Summer Activites for Teens & Pre-Teens

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Seeking Day Camps, Classes & Other Activities More Summer Activities for Teens

Advice: Teens Resistance to Summer Camp

Reviews by Type of Activity

2013 - 2014 Recommendations

Summer Ideas for Tween

March 2014

I am looking for summer ideas for my bit quirky tween boy. He is 12 and will be 13 in August. He is quite mature and responsible for his age, but does not have any friends that he likes to hang out with. He seems to not mind having any close friends, which baffles me. Adults love him and describe him as polite and super helpful. He WILL NOT entertain any sleep away camp, or really camp in general, unless he can be a CIT. Ideally, for me, I'd like to see him enrolled in some sort of 1/2 day school that focused on Spanish and math and the sciences, and perhaps music. He'll enter 8th grade in the fall. Ideally, he could do some sort of CIT job in the afternoon. Berkeley/Oakland area. Does such a thing exist? Thanks in advance.

Most CIT positions are reserved for older teens who have some experience being either day or residential campers. Usually the kids who have attended those programs for a few years are the ones selected for CIT roles because they are familiar with the camp program, routines and expectations. I think it might be hard for your tween to walk right into that kind of role due to his age and lack of experience at the camp.

If your son is interested in music, perhaps he would be open to an amazing and different kind of music camp called ''Jam Camp West '' run by an Oakland non-profit called ''Living Jazz.'' Check it out here: and here:

It has been a transformative experience for my daughter and her friends, many of whom she met at the camp and has maintained contact with for years. Plenty of the kids are interesting and quirky, and all they need is an interest (no training required) in music, singing or dance - the rest is magic! Jam Camp West fan

Summer camp for tween

Feb 2014

I'm wondering what kind of summer camps everyone recommends for an 11-year-old boy. I'd like him to go for most of the day, and it feels like he's outgrowing a lot of the typical day camps. I'm wondering if the CIT programs really are worthwhile? It's hard to find something that's affordable to do over multiple weeks. For example, we did some Galileo last summer, but this gets really expensive. Mom of Tween

The Albany YMCA has a great summer camp for tweens/young teens (6th-9th graders). I think it's called Awesome Adventures. Every day they go on an amazing field trip or have an exciting activity planned. Sign up week to week depending on what your kid is interested in doing. My son went from age 11 to 13 and there were always plenty of kids his age. Last summer he went river rafting, indoor skydiving, to every local amusement park, to baseball games, water parks, SF, Santa Cruz and a bunch more places I can't even remember. It's well run, the counselors are solid but it is a camp for older kids so they do give them a lot more freedom and less direction than programs for the younger crowd. The counselors mainly are there to supervise while the kids hang out. This was a major selling point for my son and one of reasons he loved it so much. Also it's affordable at about $240 a week(activities included) and runs from 7am-6pm, no extra charges love the Y camp

Low-Cost Summer Options for Entering High Schooler

April 2013

My stepson is 14 years old and a graduating eighth grader. He is getting too old for summer camps and is still too young to hold a job or internship. We're looking for specific ideas for summer activities, preferably ones that allow him to keep a semi-regular schedule. He is able to navigate public transportation and is responsible and enthusiastic. We've considered a regular community service commitment but haven't been able to find anything consistent that is also appropriate for his age and skill set. We've also considered counselor-in-training (CIT) positions, but most of them ask that CITs pay nearly the same camp rate as younger campers, which makes us wonder whether these positions are really just summer camp with a different heading (we'd like something where he has responsibility). Even better would be a job because he is eager to make money, but we have zero ideas other than the standard mowing lawns, petsitting, etc. gigs. Cost is definitely an issue, as we just haven't budgeted for his summer commitments due to having a newborn at home. We also figure that if we can find something where he can work (unpaid is fine), he shouldn't have to pay to help!

This is a hard age. They're too young to stay at home but there are often not a lot of programs either.

Look at your city/county recreation and park programs. These are usually quite affordable. There may be things like basketball, but there will also be those CIT positions. My daughter did things like that and did indeed have some responsibility for taking care of the younger kids and helping out. You can only expect so much at this age, however; no one is going to have a 14-year-old run a camp. I think when my daughter volunteered at camps for rec and park, we did not pay.

Other places, like YMCA Camp Jones Gulch, will charge you for CIT experience, but in our day anyway, the cost was half. You'd pay the same rate, but get two weeks of training. And yes, they trained them in all kinds of ways for the first week (CPR, for example) and then had them work with kids for the second.

We always managed with a combination of things. Some expensive stuff like YMCA, cheap rec and park things, trading ''playdates'' with other parents, some vacation time with parents. It was always a struggle as I was single-parenting and broke.

If you live in Berkeley you can check out the City of Berkeley camps, and the Berkeley Ys summer options which are low-cost. Cal has a lot of good short term and part day progams (sailing/windsurfing/skateboarding) which might provide enough structure without taking the whole day, or costing too much..

Mostly 14 and 15 year-olds whose parents work do go to summer programs or camps. If you are going to be home with him this summer, you could try to put some part-time things together. The trick is to figure out what he is interested in, or wants to try and have that play a role in structuring the summer. Students that young, aren't much use to organizations as volunteers, though I can see how he might look grown-up to you compared to your infant. Usually programs and organizations only take volunteers over 16, entering junior/senior year. anon

2010 - 2012 Recommendations

Mixed sports summer camp for 13-year-old

May 2011

My 13 y.o. son, who will be a 9th grander in the fall, has finally agreed to go to a summer camp and now I'm afraid I won't be able to find anything. He was very interested in Roughing It Day Camp, but then we discovered that at his age he can only do a 4 week program, and we simply do not have that kind of money ($3690). I'm looking for a 1 to 2 week camp with mixed sports, water skills, traditional camp activities, etc. He is old enough to be a CIT, and would like that role, but many camps only accept CITs who have attended before. Am I too late? Any recommendations appreciated. Valerie

Our twin daughters, who will turn 13 this summer, are returning to City of Berkeley's Echo Lake Camp for 1 week this summer. This will be their third year. It is a 5 day-4 night overnight camp in the woods and mountains near Lake Tahoe. Loads of cool outdoor activities, including sleeping in tents, swimming in Echo Lake, camp fires, etc. It costs less than $500. per child. You can choose from several weeks over the summer. There is a bus that picks them up in Berkeley on a Monday morning and returns them to Berkeley on a Friday evening. Our girls love it.

I also wanted to put a very big recommendation in for Stage Door Conservatory , if your child has any interest at all in a really supportive and fun theater arts camp. There is a 2 week commitment for younger children and a 6 week commitment for middle school and high school students. (Three separate camps.) The middle school kids will be performing Hairspray this summer. This is a fabulous summer program that is very bonding for the kids. They learn about creating together, acting, singing, dancing, stage sets, props, costumes, etc. The final productions are always over-the-top amazing. Our daughters are returning after a great experience last summer participating in Bye, Bye Birdie. More information at this link: Sharon

Camp Unalayee , a wilderness camp in the Trinity Mountains, has 10 and 15 day sessions for ages 10-17. Fees are in line with other sleep away camps, But there is an active Campership program, available on an as needed (not necessarily strictly income based) basis. I believe there are still openings. Seena

