affordable (comparatively) AND offer the classic camp experience, really they are a wonderful resource.

There are other YMCA summer sleepaway camps in the area and each usually offers a slightly different program so just do a search.

I suggest the tech camps at UC Berkeley. My kids loved them.  She can try out the day camp before doing the overnight camp. Maybe that would make it a bit easier. 

I appreciate your sensitivity to your daughter. I cannot answer your question re: a "short" camp. However, I would like to encourage you to consider the emotional cost of such a nudge.

My daughter is highly sensitive. She also did not like sleepovers or sleep away anything. She attended a school that required participation in sleep away outdoor education every year in the elementary grades and twice a year in the middle school grades. These were very difficult and caused emotional and physical distress including headaches, nausea and vomiting, and full-blown anxiety attacks. We made them work by getting the administration to agree to having me go along as a chaperone. Until they didn't, and a new administration required her to go without me. This caused my daughter great distress that impacted her every day life. I called her in sick one year and the next year made it clear that she would not go, period. I eventually found a child psychologist who worked in a cognitive behavior model that was a fit for my daughter, and she engaged in the work to a high level of success.

My daughter was eventually able to go to sleep overs in late middle school. She started by going for the evening, and coming home when the others got ready for bed. Soon, she asked to stay the night. By the end of middle school, she was able to attend the outdoor ed trips without me and manage her discomfort (lots of compassion and support before, during, and after). The summer after her first year of high school, she asked to go to a two-week academic summer program in NYC where she lived in a college dorm. The transition was hard, but when I picked her up, she didn't want to leave. This year, she began her freshman year of college clear across the country with nothing but excitement at being on her own. While she keeps in frequent contact, it's not because she needs me to manage. It's because we enjoy each other's company and work hard to evolve our relationship. She's got this. I could not be more proud of her.

Do you understand what's underneath your daughter's fear? What does she want? Would she like to go to a sleepover or camp but is afraid to, or does she not want to go at all?

Would you consider having her or both of you work with a therapist to better support your daughter in increasing her ability to separate and develop independence in a way that builds her up? 

Lots to think about. You've got this!

I wholeheartedly agree with others recommending not forcing this on your child. I was the child who didn't want to go to outdoor school for a week in 6th grade and was absolutely MISERABLE for every second of it. It's just not for everyone. I never did sleepaway camp, thank goodness! I did not like camping, hiking or any of that and still don't. That being said, when I was 15, I was able to go to Spain and live with a host family for a month, so it's not to say that she will never want to leave your house. 

I ask this in a deeply respectful way: Is the desire for her to try an overnight camp influenced more by a benefit/skill you imagine she will get out of it, or is this something that you are hoping will giving you a short break that hopefully will also be enjoyable for her?

Either way, I understand the desire, and I would, like the others who have already chimed in, respectfully encourage you to consider the benefit you're after and seek alternative paths. If it is only for her benefit in terms of enrichment I imagine there could be many alternatives to a sleep away camp based on her interests, and if it's for your benefit maybe you could establish regular care with a babysitter or even camp counselor who could potentially do overnights at your place where you could take some time away. Best of luck to you and yours.