Highest possible recommendation for Plantation Farm Camp! We have 3 girls (11, 12, 13) who all rate Plantation Farm Camp as a 100 on a scale of 1 - 10! It is a 3.5 week sleep-away camp for boys and girls ages 8-16 or so, 2 hours drive from the Bay Area, has been going for almost 60 years, and is run by a couple who are extraordinarily warm, skilled at dealing with kids, solid, values-based, and committed to the emotional health and growth of their campers as well as to their safety, peacefulness, and joy. Mature counselors are hired from around the world, and the kids spend 24/7 out doors except for barn dances in the 100+ year old barn. They also have a commitment to families with varied means and have a great scholarship program. The camp is open to visit one weekend a month all year so you can check it out ahead of time. This will be our 3rd year and, as an over-zealous parent, I have only good things to say about our Plantation Farm Camp experience. Andrea

Math and/or Latin Summer Camp for teens

April 2011

My 15-year-old is an enthusiastic student for whom studies don't come easy. Next fall he will be studying geometry and first-year latin, and he would love to get a jump on either one or both in a summer program in the Berkeley area. Does anyone know of a program that might be a good fit? Peter

I missed the original question, but ATDP, a summer program run by UC Berkeley has Latin and math classes. Language classes are intensive, 6 weeks equivalent to a year of high school instruction in the language. You can look up their website and contact them to see if there are openings or wait lists. chris

Summer Camp for visiting low-income 12yo nephew

March 2011

My sister-in-law surrendered custody of her 12 year old son to my father-in-law. He is currently living with grandpa and is happy, but we think grandpa will need a break this summer. They are up in Alpine county (which does not have much going on) and we thought bringing him down for a couple weeks to stay with us would be great. We would like to sign him up for camps and he has expressed interest in sports camps. We do not have a ton of extra money in our budget and are wondering if there are any special programs/camps out there that offer scholarships. He is a great kid but hasn't ever had the opportunity to play sports because of the situation with his mom. We work in El Cerrito and would like something nearby. How are the Cal camps? Scholarships? Thanks. concerned auntie

Camp Galileo is offering 1000 scholarships this summer. The deadline is March 15 [maybe they have extended it again?], so you'd have to hurry. There are other camps that offer scholarships. This list is from last year, but most likely these camps have financial aid again this year. Peggy

My son attended RATS a few summers ago and had a good time. The director is great and has many years experience working with kids. It's extremely reasonably priced ($175 a week 8-5:30!) and they offer financial aid if you need it. Kids play different sports all day and come home tired. Here's some of their posting from last weeks newsletter in case you missed it. Please check them out

RATS is a fun and moderately competitive program for boys and girls who want to play sports and games all day long. Kids play basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and a wide variety of alternative games. During down time they enjoy chess, checkers, board games, silly talent competitions and more.

Program Director Don Arreola-Burl (''Coach Don'') has many years of experience operating summer programs, coaching, and teaching physical education at several Berkeley schools. (During the school year, he works full-time as Washington School's PE Specialist.)

Kids of all ability levels are encouraged to enroll; all they need is a willingness to participate. So, if your child has a passion for sports and physical activity, or just loves PE, sign up now! To register go to: to download enrollment forms.

Affordable Summer Fun for 15-year-old daughter

March 2011

I realize that it may be late for some programs, but I'd love some help in my search for summer activities for my 15-year-old daughter. She is interested in acting, writing, reading, cooking, dancing and photography. I have found that most dedicated camps or experiences are quite expensive. Archived reviews are a little dated and mostly for younger kids. Does anyone have any suggestions for camps, programs or classes that inspire friendly, creative teens without costing an arm and a leg? East Bay mom

Sea Scouts is a great, affordable outdoors activity for Teens in the Bay Area. Is only costs $30 to join, is based in SF, and the teens learn how to sail, row, and care for their boats. We have kids from all over the Bay in our group, and with the America's Cup taking place in SF next, sailing will be on everyone's radar. Check out the website at, or email me at tamara.sokolov [at] for more info. We'll be having an open house/free sail day on March 19th at 11 for any teens interested, just let me know if you plan on attending. Tamara

Camp Unalayee offers 9 and 15 day sessions. Very affordable because of their dedication to No Child Left Inside, actually Practiced not just Preached. 62 years and counting no child who wishes to participate has been barred by lack of funds -- campership awards range from $100 to $1500 dollars. So, Please, check it out at While theater arts are not a stated focus, nightly campfire skits offer as much participation as desired, daily activities always feature creative arts (craft shack, ''Special Day'' themed drama created by participants, music, mask making. . . ). A creatively inclined person can always find opportunity and partners-in-creation at Unalayee. Seena

Something new for 11-year-old this summer

Feb 2011

Looking for something new to do this summer for my 11 y.o. son. Need feedback on The Cruicible, Robotics for Fun and Berkeley Ironworks rock climbing camp. Thanks!! Sophia

I can respond re: The Crucible . My kids went there for two weeks last summer, and they said it was one of their favorite camps ever (at least partly because they served extra snacks!). Seemed well run, and they certainly learned quite a bit and really enjoyed themselves. My son recently retrofitted the robot he made there to do something else, so I was happy to see the wheels still turning in his mind. My only issue was the cost. It is one of the priciest options around here. They mentioned after the fact that about half the kids attended either free or on a significant scholarship, which in theory I think is great. However, I have no doubt that it was the dollars of the full price families that contributed to these ''scholarships'' but with no associated tax deduction. If I have to make a charitable contribution, then at least let me save on taxes. As I write this I realize I sound like a shrew, but at $1000/week for my two kids- it was quite an expense, and one we really had to stretch for. anon

Affordable Summer camps & programs for tweens?

April 2010

I'm in Alameda but would be interested in camps around Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro. I can't believe how expensive a single week of camp is, and there is so little available for tweens. My daughter's 11 and has outgrown the little-kid crafts and singalongs, but still needs organized events and lots of activity. I don't want her to spend the entire summer watching TV and playing on the computer. What's good out there? What's affordable? What's worth doing? I can't be the only one in this boat. Thanks! Alana

Does your tween like music? Check out the Laney Summer Music program at - they have 2-week camps in band, orchestra or chorus for only $125 for the 2-week session. parent of tweens

Day camps for 12 year old boy not into sports

April 2010

Hi, I am still hunting around for some camps for my 12 year old son during a few weeks of the summer. He is going to be entering 7th grade. He is very independent and so I would love to find some half day camps he can bike to, but am open to anything that will be fun and interesting to him. He is interested in science, mythology, robotics, tech classes, writing... that sort of thing. Ideas? Thanks. Middle School Mom

For the person who is interested in science, mythology, robotics, tech classes, writing... that sort of thing. Ideas?

He may enjoy the Roleplay Workshop . They offer weekly day camps all summer, Mon-Fri all day (with optional extended care). You didn't say where you live, but the Roleplay Workshop is on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. The games are creative and involve science and mythology, as well as a little math. My son and daughter have both been attending for years and LOVE it! See their website for more information:

Summer day camp details here:

I think the minimum age is 10 years old, and goes up through 17 or 18. (There's a separate teen table.) - love love love Roleplay Workshop

If your son is interested in science, he should check out This Land Is Your Land Summer Day Camp in Berkeley (Tilden Park), Oakland (Roberts Regional Park), or San Ramon (Little Hills Park). As a 12-year-old, your son could be a Counselor In Training (CIT) where he assumes some additional responsibilities such as helping with snack, assisting his counselor with the daily camper projects, etc. It's also perfectly okay if he doesn't want to be a CIT. Older campers get to prepare an advanced project at least once per week. The camp is outdoors, so all kids are fully exposed to the beauty and wonder of nature and all campers complete one or more science projects and bring them home every day. Campers play typical camp games if they want but there is no pressure to participate in games if they choose not to. They hike through the forest, go swimming one day per week, and truly enjoy all of the fun of being outdoors in some of our most beautiful parks. The basic camp hours are from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm and before/after-care is also available. My 10, 12, and 13 year-old grandsons are excited abouted attending again this summer and my 17-year- old grandson is hoping he can be a paid counselor. All of my grandsons rave about this camp and the three younger ones are eager to become old enough to become a counselor!! You can get additional information about the camp at or you can call the office and talk to the staff there. The office number is 510-581- 3739. Gran Kathy

Sarah's Science sounds like it might be a great fit for your 12 year old. The camp is an outdoor camp with locations in Oakland at Roberts Park and Berkeley at Tilden Park. Campers complete science projects to take home each day and do outdoor activities like hiking, fort building, bug hunting and swimming. They do a great job of dancing the science around the fun projects the kids create and the campers are constantly active without relying on formal sports activities. Hope that helps. Anonymous

What's a music major to do for the summer?

March 2010

My daughter will be coming home from college for the summer. Looking for ideas for a 19yo music major (vocal & violin) around the Bay Area or not. Internships? volunteer work? Work might be tough in this economy. Anyone with great ideas or where to find some good ideas? -Anonymous

Your daughter should contact the many area camps with music programs, or those devoted to music. or something more local. She also might want to consider offering lessons this summer...introductions to music, note reading, voice, string, etc. Good luck, happy summer planning. Andrew

The Oakland Symphony Chorus offers sing-ins during the summer on Tuesday evenings. Have her join us! OSC member

Try Music at Menlo and Piedmont Choirs Summer Camp. There is also a well known instrument and voice summer camp based from, but not necessarily in, Berkeley which lasts a no. of weeks in the summer but I'm blanking out on the name-Something in the Redwoods? My daughter also gave individual voice lessons. Mom of Music Major graduating this year.

She could take a Kodaly course at Holy Names University! This is wonderful training in music teaching which she can use in many ways in her life. Contact Anne Laskey at laskey [at] for more info. Or, try to help out or teach at the Crowden School, or the Young Musicians Program at UCB. Cazadero music camp may need counselors. Good luck! pianojeanette

Day camp near Walnut Creek for picky 6th grader

March 2010

Our daughter is 11 years old and in 6th grade. She has now rejected her previous daycamps now as being ''for kids'' so even though they are not (they go through the teen years), I am looking for suggestions for daycamps with the following criteria:

  A MUST: * full-day program with aftercare * location in or near Walnut Creek  DAUGHTER ENJOYS: * swimming * horseback riding 

I went to a camp fair today and got all sorts of flyers and brochures and, just as an example of what I am dealing with, she rejected things based on the fact that there were pictures of younger kids, hence the ''that's for kids!'' remark. I know she's wrong, you know she's wrong, but one thing she is is extraordinarily strong-willed. As an added factor, our daughter is not particularly comfortable in new social situations, for what that's worth. Thanks for any suggestions! working parents who need a daycamp

I suggest you check out Adventure Day Camp in Walnut Creek. My 15-year-old daughter has been going there for years and loves it. She now is a counselor-in-training there. Fun and age-appropriate groups include ones for teens, who get to horseback ride, canoe, swim, play games, do art projects, and so on. Yes, there are groups for younger kids, but she would be in a small group with kids her age. Go to for further details. If your daughter might like to talk to mine, email me at the address below. nancy

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

Camp suggestions, 1 to 3 weeks, age 12/13, both genders

June 2009

Hi there, Does anyone have Camp suggestions for ages 12/13, both genders, half- or full-day, near Berkeley, FUN, active, varied? Hopefully not too costly? Not ''young kid'' camps, but geared for the teen (young teen though!) Thanks if you have any suggestions! Can't let them completely ''veg''

Feather River Camp It's not local but I've signed up my sons for the program. You can apply for scholarships. Good luck! anon

How about the Roleplay Workshop summer day camps? I already posted information about them in the ''schools, preschools & camps'' newsletter, but here it is again. As we're all looking ahead to summer and finding activities for our kids/teens, I'd like to make sure everybody knows about a fantastic weekly summer program called ''The Roleplay Workshop''. The program is located in a loft above Dr. Comics and Mr. Games on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. (They also walk to a local park for lunch and ultimate frisbee games in the afternoon.) Do your kids like fantasy, science fiction, or other imaginary worlds? If so, the Roleplay Workshop may be perfect for them. My two kids both started as soon as they turned 10 years old and this summer will be their 4th and 6th years attending. It's their favorite summer activity! My daughter says ''Roleplay Workshop is a great place to have fun and express yourself.'' My son says ''Roleplay Workshop is fun for beginning and advanced players.'' Check out their website here: Sharon

Ideas for summer activities for 15-y-o gamer

June 2009

I need to find some activity options for my son for the summer. He's a fairly good student in a small school at Berkeley High. He is easy going but likes to sleep and stay in his room most of the time when not in school. Since school let out last week, he has been in front of the computer gaming all day long i.e. he wakes up at 2 pm in the afternoon and stays up late at night. He used to be passionate about skateboarding, used to take music lessons, tried one martial arts class and never went back. Right now the only scheduled activity for the summer outside the home is Drivers Education. He knows that I will be taking his computer access away for certain hours of the day starting next week and that he needs to find things to do in the community. He is very bright but has a very shy side and has always been difficult since early on for him to try new things. Ideas greatly appreciated!

I highly recommend The Roleplay Workshop (also called Abantey)'s a table-top role playing game and if your kid likes interactive computer games, this will be up his alley. It's even better however because it's real people sitting across from each other interacting in the moment and the game masters are very creative folks. Also, the kids go out and play an hour of ultimate frisbee each afternoon so they get some exercise too. This camp is above Dr. Comics & Mr. Games on Piedmont Ave. Brenda

Artsy camp for 15-year-old granddaughter

May 2009

I have a 15 year old granddaughter who is very active with choir and all music, the arts and learning French. She is a very bright young girl and will not back down to a challenge, so physical camps are also great for her. She will be coming to Berkley this summer and I would like to find something for her to do while she is here! If anyone has any ideas as for days camps in the Berkley area that would be great. As I said, anything Music, French and or Art related is what were aiming for, but anything really is great. Please and Thank you, Georgina

If your grandaughter is interested in Art, the Academy of Art college offers a Pre-College program in the summer from mid June till the end of July. You can take up to four classes for around $500. My child enjoys the college like experience and it will look good on her college applications too. Art mom

Berkeley/Albany summer camp for 5th/6th grader

May 2009

I'm looking for a fun, safe summer for my son who is currently in 5th grade. He thinks he can put together his own fun summer, but I'm not ready for the fallout and/or boredom that I'm sure will come by the beginning of July. Does anyone have experience with a camp for entering middle school kids that has a decent balance of structured activities/trips and a little bit of just being a kid and having some hang-out time? Areas of interest include Albany, El Cerrito & Berkeley. Thanks -not quite done with camps

My son was very hesitant about going to camp as a middle school kid (he, too, wanted to stay home and hang out w/ friends all summer - w/ no parents!!?) but he really enjoyed Awesome Adventures camp with the Albany YMCA . He liked that they went on field trips to places that I don't have time to take him - river rafting, Great America, rock climbing, etc.- plus they seemed to have plenty of hang out time w/ ping pong, foosball & card games. He liked the counselors, spoke highly of them, but what I liked is that they were adults who kept control and had rules that the kids learned to respect... the no cell phone rule was great, in my opinion! I hope you can check out the Y's website and see if it's a good match for you and your son! Here's a link to their summer programs & info: 8th grade mom

What to do with 15-year-old this summer?

Feb 2008

I have a 15-year-old daughter and am wondering what to have her do this summer. Sitting home alone every day with nothing to do but entertain herself on the computer is not an option. I'd love some suggestions about activities that would meaningful, challenging, educational, or fun that would be appropriate for a girl who is too young to work or drive and too old to do nothing. Any and all suggestions welcome. anonymous

I have a daughter who is currently in 9th grade. this summer she turns 15 and I wonder what she will do while I work full time ( I have some flexibility in my schedule) It seems like she is too old for camp but too young for a job. she is very shy and not one to go out and ''make something happen.'' What do other working parents do with their teenagers over the summer? single mom of a teenager

That's a hard summer. They are kind of in between things. Too old for camp and too young to work. Though, that said, if your daughter is into being a counselor-in-training it's a great summer for that! There are plenty of camps in the BA that would want her. Try the City of Berkeley's camps or Monkey Business. If she is onto playing music she could take a ''class'' at that school of rock place, I can't remember the name of it! It's all over the BA. If she's into science I think the Lawrence Hall of Science has interships for kids that age. Then there is just sending her away to a relative for a week or two in some other state! Oh, there is also the Academy of Art in SF, has classes for $100! (There are also those expensive pre-college art classes at CCA, but it's not really worth it...) There are week-long sports training camps through CAL for the athlete. Dancers can take classes at Destiny Arts and Shawl-Anderson.

I think my daughter took several classes that summer, one at that music place, one at the ASUC (student union at CAL) in photography, and maybe an art class at Studio One in Oakland. I got her a pass to the Strawberry Canyon pool but summers here are dreadfully cold so that wasn't a great investment, I think she went twice! She also played softball but that was mostly in the evenings and on weekends. We also took a week to go somewhere ourselves. It was really a week of this and a week of that, a pain to coordinate. Good luck anon

I also have a 15 year old daughter. She will be a jr counselor again at Monkey Business. She was a CIT 2 years ago & then became a jr counselor. (Jr counselor is by invitation only at this camp.) She was also a CIT at Echo Lake, Berkeley's sleep-away camp near Tahoe. At 15, there are numerous CIT & JC opportunities. At this age, it's likely a reduced fee or essentially volunteering. It's great experience. Maybe she could recruit a friend to sign up with her. There are also some teen programs (there was an item about Cal's teen program in the issue that included your query) for which she could still be a camper. Good luck! another mom of teen daughter

Hi I just answered another parent with similar question. My son, his friend and I actually joined a summer camp in China last summer 2007. Both of them do not know any Chinese language. The program lasted about 3 weeks. The kids learned the Chinese language, culture. At the end of the session, they travelled to Inner Mongolia for about 4 days. The program itself is really well-organized and safe. You can check their website, it is . I like this camp because the kids came back with a much mature view not only to the world but to their own life. anna

How about Counselor in Training programs? Quite a variety of camps have them. You'd probably still pay for her to be thee, but she'd be with other teens, adults and little kids. You could try to find ones with activities that she'd like. Anon

I have a quiet 14 year old son and have always been in a quandry about summers, breaks, etc. A combo of 'work' and classes would be good! Here are some ideas I'm considering and you might too:
1)Volunteering at the movie theatre!-Unlimited free movies and she would get a lot of low pressure people/work experience.
2)Dog Walking/Housesitting-if she could get a friend to do it with her, even better.
3) C-Scouts-work on 'ship', learn to sail, knot tying, etc. Cheap to join, but need uniform- go on excursions, but weekend ones are a bit pricey. Search net for info.
4)City of Pinole-tv station run by teens and they teach/do all facets-camera, lighting, sound-students can act, write, do sets, etc. During year, but check if avail summers. Best of luck! amy

Affordable summer camp for 13 and 16 year olds

Dec 2007

Hi parents, I am writing on behalf of my little sister and brother. My sister is 16 and my brother is 13. I am trying to find a summer camp for them (doesn't necessarily have to be the SAME camp or program). We are looking for a program that is lengthy (lasts the whole summer ideally), affordable, and based on teens not younger children. They are willing to go anywhere in the country, as long as it's affordable! The goal is to get away from home for a summer. I think it's important that they gain some time away from my parents (who are going through a divorce and the home situation is less than healthy), where they can have safe fun and be somewhat independent teenagers for several weeks. They are social, athletic, creative, and into dance, photography, martial arts. It would great if they could meet some new friends. Unfortunately the main limiting factor is COST of the program. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. They are also interested in summer classes, going abroad, the main limiting factor is price. We are in the financial bracket of ''not quite eligible for financial aid'' but cannot spend more than $600.00 per kid. When high school can be such a tough time, draining both mentally and physically, I'd really love for them to have a healthy, happy summer, peacefully away from the messy divorce! I appreciate any & all advice! --Big Sis

Since the money is so tight, a lot of options are cut off. But maybe they could find opportunities as counselors for younger children?

There would be other older kids also working, so it wouldn't be completely exile among children; it might even give them a little cash of their own, and it would get them out of the house and busy all summer.

I don't know their competencies, so I can't recommend anything specific, but Cal has a general summer camp that might have openings -- there are lots of programs around, and this is the time to be applying. laura

Summer Day Camp for 13 year old boy

Jan 2007

My stepson comes out from Indiana to stay with me and my husband during the summertime. He is going to be 13 this summer and we both work outside the home in Walnut Creek. What are some summer DAY camps that we should look into for teen age kids? Last year he was in a Sports Camp which he loved but has an age limit of 12. We do not want an overnight camp since he is only with us for 7 weeks. Any advice would help. We're new to the East Bay and do not know parents with kids his age. Liz, East Bay

Take look at Adventure Day Camp which is right in your neck of the woods in Walnut Creek. They have programs for kids through 9th grade. My son will be going there for the third year this summer. He's younger than yours but he really enjoys the tremendous variety of activities. Older kids get to sail, kayak, horseback ride, etc. You can check it out online at You could also check out the CIT program for kids 11-15 at Sarah's Science ''This Land Is Your Land'' camp. Fran

Check out Cal Adventures at
It is run by the recreation department at UC Berkeley and offers a wide variety of camps in the summer time. There also may be orpportunites for him to be a CIT or junior CIT at some of the camps that age out at 12. So check out camps with stuff he likes and see if they have early CIT programs (If you htink he'd like that) Mom

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Summer for 15-year-old step-daughter with attitude

May 2006

My almost 15 year old stepdaughter will be coming to live with us in Berkeley this summer. She is not excited about this fact, as she has got that ''attitude'' that seems to accompany adolescence (part of the reason she is coming to live with us). I am looking for suggestions and/or opportunities for her to make some social connections (we know no teenagers around here). Are there groups/classes/summercamps? She doesn't have a lot of interests other than watching tv and playing with make-up. Also, should we provide her an allowance that is somehow tied to responsibilities? I want her to have some freedom but also know she will be expected to contribute. She does not have this set-up at home (hence all the tv-watching). I expect the transistion will be difficult for all of us at first, but I am hoping to provide her with some opportunities to make this summer not the ''drag'' she inticipates it to be... NOT the wicked stepmother

Would classes be an option? It might be nice to give her a choice, tell her you want to make sure she meets some people her own age, and has a few activities that she knows she'll like. The Crucible has some interesting classes for teens.

Also, if she likes applying makeup, how about letting her feel good about that. There are some retirement communities that would love a teen volunteer to come once a week and apply makeup to their residents. Give the teen a sense of purpose and make a senior's day! Ann S.

Your posting already sounds negative and your stepdaughter hasn't even arrived, you need to have a much more open mind about this new person who will be living in your home and since you are the stepparent, this is not your responsibility to make these decisions for her summer, it is the dad's child and better for him to step in here and for you to back off - this will be a much more difficult transition for the teen than it will be for the adults, she will feel uncomfortable in a new city, new rules, new bedroom, god the changes this kid will have to adjust to will be huge and your only job is to make her summer as pleasant and happy as possible and if you can act as a positive and welcoming steparent, your stepdaughter will adjust much more quickly and everyone will benefit. and by the way you obviously aren't around teens much as they all like to watch TV too much. Do you have a computer for her to keep in contact with all the friends she will be apart from, how about suggesting the two of you go shopping to Target and get her new sheets, new comforter, new pillow, nightlight and other things to make her feel welcome. Movies are $10.00 a ticket, BART to SF is over $6.00 roundtrip - everything is expensive so be generous with your allowance, there are many postings for babysitters and check with your neighbors on babysitting possibilities. Provide time for dad and daughter to go out together - it is very important for dad to spend time with his daughter over the summer. And by the way 'attitude' is part of the standard teenager personality - they all have it, it's all in the way adults respond. 15 is a very difficult age and having to cope with a new living arrangement at this young age will be challenging for everyone. JLS

My two teens think Berkeley is TEEN HEAVEN -- the ease of public transportation, the variety of things to do, etc. It won't be too hard to find something for her besides TV, as long as she's willing to participate in an organized activity. Two quick suggestions:

1. Academy of Art summer experience for high schoolers -- if she likes art at all, the variety of college-level courses in this program is great. Located in SF, close to BART, inexpensive for you, very hip for her.

2. Does she like acting? Berkeley Rep has theater courses/workshop in the summer. Easy to get to on BART or bus. good luck! Lisa McL

It's hard to find summer camps for 15 year olds, but there are a couple of good ones where she might make some friends. Ask her which ones she might like to do:

Beginning windsurfing camp at the Berkeley Marina through Cal

High school students program at Contra Costa Civic Theater good luck

Last minute summer plans for 15 year old

May 2004

Well we didn't plan on it this way but several things fell apart and now my 15 yr old daughter has nothing set for the summer and no desire for anything that I suggest--can't see her sitting at home so wondering if anyone has any ideas on what short term (1 week -3 week) programs or ''things'' are available in this area for a non motivated teen who'd rather be somewhere else, but can't be. any ideas welcome

Even with advanced planning our 15 year olds will be
1)working out at the Y,
2)reading books,
3)helping around the house,
4)finishing lingering academic requirements and
5) Rowing with ''Row Oakland 2004''out of the Old Lake Merritt Boathouse (They're already rowers and will be interning).

Row Oakland offers 3 two-week programs (the first begins 6/21 and the last ends 7/30) and both morning or afternoon sessions. Its a great chance to get a workout and a tan, learn a new skill and meet other teens, close to home. The interns for this program tend to be kids your daughter's age from the Berkeley (boys and girls) Crew, and it is run by the BHS Crew Head Coach. Each 2 wk, 1/2 day session cost $90, with fee waivers available. Phone 510-273-9041 for more information. Heather

Looking for suggestions for summer camps

April 2004

We are looking for some suggestions for summer camps for teens that may be off the beaten path or not advertised as heavily as the YMCA, etc... Cal has some great programs, but they run from 9:30 to 4:00 and as working parents, we cannot transport our children within this time...We are curious if anyone has found out something that we haven't. Thanks for any imput!


  • Outward Bound
  • Young Actor's Summer Theatre Overnight Camp

    2003 & Earlier

    Feb 2000

    Summer camps for 12-13 year olds: I have had the same problem with my daughter who is now 14. Albany Y has the most interesting teen camps which are open only to teenagers. Some are only half day but others are longer. This allowed her a little bit of time on her own but still provided structure. If you find a friend to go with them it helps. Cal Adventure camps ( through the University) also offer interesting teen camps, again they are often half day and a little pricey. Last summer I was able to get her a job at her younger sister's preschool which was wonderful, but I know this would have been impossible if I had not know this school for so many years. There are CIT (counselor in training programs) but many don't take kids untill they are 14 or older, same is true for most summer jobs. I believe Albany Y offers the youngest CIT program for 13 year olds, but you need to apply early. The other idea I had before finding her the preschool job, was to have her volunteer at places like the senior centers. I know kids who have done this but never followed up on it myself. I would imagine many of the preschools would be interested in part-time volunteers. Good luck, it is not any easy task and usually incorporates a lot of pieces. The volunteer or CIT work will definetelty help them get jobs in the summers to come. -Lynn

    April 1998

    I believe the Berkeley-Albany YMCA has some pretty interesting teen summer programs. Also, try the Berkeley YMCA. Cal has sports and adventure camps (ck with Intercollegiate Athletics depart). Finally, for referrals ck with BANNANAS (658-7101)-or better yet-go there to look over all their summer program flyers. Dianne

    Advice: Teens Resistance to Summer Camp

    11 year old boy not interested in sleepaway camp

    April 2014

    Some of my best memories growing up were at sleepaway camp. I've been putting feelers out to my 11 year old for a few years now, and he is completely uninterested in going. I haven't pushed it, because I just figured it's not his thing. He doesn't like sleeping away from home and will occasionally tolerate the random overnight at a friend's, but that's it. Should I give him more of a nudge? He is worried that he won't sleep well, and he is very modest and doesn't like the idea of changing in front of other kids. I suspect both these issues will disappear on day 1 of camp and he will have a great time. I enjoy having him around in the summer, and he goes to day camp for two weeks or so, but there's definitely too much screen time and whining. I don't want him to let his anxieties limit him at such a young age (or ever). On the other hand, there are so many amazing things to do here in the Bay Area, we can have a pretty great and busy summer if I get myself organized a little bit. Any suggestions? First world problem

    Is there a middle-ground you can seek? Perhaps you can find a week-long camp that offers a one-night sleepover? You can also talk to him about ways to preserve his modesty, which I can certainly appreciate. He wouldn't be the only kid getting dressed in a bathroom stall or in his sleeping bag, I'll bet.

    Also, can you sign him up for more camps this summer, to cut down on the screen time and whining? Your town or adjacent town's rec and park department probably have low-cost camps. Ours run ab out $100 for a five-day week from 7:30-3. You could try that for this summer and revisit sleepaway camp next year.

    I was like you - LOVED camp and thought my son would for sure get into once he got there. Well, he went and it was just OK. I am not spending that kind of money for ''just OK.'' So the next summer he stayed home and took a computer programming class and loved it. My second son LOVES camp and is going back for this third year. Perhaps you can have him go to a weekend camp to test it? Or maybe a family camp like Lair of the Bear? With a friend is even better. But, sometimes we just have to honor our kids for who they are. anon
    Hi! I felt the same way - going to sleepaway camp really helped me form my own identity. I wasn't my mother's daughter, my brother's sister, I was me! You might start with a Family Camp program. That's what I did with my boys. We did one at Camp Campbell in the Santa Cruz mountains that is lots of fun, we did Camp Jones Gulch as well. I work at the Y, so those are Y camps, but I'm sure there are lots of other options as well. Most of these, though, don't require Y membership or anything. Hope it works out! Eden
    We had exactly the same problem with our anxious 11 year old. What we did was:

    1) search out the most solid, caring Camp Directors we could find, i.e. those we thought most skilled and experienced at creating a warm and inclusive camp community (and who have a no-electronics policy). These Directors were John Chakan and Kelly Marston; they have been full-time professional summer sleep-away camp directors for 15 years or more. (They also have 3 children of their own) I did a few months of volunteer work for them to get to know them ahead of time and make sure that I trusted them with my children. I do,and after 5 years of summer camp with them, still have no reservations.! John and Kelly now run Camp JaK ( 8-16 year olds). My three kids have been with them for 5 Summers and rave about it the rest of every year.

    2) made arrangements with John and Kelly for my highly anxious kid to have the option of coming home after a few days if she really wanted to. At the end of 3 days she had no interest in coming home and stayed happily for almost 4 weeks. The following Summer she begged to go to multiple sessions and went for almost 8 weeks!

    Note: While John and Kelly were the Directors at Plantation Farm Camp for over a dozen years, this Summer they they have started their own camp . Since I believe that the leadership at a camp is the primary factor in the quality of children's experience, my kids are moving to the new Camp JaK with these wonderful [Berkeley-based] directors. Part of what I so admire about their mission as life-long summer camp leaders is their ability to simultaneously love kids unconditionally, while setting fair firm and consistent limits. I also have great respect for the values they bring to camp life - kindness, inclusivity, responsibility for community , the farm animals. and the environment\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xc2\xa6 And the food is great! Wishing you all the best, Andrea

    My son could have gone to sleep-away camp like some of his friends but he never wanted to do so. So we signed him up for various day camps in the area. At age 16, he was a CIT with some friends of his at a family camp and had a great month. After high school, he traveled abroad on a program and stayed for almost a year. My point is that there's no reason to push your son to do something he doesn't want to do. He may change later and he may not. It is not something to worry about. Enjoy him while you can

    Whether to push 14 year old to go to sleepover camp

    March 2012

    I'd love advice on whether to send our foster son to sleepover camp even if he doesn't want to go.

    Eighteen months ago, we became foster parents to a teenaged boy we already knew. He came directly to us from his bio parents' house and we expect to be his permanent parents. He has PTSD, grief and depression. His daily behavior was highly anxious and suspicious when he first came to us. He is now 14.5 years old.

    With a lot of support, patience and good therapy, he has improved quite a bit. He still has a long way to go. Last summer was really difficult--the large blocks of unstructured time made him very anxious and depressed. At that point, when he was having nightmares and was afraid of all strangers, sleepover camp was impossible and we resisted social services pressure to send him. We enrolled him in some day camps, but several were cancelled. He has no skills for entertaining himself if he doesn't have something electronic to do. He struggles with reading, and his social skills are poor. He has very few friends and clearly doesn't understand how to be a friend yet. He is very agile and enjoys ping pong and tennis, but those require a buddy. We will get him in some camps this summer, but the hours will once again stretch for him (and us).

    As a foster youth, he could attend Camp Mendocino. And I can also get him into YMCA's Camp Jones Gulch, where my adult daughter works. He doesn't want to do either. He has no experience with sleepover camps and withdraws in social settings, although I'm told he does okay socially while at school.

    Does anyone have experience with requiring a reluctant teen to go to camp? Our hope would be that the extended, close time with other kids in a supportive environment would build social skills, morale, and self-esteem--and that he might have fun. Our fear is that he will feel alone and scared. He's going to be aging out of camps soon, so this might be the last summer he could do it. I will be discussing this with his psychologist, but wanted a parent perspective too. want our boy to enjoy himself for a change

    Your intentions are good, but why push this issue of sleepover camp? Let him build his relationship with you as a family, heal, retreat from the world a bit if that's what he needs to heal and don't make a big deal over sleepover camp. Of course you want it to be great for him, but how great can it be given his current emotional mind set? Not very is my guess, and he's likely to be resentful of you for sending him. Good luck. anon
    I can't answer your question from a parent's perspective, but I can from a Camp Director's perspective (as well as past counselor, unit leader, and activity director). It sounds like camp could be a great experience for your son! Sleep over camp provides bonding experiences between children and helps them work on their social skills and developing their personality traits. It also lets him be someone else for the time he is at camp. If possible I would love for a camp that offers a chance for the camp experience before he's there without you. Look for a camp where you can do family camp for a weekend before you send him for sleep away, or where you can do a site visit with him. If you can show him where it is, what the cabins are like, and how the dinning hall works that may help him easy into the situation. I would also recommend talking to different camp directors. They can not only help prep his counselor to make sure it is a positive experience, but some camps have on-site therapists which might be a good choice for your son. I have personally worked with campers who were suicidal, cutters, dealing with their sexual identify, and been abused - most of these campers had a very positive experience. Some I am even still in contact with (10+ years later) and they say that one week of sleep away camp changed their lives. Camp can help with so many problems. I wish your family luck and I hope you are able to do what is best for your foster son.

    As a parent and as someone who has worked with foster teens, definitely not. While you seem to have the best of intentions for sending him, he will think you are trying to get rid of him.

    There are so many great day camps--most will give scholarships for foster teens. It will be a bit of work to get them all set up, but you should be able to fill up his whole summer. Some have one overnight in a week or two week session--encourage him to try that out but don't push. If you find gaps that you can't fill with day camp, say he has to spend 30/hrs week volunteering. is a good place to look or try your local library or perhaps he can volunteer in a camp for younger kids. best wishes

    Our daughter has an anxiety disorder, and also really did not want to go to sleep away camp 3 Summers ago. We have found that all of the most loved things in her life are things which she initially refused to consider due to fear/ anxiety. We did the following:

    1) Researched the camp, until we were 100% comfortable with it (volunteered time with the Directors, visited it off-season, sought feedback from experienced camping families, etc.)

    2) Made sure that the supervision would be provided by carefully selected, mature adults and not youngsters because many teens are not yet able to provide a) unconditional love even if they don't like a kid, and b) firm yet fair and consistent limits/ boundaries

    3) Negotiated an agreement with the camp that our daughter had to stay for 4 days (out of a total of 3.5 weeks) and that, if she wanted to come home, she could after that (so she didn't feel trapped).

    4) Told her that she had to go for the 4 days and that we'd come pick her up after that if she wanted us to. She never looked back, and the next Summer, went, at her request, to both 3.5 week sessions.

    Should you be interested, all 3 of my kids say that they rate Plantation Farm Camp (2 hours from San Francisco) a 100 on a scale of 1 to 10!... and that they will never miss another Summer there again. All my best to you and your foster Son

    Camp for 13yo who feels she is too old for camp

    May 2011

    We are looking for recommendations for summer camp in Contra Costa (preferably). Our daughter, who will be 13 in early August, feels she is too old for camp and wants to hang around at home all summer. My husband and I both work full-time, but even if we didn't, this wouldn't be OK with us. She is bored within 3 seconds of arriving home from school, and cannot think of anything she wants to do. She always asks for suggestions and rejects all of them (welcome to our world!). Anyway, you get the picture.

    She is going to two weeks of sleepaway camp in early July. Other than that, we are looking for interesting things for her to do that she won't feel she is ''too old'' for. Last summer she had a fantastic time at Roughing It Horse Camp (first time), but now she has no memory of that good time. She has also gone to Adventure Day Camp for a number of years and that is really convenient to home, but she is again growing tired of it (though she had a better than usual time last summer there due to the field trips they do with the older kids - again, little memory of those good times!).

    We are in Walnut Creek, so anything near here would be great.If you want to ask what she is interested in, other than swimming, it's hard to say, alas. Hanging around the house all summer texting her friends is definitely not an option. ;-) Thanks!

    I've got kids entering 7th and 9th grades this fall, and I just wanted to recommend Roughing It again. My kids have been going to Roughing It Day Camp for years and even though they're now among the older campers they still love it. I love that they're busy outside all day (away from electronics!) and that they get picked up and dropped off at my house. They love the variety of activities (but most especially the horseback riding) and the dynamics of the campers and counselors. I definitely wouldn't want to force my kids to go to a camp they didn't want to go to so I do consider myself lucky that they like RI ... good luck with helping your daughter find something she likes! Ann

    15-year-old claims he's too old for camp

    May 2009

    I need ideas on how to keep an unmotivated 15-yr-old active this summer and away from screens, which he can do all day long. He claims he's too old for camps. He likes basketball and baseball. We need ideas about sports, paid work?, volunteering, etc. Bracing for summer

    When my children were teenagers I always thought that water sports were a great summer activity, we live by a fantastic body of water!!! So two thoughts depending on locations are:

    The rowing and other boating programs at Lake Merritt

    and Cal Adventures programs at the Berkeley Marina

    These programs generally have sections specifically for older teens. My teens went to 1/2 day camps at each locations and as they got older got themselves to and from either by bike or public transit. They loved it all and what a great way to spend the summer on the bay. These are also great programs for kids visiting the bay area for the summer. mother of college students now

    13-y-o is resisting music camp - do it anyway?

    March 2007

    We're thinking of sending our son to Cazadero Music Camp's Junior High session this summer. He's really been resisting the idea (at almost 13 he's never been away from home on his own for more than 2 days, and he dislikes being away too long, even with us) and I hate to push him, and spend all the money (!), if he'll really hate it. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure he'll love it, and that even if he doesn't it'll be good for him. (He plays piano & trumpet BTW - though he refuses to play piano at Caz, IF he goes.)

    Does anyone have recent experience with Caz, AND/OR experience sending middle school kids to away camp, when they'd much rather stay home & play Runescape?

    One of our son's friends went to Caz last year, and said he didn't like it bc he didn't know anyone. That was the only negative comment I've heard. Fortunately, two of our son's other friends may attend this summer, making the whole thing look way more attractive, even to him. Still, I could use your wise advice. Thank you! lcf

    (Editor Note: Click here to read the full reviews below of Cazadero Music Camp that are excerpted below)
    Cazadero Music Camp has been wonderful for our 15-year old daughter.... The environment is great. The people are warm and supportive. The music is amazing: The kids always learn a whole new program under a new conductor each week. The camp setting, along the creek, is also beautiful. I'm guessing he won't miss his video games after the first day. There's so much to do and so much fun to be had at Caz.
    My son went to the beginning Cazadero camp several years ago, and it was excellent. However, I can certainly understand that your son prefers to have people there he already knows, and also may not be ready for a sleep away camp at a place he's never visited. Here are two possibilities for you to consider: (1) check out the Laney College Summer Music Program for middle schoolers. My daughter attended last year when she was 12, and although it's not as deep a music experience as ''Caz,'' it's a nearby day camp that's very affordable, and overall was an excellent experience for her despite sometimes wishing it was a little better organized. (2) consider attending one of the two Caz family camp weeks in August. That would allow you and your son to get familiar with Caz, not to mention have fun doing everything from various kinds of music to circus to visual arts to Taiko drums. It's not cheap to attend, but good value if your family has the deeply memorable experiences that many have had. -Still wearing my Caz T shirt
    I've heard wonderful things about Cazadero although I have no personal experience with it. I'm sure that part of their great reputation (besides the music) comes from the fact that they provide a positive camping experience for the kids that go there!

    The reason I'm writing is that I feel strongly about sending kids off to sleep-away camp. I think it's like learning to ride a bike or learning to swim or learning to drive a car---it's an important life experience that provides an opportunity for growth and sense of personal accomplishment. I went to several camps over several summers (for a week or two each). Most of them were great. Learned lots of songs, made new friends, hiked and swam. Loved riding the bus and singing ''Catalina, Madalina'' at the top of my lungs. One camp was a horrible experience, I hated my counselor, I was there for my birthday and the counselors confiscated the cookies that my grandmother sent to me (hmmm, wonder who ate those?!) But, I survived!! And, I have some pretty funny stories and great memories, even of THAT camp.

    Each of my kids went off to their first camp starting the summer before 6th grade. My son went to Boy Scout camp, with a backpack full of clean clothes each marked with his name. He came home with a backpack full of clean clothes---he even survived not having showered or brushed his teeth for an entire week! (Maybe he swam that week?)

    I do think it's nice if you have a friend go to the same camp---but after a couple of days at camp it won't matter if he doesn't. There will be other kids in the same boat!

    I strongly encourage you to send him off! I think our kids need us to push them to do things that are a little scary or new so that they can move on to other (perhaps scary) rewarding activities---college, marriage, you know.

    If he goes, definitely mail a letter off to him before he goes so that he'll get mail the first day. I always sent a magazine or quick paperback too. If the camp allows food, by all means consider a package of cookies. Helps make friends with your bunkmates!

    I'd be willing to bet money that he'll have a great time. Sally

    13-year-old refuses camp's overnight stays

    Jan 2006

    my 13 year old son has attended a wonderful day camp for the past four years and has enjoyed it as much as he enjoys anything. the problem is that the camp has two overnights per session that increase in length each year (for example, the two nighter for 4th graders is a three nighter for 6th graders). He absolutely will not stay overnight. Promises, threats, cajoling, bribing, etc. have not worked and I always end up driving for 1 to 3 hours to pick him up. This also results in many lost days of camp which have already been paid for (it ain't cheap!). AND...since all of his friends are away at camp he sits home and does nothing for those missed days. Well this year I have put my foot down and told him that we will have to find another day camp that doesn't have overnights. Yes, he's anxious; yes we've tried therapy; yes, he has friends at the camp who do stay overnight; yes, we've tried negotiating with the camp. The ideal situation for him (and me) would be some kind of Outward Bound program where he couldn't possibly come home but since that won't be happening I was hoping BPN folks could recommend local day camps. Sports camps are out, as is Abantey (hated it). Thanks everyone.
    Can't Afford Brat Camp

    I would like to recommend if your son is at all interested in music and/or computers. MixLab is a audio and media production class that runs as an after school program durring the school year and camp durring the summer. My children attend the school where this camp is held and I can highly recommend this teacher and any other staff that your son may come in contact with. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Natasha
    My advice is that your son could be a Junior Counselor in Training at one of the day camps for younger kids that does not have overnights. City of El Cerrito recreation has a Jr. CIT program that can be a really good experience. The CITs receive training and are expected to learn to be responsible and organized. Other cities and the Y probably have similar programs. In El Cerrito you pay only the administrative costs of participation, so it is much cheaper than being a camper. -parent of a teen
    For many years I sent my daughter to a summer camp she enjoyed, which also had overnights that grew longer as she got older. She also didn't want to go on overnights, and I remember several long drives to far away locations to pick her up, arguments about my paying and her at least giving it a try, etc.
    My advice: don't push it. If you found a camp he likes, stick to it as he has friends and continuity. On the overnights, have him make playdates with friends so he's not just sitting at home. Don't create more anxiety for this type of kid. My daughter eventually outgrew her fears, to the point that now at 19 she hiked by herself through Spain and will be spending next year in a university in Africa. Some kids are just more cautious and have more fears than others, and they need to take their own time feeling comfortable in situations. Don't make a big deal out of it. Been There
    having picked up my kid from numerous day camp overnights and sleepovers at friends' homes, I know well of what you speak, and clearly remember the frustration. so I know what you're going through.

    but in terms of your kid's day camp for this summer, unless finding something else for him to do during the overnight would constitute some kind of real financial hardship (and at 13, maybe he can stay home for a day or two?), I would simply suck it up and send him back to the camp that he really likes and has friends at even though he'll miss the overnight. if you force him to go to another camp, you're basically punishing him for having whatever psychological issue makes it difficult to spend the night away from home. and as weird as that might seem to you and me as parents, apparently some kids have that issue longer than we might think is ''appropriate.'' (my kid recently decided that overnights are fine, and I was totally unaware of what made this change happen.)

    so just let it slide, send him back to the camp he loves, and who knows? maybe by this summer he'll be ready to do the overnight. best wishes and good luck. anon

    Daughter refuses any structured summer activities

    March 2001

    Dear Parents, I am gearing up for our usual summer battle. My husband and I would like our daughter to use some of her summer for either volunteering, taking a class or working at a paying job. She is very resistant to the idea of doing anything but hanging out with her friends. Does anyone have any clever ideas as to how I might suggest a way in which she herself might find something constructive to do? Any resources for summer activities for teens which are community service oriented ? I feel I am asking really dumb questions here, but I really don't know what to do. When I even broach the subject of doing something other than playing the whole summer by ear my daughter gets combative. I must be doing something wrong. All I want to convey to her is: You must find something [acceptable to me and Dad] to occupy a minimum of 50% of your time and the best way to have some choices would be to start looking around now. Does this sound reasonable to other parents out there? Am I being heavy handed to insist on discussing it now? Any and all sorts of advice are welcome: advice about the mechanics of finding someting to advice on how to improve my parental approach. Thanks, The Wet Blanket

    No, you don't sound unreasonable at all (to me.) I've said the same words! I'll be looking forward to reading the responses!
    To the parent signed Wet Blanket regarding her daughter doing something other than hanging out this summer. I totally agree with your position. It is very reasonable that your daughter not waste the whole summer just hanging out. simply being out of school and not having homework is a great break. She doesn't have to spend every waking minute in unstructured time. Plus, if she's college-bound, how she spends her free time is a factor that colleges look at. I want my daughter to do any of the three things you suggested, class, volunteering or paid work, during the time she's in town this summer. She will be a CIT for a few weeks and a camper for a couple more. Good luck and hold your ground even if your daughter grumbles.
    You are certainly not alone in your predicament. It seems that the societal message to teens today is they aren't children and that they should be allowed to decide what is good for them rather than to capitulate to their parent's preferences and I think that a great many teens are taking this message to heart. It is, perhaps, fruitless to debate wether or not this is a good thing; it is enough to realize that this is reality. As parents we have no tangible means to force our children to do as we wish and this is even more so regarding certain willful independent minded teenagers.

    Modern circumstances have altered the role of parenthood from the old fashioned authoritarian guardianship to something that might be characterized as a facilitator guardianship. As such, your main leverage as a parent is the degree to which you facilitate their interests and desires. The regulatory function is no longer a matter of do it or else, but, you can still impose your will on reluctant children by less direct yet effective means. In short, you provide encouragement, compliments and support for those behaviors that you approve of and speak out against, complain, and withhold support from those behaviors that you don't approve of. What are the alternatives? You can try bluffing them with empty threats but unless your child is somewhat dull they see right through it and call your bluff. You can get tough but so can they and when push comes to shove they will most likely be judged innocent and you guilty.

    Don't let this discourage you. You have the advantage. Teenagers think that they know everything and you are so much wiser and experienced than they are. You merely have to trick them into doing the right thing and let them think that it was their idea. You must converse with them and ask them a lot of questions. When you get an answer that is acceptable to your purpose you seize upon that and promote it and provide the support to move that particular idea from thought to deed.

    In your particular case, Ms. Wet Blanket, my first impression is that whatever constructive activities your daughter is going to end up doing are going to have to include one or more of her friends. Perhaps you can get her and a couple of her friends to apply for summer jobs at the same place or to volunteer for the same thing. She wants to be with her friends and you can facilitate this and lend your support to this providing they are doing something of value together.

    Finally, although she doesn't know it, she is still just a kid and considering what modern life holds for her in the future, her teen years are her probably the greatest opportunity for the pure enjoyment of living that she will have in her lifetime. It is your responsibility and privilege to see to it that you steer her to those things that will provide her with memorable times that will help sustain her as she takes on the awesome task of facing the coming years. Help her to find something constructive to do that she will cherish the memory of having done and you will both be getting exactly what you want. Frank

    I have a 15-year-old like this. Last summer his best friend's mom suggested they take a class together and we also planned out a couple weeks of camp. Then we could both say, Your best friend is going to be taking sailing lessons in August. Why don't I sign you up too? This had good results.

    Once they get to be about 16, many if not most of their friends are going to be working or taking classes or doing other things in the summer, so just hanging out may well mean hanging out by herself for a good part of the time. Now's a good time to make a few phone calls to your daughter's friends' parents and find out what their plans are. You will have more leverage if you can point out to your daughter that most of her friends will not actually be available for hanging out this summer. Also you both may get some ideas for activities that your daughter might like, especially if her friends will be there too. This time last year, my older son discovered that many of his friends were planning to be counselors at Strawberry. He got in his application in time (er, actually I finished it myself and mailed it for him) and he had a great time, met new friends, made some money, and is applying again this summer.

    I guess I am also a wet blanket type of parent, because I also insisted that my daughter and I develop a plan for her summers.

    But my battles began before summer, since I insisted that she have a plan for after school time. I just repeated over and over, hanging out with your friends on Telegraph Ave after school every day is not acceptable. Eventually, we developed ideas. I bought her a membership in the YMCA, so that one or two afternoons a week she went there. She found that she had friends who also worked out. And although at first she was going to swim, it turned out she discovered other fun things, like weight lifting and other exercise machines. And I did eventually give her permission to go to a friend's house after school one day a week. Anyway, developing a plan took a long time, and over time, changes happened.

    These days it is relatively easy for teens to get jobs, I think. At least there are lots of openings listed in store windows. It might help if you brain storm with your daughter about how to get a job. First general type of environment she might like working in. Second, the information she needs to have all together in order to fill out an application. Third how to ask for an appointment. Fourth practicing asking questions with her. But again, teaching teens about getting jobs takes time.

    Other things your teen might do, is take a class. Mine took driver's ed. And I forced her to volunteer one day a week, the summer before she started working. It turned out she liked the volunteering sort of. It was a long bus ride. And when she started working after her junior year, what she really liked, probably more than the money, was the young people she met.

    Another helpful idea would be to ask her what her friends are doing this summer. If they are going to be busy, working, or whatever, then she might realize that she can't just hang with them. Because I work in a bookstore, I had the luxury of insisting that if she didn't develop a plan, then the plan would be to come to the bookstore.

    I wish you lots of luck and your idea, that your daughter has to do something is not extreme. When my teen got combative, I always said. Well you have a very conservative, old-fashioned parent. Sorry. And I would also say that Having a plan for what you are going to do is not negotiable. What is negotiable is what the plan will consist of.

    My daughter was given a smallish allowance. Therefore she noticed that in order to afford her life style, going to the movies, buying CD's, having lunch with friends, she needed to earn money.

    Hope this helps. Cheers. Kirsten

    Dear Wet Blanket -

    I feel extremely strongly about doing something. Despite his protests to the contrary, I think my son would just sit around and ultimately get depressed if he had no structure in his life for any length of time. In the past he has always gone to camp, but as he gets older it becomes harder and harder to find appropriate activities. This year we simply selected from the rather slim camp pickings. Realistically, he's not quite old enough to get a job yet.

    I don't have any vast wisdom on the parenting aspect of the power struggle involved. My son splits his time between two households and he tells me that his father doesn't mind if he does nothing. I have resorted to telling him that if he wishes to do nothing he will have to go live with his father as I am absolutely unwilling to agree to it. So far it's worked. Yes, I do believe that I would follow through with the threat.

    - Even Wetter Blanket